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Pearl Jam's Political Set Brings Lollapalooza '07 to Fitting End

August 6, 2007 12:45 AM ET

Lollapalooza's day three special collaboration arrives courtesy of My Morning Jacket, which welcomes the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra as a backing band. Jim James and company are dressed for the occasion, looking dapper in three-piece suits (sans ties). Clutching a Flying V guitar, James gets his ya-yas out, scooting across the platform like a pinball caught between flippers. The seated string section supplies "Wordless Chorus" with grand flourishes, and nudges the hillbilly-tinged "Dancefloors" to a big finish. On the other side of the spectrum, the folksy "Golden" unfolds with ethereal splendor. James is having a blast, and so is the supporting cast, which is providing tasteful pomp and dramatic triumph without overwhelming the main act. In homage to one of Chicago's native greats, a cover of Curtis Mayfield's "Keep On Pushing" is performed for good measure.

TV on the Radio are celebrating the culmination of fourteen months of touring. Sweet soulful crooning, melodic whistling and call-and-response vocals inform "Young Liars" and "Wrong Way." Wind chimes dangle from the neck of a guitar, and while eeriness surrounds "Dreams," the music is intoxicating, often laden with rejuvenated spirituality. It's all over too soon, partially because My Morning Jacket ran late and Pearl Jam is waiting in the wings. "We're running out of time," announces singer Tunde Adebimpe, who's asking the audience what it wants to hear as the last number ("Staring at the Sun" is chosen).

Pearl Jam brings the festival full circle. Fifteen years ago, the quintet played a daytime slot on the second Lollapalooza while they were on their way to temporarily becoming the biggest band in the world. Now, in their only major North American concert appearance of the year, the Seattle crew is digging deep into a rich back catalog as belles of the ball. "There's a deep amount of meaning that comes with playing this stage tonight," reveals Eddie Vedder, regaling the crowd with tales of his youth spent in the north suburb of Evanston.

Tonight, the always dependable Pearl Jam are on fire. "Corduroy," "Do the Evolution," and "Given to Fly" lead the parade of hits while "Why?" "State of Love and Trust," "Rearviewmirror" and "World Wide Suicide" provide clenched-teeth release. Select covers -- Victoria Williams' "Crazy Mary" and Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2" included -- please the faithful. Bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard face-off and challenge another, and Vedder assumes his typical fight-the-good-fight stance, railing against petroleum company BP Amoco, which is planning to dump toxic chemicals into Lake Michigan under the guise of expansion. Pearl Jam even slapped together a brief punk-ish ditty, "Don't Go to BP Amoco" to spread the message."Evenflow" meanders into a jam before detouring into a Matt Cameron drum solo, which, coincidentally, coincides with fireworks exploding in the background over the Field Museum. Strangely, it works as if exactly to plan, and makes sense for where Pearl Jam are now at in their career -- and for what Lollapalooza currently represents as a festival. To cap it all off, Ben Harper joins the band again for the final encore: a cover of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World."

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