While most bands used Bonnaroo as a platform to play hits, Pearl Jam used their Saturday night closing set to unleash some rarities. Around 10:15 p.m., the band strolled onto the stage and kicked off with “Hard to Imagine,” a gorgeous ballad that the band has only played a few dozen times since 1992. Later on, they turned out jams like “W.M.A,” and monster covers of the Who’s “Love Reign O’er Me” and Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.”
Vedder — who earlier had joined Jack Johnson on a duet of the beach bum’s jam “Constellations” — got political at points during Pearl Jam’s set. Before the band performed “Gone,” Vedder spoke critically about the conspicuous rise in gas prices since George Bush took over the White House. And later, he urged the crowd to get out and vote (presumably for Barack Obama) in the November election. “A song cannot change the world,” he declared. “But this many people can change the world. How do we know? It is stitched into the fabric of our flag and it is welded into our constitution that we have the right and the responsibility to make change.” Of course, portions of the crowd were upset by Vedder’s proclamations — Bonnaroo, after all, is located in Tennessee, the heart of Bush Country. One dude even shouted, “You’re a dipshit,” before storming off the grounds.
But Vedder’s political statements didn’t get in the way of their awesome set, which also featured tunes like “Black,” “Why Go,” “Even Flow” and “Corduroy.” During a cover of Victoria Williams’ haunting ballad “Crazy Mary” — which includes the lyrics “Take a bottle/ drink it down/ pass it around”— Vedder hopped off the stage to share his bottle of red wine with kids in the front row. The highlight of the band’s set was “Betterman,” during which the crowd ignited lighters and shouted along to the words, drowning out the band. Vedder seemed visibly touched by the sight, saying, “That’s fucking beautiful, man!