Pearl Jam kicked off their 2013 tour with a high-octane two-and-half-hour show in Pittsburgh last night. Playing the Steel City for the first time in seven years, the band opened with the atmospheric “Pendulum,” a cut from their forthcoming album, Lightning Bolt, which is out on Tuesday. The mellow vibe continued with “Nothingman” and “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town,” but was cast aside when the band broke out the new album’s title track and “Mind Your Manners,” a breakneck tune that served as its first single.
Although the virgin material went down well, it was old favorites such as “Animal” and “Given to Fly” that ignited the crowd. As always, Pearl Jam sampled their entire back catalog, pulling out solid tracks such as “Faithful,” “Untitled” and “MFC” in the meat of the show. “Sirens,” the second single from the new album, was dedicated to a deceased college student who interviewed Eddie on the top of a bridge back in the band’s early days, while “Unemployable” was offered by Vedder as “a fate I wish everyone in Congress.”
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Vedder inserted a “Let’s Go Franco” chant at the end of Daughter in reference to the legendary Steelers running back Franco Harris. “Infallible” and “Let the Records Play” – another two cuts from Lightning Bolt – made their live debut before Pearl Jam closed out the twenty-song opening set with a thunderous “Rearviewmirror” timed to hypnotic stage lighting.
Seated for the second encore, Pearl Jam juxtaposed the brand new “Yellow Moon,” a Pink Floyd-inspired ballad, with “Footsteps,” a b-side that was one of the band’s first three songs in the legendary “Momma-Son” trilogy. The boys from Seattle ratcheted up the energy and continued the evening’s sports theme when Vedder introduced Pirates pitcher Jason Grilli, who stomped around stage playing air guitar to “Whipping.” Vedder then led the crowd sing-along on “Betterman” ahead of a fiery “Porch” that featured brilliant guitar work from Mike McCready.
Answering calls for a second encore, Pearl Jam rocked Ten staples “Black” and “Alive” with the same intensity they showed when those tracks rocketed them to fame twenty plus years ago. In typical fashion, they turned the house lights on for the finale and proceeded to tear through Neil Young’s “Rocking in the Free World.” As McCready hit the familiar first notes of the standard closer “Yellow Ledbetter,” Vedder promised it wouldn’t be another seven years before the band returned to Pittsburgh. Pearl Jam continue their 25-date tour tonight in Buffalo, New York.