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Eddie Vedder Digs Deep Into Song, Shirt Archives in Vancouver

April 3, 2008 2:01 PM ET

"There's something about the first time," said Eddie Vedder, a few songs into his set at the Centre in Vancouver, Brtish Columbia. "Whether it's good or bad. There's nothing else like it." For Vedder, this first time meant a sold out, two-night residency in a city not too far north of his native Seattle for the opening of a solo tour.

On a stage set like a living room jam session, Vedder perched on a stool in a Butthole Surfers tee he'd brought out of "semi-retirement" for the gig ("I think I wore this shirt the first time the band played," he mused). And with that, he proceeded to play songs from his rapidly expanding solo catalogue: "Guaranteed" from Into the Wild stirred the crowd, as did protest ballad "No More War," which brought Vedder to tears. Covers were plentiful, including a brilliant reworking of Emmylou Harris' version of James Taylor's "Millworker," which was nearly matched by a shot at Springsteen's "Growin' Up."

While roadies in labcoats tinkered with the instruments (guitars, a mandolin and a ukelele called "Luke" among them), Vedder played much and talked little, keeping banter swift and funny: "Thank you for the encouragement," he said after the crowd applauded a flubbed lyric. "But you don't want to promote that behaviour."

After multiple encores, Vedder — now clad in labcoat himself — welcomed opener Liam Finn back to help out on "Hard Sun" (the backing instrumental track courtesy of an onstage reel-to-reel). As his opening night drew to a close, Vedder smiled and waved goodbye. "Thanks for being here for this different kind of conversation," he said. And for the first time on this tour (and certainly not the last), Eddie Vedder got a standing ovation.

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

More Song Stories entries »
 
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