About three hours before Pearl Jam took the stage at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina, on April 16th, Eddie Vedder gave his bandmates a big surprise: He wanted to perform the group’s 1993 LP Vs. straight through. “He said, ‘It’s Record Store Day, so let’s do a record,'” guitarist Mike McCready tells Rolling Stone. “It was cool to see fans’ eyes light up when they realized what was happening.”
Thirteen days later, Pearl Jam played Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center for the tenth time in their career, and they celebrated the occasion by opening the show with a complete performance of their 1991 debut LP Ten. They last played the album in sequence at a show in Munich, Germany on March 13th, 1992. They didn’t play a full album again until September 19th, 2006 in Turin, Italy when they performed their self-titled LP, which came out earlier that year. On their 2014 tour, they did No Code during a show in Moline, Illinois and Yield at a Milwaukee gig. None of these were announced ahead of time.
McCready initially had mixed feelings about the Vs. show last month. “I was excited, but hesitant in a way,” he says. “I feel sometimes when you do a whole record, not that we’d done it a lot, but you have to stay in formula about how the record is, and there’s not a lot of spontaneity. But Vs. was really fun since there’s a lot of upbeat songs. It had energy I didn’t know it would have. I remember I struggled with No Code a couple of years ago, so I was happy that didn’t happen again.”
Pearl Jam has yet to play 1994’s Vitalogy, 2000’s Binaural, 2002’s Riot Act, 2009’s Backspacer and 2013’s Lightning Bolt. “I’m sure all that’s going to happen,” says McCready. “That’s kind of Ed’s call, but we suggest stuff and I’d love to do that. I love surprising the fans. It’s important to us to keep pushing ourselves and revisit our albums and play them straight through.”
McCready saw Cheap Trick play their early albums during a 1998 residency at the Crocodile Cafe in Seattle, and he’d love to see Pearl Jam do something similar at some point down the line. “That’s a fantasy of mine,” he says. “We could do every record in a residency. It would be so cool. We could play the B-sides along with the album and get really creative with it.”
Pearl Jam just wrapped up the first U.S. leg of their 2016 tour with a two-night stand at Madison Square Garden, where they performed with Sting and members of Cheap Trick. They head to Canada for shows in Quebec City, Ottawa and Toronto. In June, the band will headline Bonnaroo before doing two nights at Chicago’s Wrigley Field and Boston’s Fenway Park in August.