There was a guy named Anthony,” singer Eddie Vedder told the crowd tonight, “and this was his favorite song.” Pearl Jam then played “Off He Goes,” a ballad of tender goodbye and one of the show’s many elliptical but moving references to the terrible night of June 30th, when nine fans, including Anthony James Hurley, perished in the mosh pit during Pearl Jam’s set at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark. Pearl Jam, playing their first gig since the tragedy, never mentioned Roskilde by name but did not let the dead go unremembered.
After a hot forty minutes by Sonic Youth – they came out swinging with “Tom Violence,” from EVOL, and went out the same way with “Kool Thing” – Pearl Jam opened with “The Long Road,” Vedder’s song of elegy from the Dead Man Walking soundtrack, performed with sober beauty. “How are you, up on the hill?” Vedder asked the kids on the amphitheater’s general-admission knoll with soft, paternal urgency. “Be careful, all right?” And when it was time for “Daughter,” which Pearl Jam never got to finish at Roskilde, Vedder made another plea:
“The last time we asked the crowd to do something, it was a completely different set of circumstances. But it would be nice to try again . . . Start singing, and sing loud, because you’re still alive.” The crowd obeyed, chanting “It’s OK!” with full hearts and lungs. And as the band played, a large butterfly swooped over Vedder’s head, in and out of the overhead lights, like a sign of blessing, a mark of Pearl Jam’s own walk through tears and toward the sunshine.
Oh, yeah, they also rocked: “Corduroy,” “Animal,” “Go,” “Do the Evolution.” There was not a lot of leaping about or rock-god voguing. This was a demonstration of Pearl Jam’s tightly coiled strength: the stereo crunch of Mike McCready and Stone Gossard’s guitars; the telepathic riptide of Jeff Ament’s bass and Matt Cameron’s drums. When a long, Who-ish freakout in “Rearviewmirror” surged into a last exultant run through verse and chorus, you could not help thinking that this was the way Roskilde should have ended – and that the healing has begun.
This story is from the September 14th, 2000 issue of Rolling Stone.