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Pearl Jam Define Their Moment in San Francisco

After a record-breaking first week of 'Vs.' sales, the band proved its worth at the Warfield

December 9, 1993
Pearl Jam
Pearl Jam
Peter Still/Redferns

Pearl Jam
San Francisco
Warfield Theater
Oct. 28, 1993

There was nothing pedestrian about the first show of the Pearl Jam tour. Some highlights of the high-octane performance: Lead axman Mike McCready smashed his guitar to pieces; singer-lyricist Eddie Vedder (inadvertently?) hit McCready in the head; the band played an impromptu encore of the Who's classic "My Generation" and debuted a remarkable new song titled "Whippin'" that one can only hope shows up as the flip side of the group's next single.

News had just broken that their second album, Vs., sold nearly a million copies upon release, so Pearl Jam took the stage at the sold-out 2,200-capacity Warfield Theater with something to prove. Their hour-and-a-half, 18-song set of raw and raucous guitar-driven rock – imagine an inspired pastiche of Zeppelin, Aerosmith, AC/DC and the Clash – was a tour de force that proved beyond a doubt that, at this particular moment in history, they are as good as it gets.

The band – guitarists Stone Gossard and McCready, bassist Jeff Ament, drummer Dave Abbruzzese and Vedder – rock with the kind of vicious intensity that could make a band like Aerosmith opt for early retirement. With guitars cranking through stacks of Marshall amps and drums exploding like cannon fire, Pearl Jam made it feel like the theater had been sucked into the vortex of a sound tornado as they raged through songs such as "Animal," "Go" and "Rearviewmirror," from Vs. Vedder is an unlikely rock star. Though he bears a passing physical resemblance to the two Morrisons – Van and Jim – the most striking impression he makes staring down at his feet is that he could be anybody.

Pearl Jam and Vedder are the true voice of teenage wasteland circa 1993. Singing about suicide and child abuse, inhumanity and betrayal, individual oppression and frustration in a terse, anguished, sometimes inarticulate manner, Vedder is every nervous, angry, insecure kid who ever wondered what, if anything, the future might hold.

Disheveled in a T-shirt and cutoffs, Vedder is the guy jumping up and down next to you during the encore, shouting the chorus to "Leash": "Get out of my fucking face."

This story is from the December 9th, 1993 issue of Rolling Stone.


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