BusinessPearl Jam Digs Deep On Stage In Chicago As...

Pearl Jam Digs Deep On Stage In Chicago As 2023 U.S. Tour Continues


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“Damn. We feel so blessed to be back in Chicago,” said Eddie Vedder on stage at United Center, during the first of two Pearl Jam performances in the Windy City. “Some family and friends in the audience tonight,” mused Vedder, who was born just north of Chicago in the suburb of Evanston. “Some friends that became family. And some people in the front row that I see more than my family. So, I guess that you qualify,” joked the singer.

It was Pearl Jam’s first appearance in Chicago since 2018 and the group’s first concert in the city somewhere other than Wrigley Field since 2009.

Without a screen behind them, Pearl Jam, who’ve sold in excess of 100 million albums worldwide, performed on a massive stage on the arena’s west end which acted almost as if the group was performing in the round, giving them the space to turn and face those seated behind the stage (though they did that only once Wednesday night).

Performing the first few songs sitting down in seats on stage, Vedder and company were barely visible as they launched into “Release” to begin the proceedings, with Vedder turning around completely to face drummer Matt Cameron as the song drew to a close.

“Low Light” followed, Vedder leaning back in his seat arms spread as the crowd roared in approval.

“Chicago… Good evening,” he said, pausing as a roadie handed him a bottle of wine. “It’s a big job to add to the history of this building,” he continued, with banners noting championships won by the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks hanging from the rafters above the United Center stage. “But with your help, I think it might be possible,” Vedder continued, handling “Just Breathe” with keyboardist Boom Gaspar.

Joined by touring keyboardist Josh Klinghoffer, Pearl Jam soon swelled to seven, with Vedder engaging the audience in a Sting-like call and response during “Corduroy” before windmilling the crowd favorite to completion.

In an era where most arena concerts run like clock work – with barely a change in the running order during nearly identical shows driven by video screens, effects and pre-recorded backing tracks – Pearl Jam’s continued insistence on shaking up the setlist each night is refreshing, re-instilling the unpredictability that makes rock great.

Free of today’s live trappings, Pearl Jam utilized only two small screens and some lights, their terrific playing demanding fan focus in a way it simply doesn’t at most modern concerts.

On night one in Chicago, Pearl Jam dug deep, rolling out tracks like “God’s Dice,” from 2000’s Binaural, and “Comatose,” from their self-titled 2006 effort, both reportedly for the first time in five years. “We’re gonna start it together. We may f–k it up,” admitted Vedder, setting the stage for the former. “It’ll be my fault. I’ll take the blame. At least I’ve got the balls to try it.”

Vedder, who’s rarely at a loss for words on stage, was particularly chatty Wednesday night in Chicago, regaling the crowd with memories, stories and witty asides over the course of about two and a half hours.

Following a story about science fiction, Vedder rubbed his brow furiously as he set up “Quick Escape,” a highlight on night one in Chicago from the group’s most recent album, 2020’s Gigaton. Guitarist Stone Gossard offered up a slow churn as Mike McCready hopped away across the stage, Vedder jumping from the drum riser.

Recalling his time waiting tables, and the nightmares it provided, Vedder went on to introduce bassist Jeff Ament. “Jeff said this song in particular was one of the greatest uses of our music with a visual he’d seen,” said Vedder, referencing a crucial scene in the FX restaurant dramedy The Bear and its incorporation of “Animal.”

Gaspar and Klinghoffer left the stage as the show continued, leaving just the core five to revisit the group’s seminal debut, rolling out “Even Flow” from 1991’s Ten midway through. Ament crouched down into an almost samurai-like squat as the pummeling performance drew to a close.

Moving to encore with “Rearviewmirror,” Vedder reemerged on night one in Chicago settling in for a long encore, kicking things off solo. “I’m gonna tell ya a quick story,” he said, setting up a look back. Having visited his grandmother’s former home in Evanston earlier that day, Vedder displayed photos of those he encountered during the trip on screen. “And we may never meet again,” he sang, dedicating “Throw Your Arms Around Me” to those he met.

Clad in a Chicago Bulls jersey (one celebrating, strangely, all 19 games played by forward Larry Krystkowiak, number 42 during the 1994-’95 season), Ament took the early spotlight during “Inside Job.” Vedder soon made his way over to McCready during a late solo. “Let’s hear it for Mike McCready on that one!” he shouted.

“Do you mind if we take a sec to say hello to the people in the back?” said Vedder, wine bottle in hand as he turned to face those seated behind the stage for the first time as Wednesday night’s show headed toward finish. Aside from an improvised lyric about United Center, “Wishlist” quickly became an all hands sing along.

Picking up the pace, Pearl Jam followed with two in a row from Vitalogy as that album stares down 30, working in a bit of The Beat’s “Save it For Later” during “Better Man” out of a rollicking take on “Not For You.”

“Let me say something quick…” said Vedder introducing Gaspar and Klinghoffer as Pearl Jam continued with “Alive.”

Clad in a satin Cheap Trick jacket, and doing his best Rick Nielsen as he threw handfuls of guitar picks, McCready mingled with fans in front, Pearl Jam wrapping up night one in Chicago with their take on “Surrender.”

“The streets of Chicago, the el stops, old hot dog stands, newsstands, train tracks,” Vedder mused, looking back on his time spent on the city’s north side. “The emotions that come back at ya are so deep,” he continued. “The lean years – but also the joy and laughter you remember,” said Vedder. “Thank you! We love you so much.”

Performing for 40 minutes, Irish rockers Inhaler offered up a rewarding effort Wednesday night on the United Center stage.

MORE FROM FORBESInhaler Talk Impact Of The Road On New Album ‘Cuts & Bruises’

Singer Eli Hewson, son of Paul “Bono Vox” Hewson (better known as U2 frontman Bono), was light on words Wednesday night but nevertheless struck a compelling visage in his role as frontman. “Thank you for watching us,” he said early. “We know you’ve got Pearl jam coming out.”

Opening up with “These are the Days,” the first single from their sophomore effort Cuts & Bruises, Inhaler moved straight into “Dublin In Ecstasy” at the top of the set.

“Just to Keep you Satisfied” gave way to “When It Breaks,” with bassist Robert Keating meandering back to drummer Ryan McMahon as Hewson, leaning back, soaked in the crowd reaction as the latter wrapped up.

“Love Will Get you There” found the group channeling The Smiths, Inhaler making the most of their quick stop in Chicago.

“OK. Thank you very much for watching us,” said Hewson. “Nice to meet you all! Hope you have a great night!”



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