Pearl Jam Jolt New Orleans Jazz Fest With Powerhouse Set

May 2, 2010 12:20 PM ET

"I'd like to make a toast to the fine folks at BP," Eddie Vedder said, raising a bottle of wine at last night's show in New Orleans. "Send your sons and daughters to clean up your fucking mess." While Pearl Jam rocked the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico crept closer to the Louisiana coast. Even Vedder's wardrobe spoke to the environmental crisis: he wore a Mr. Bill Show T-shirt — the character's creator, Walter Williams, actively supports protecting Louisiana's endangered wetlands.

Jazz Fest has often showcased Rock and Roll Hall of Famers from the '60s and '70s, so Pearl Jam's booking was controversial among the festival's faithful. The band's wall-of-guitar sound stands in stark contrast to this year's other marquee act, Simon & Garfunkel, who played the weekend before. Simon & Garfunkel brought back nostalgic hits, while Vedder mocked big oil and celebrated members of the 256th Infantry Division, who were watching a live feed of the show in Iraq. Guitarist Mike McCready paced urgently, and Vedder climbed off the stage to offer a drink to those in the front row, then left it again during a powerful "Alive" to meet the fans a second time. Pearl Jam slammed the show to a close with the MC5's explosive "Kick Out the Jams."

Catch up on David Fricke's adventures at Jazz Fest.

New Orleans was the start of the band's spring tour schedule, and they launched it with their cover of the Byrds' "So You Want to Be a Rock'n'Roll Star." The set reached back to Ten for "Alive," "Even Flow" and a raging, set-closing "Why Go," and included three from last year's Backspacer: "Got Some," "Unthought Known" and "Supersonic."

The band exited the stage after just over an hour, but soon returned to start a six-song encore with "Tremor Christ." The song gave Vedder the chance to muse about the band's time in New Orleans. "Outside of going to jail, we've had some good experiences here," he said. Parts of Vitalogy, including "Tremor Christ," were recorded in the Crescent City in 1994, and he was arrested for getting in a drunken bar fight in 1993. "Looking at all of you, I can't be the only one here who's spent the night in the New Orleans jail," he joked.

The band's attempts to engage the soldiers watching in Iraq were slightly stymied by a sound delay, but the frontman was determined to deliver the full rock & roll experience from oceans away. "I wish you'd have a beer," Vedder said at one point. "You've earned it."

Check out My Morning Jacket's New Orleans Jazz Fest journey in the next issue of Rolling Stone, on sale May 12th.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Long Walk Home”

Bruce Springsteen | 2007

When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

More Song Stories entries »