Last night, as a warm-up for their Lollapalooza gig this weekend, Pearl Jam played a house party for 1,300 fortunate fan club members at the quaint Vic Theatre in Chicago. Demand far exceeded supply as the streets surrounding the venue were overflowing with zealous fans holding signs that offered everything from sex to $3,000 for a single ticket. The crowd roared as Eddie Vedder strolled onstage, played a song by himself and declared, "I'm the opening act, I came cheap." The highlight of Vedder's five-song pre-set was a short cover of the old drinking tune "I Used to Work in Chicago," which served as a precursor to a new track he penned about the Chicago Cubs that ignited the hometown crowd.
Thirty minutes later the full band emerged, looking fresh and relaxed before opening with a solid version of "All or None" followed by "Education" and "Sad," both cuts from the rarities compilation Lost Dogs. Pearl Jam then induced a deafening three-minute sing-along on fan favorite "In Hiding" before continuing with tracks like the introspective "Off He Goes," the recent hit single "World Wide Suicide" and the lone selection from Ten, "Why Go." The band continued to sprinkle in B-sides from Lost Dogs with lead guitarist Mike McCready bounding about the stage and providing melodic guitar leads on tracks such as "Down," "Undone" and "Hard to Imagine."
After the sixteen-song set ended, the first encore began with a solo Vedder introducing a brilliant new song titled "No More." The rest of the band joined for three more tracks, culminating with a cover of the Who's"Love Reign O'er Me." The band then surprised the veteran audience during the second encore with a virgin performance of the KISS tune "Black Diamond" that featured drummer Matt Cameron on vocals. The three-song second encore ended with a raucous cover of the Dead Boys' "Sonic Reducer," during which Vedder briefly teased the crowd with thoughts of stage diving by climbing atop an amplifier.
Moments later the band returned with friend Ben Harper in tow, turned the house lights on and played a flawless version of "Indifference." The faithful quietly sang along and held cell phones aloft as Harper and Vedder traded lead vocals. It was a special collaboration that capped a uniquely intimate gig packed with rare and exciting material, and fans filed out of the theater convinced of Pearl Jam's enduring commitment to their loyal fans -- and that the group remains today's preeminent live touring band.
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