Seattle rockers Pearl Jam closed out the North American leg of their Lightning Bolt tour last night with a performance for the ages. It had been over four years since the band last staged a concert in their hometown, and the city’s patience was more than rewarded with a three hour and fifteen minute marathon of hits, deep cuts and covers.
The show kicked off properly with the brooding track “Pendulum” from the band’s latest record, followed by the one-two punch of Vitalogy songs “Nothingman” and “Corduroy.” As coincidence would have it, the night of the show fell on the nineteenth anniversary of that record’s release, though the fact went unacknowledged by the group. From there the band bobbed and weaved their way through their back-catalog to the unwavering delight of the sold-out Key Arena crowd.
The fivesome seemed quite pleased to be back on their home turf, which added to the convivial feeling of the evening overall. Lead singer Eddie Vedder took many opportunities throughout the night to tip a half-empty bottle of red wine to various local fixtures including Easy Street Records, KEXP, and the sorely missed Supersonics – “wouldn’t this building be a great place for a basketball team?” he deadpanned. Vedder even deigned to take a playful jab at fellow Seattle chart toppers Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, jokingly shouting “fuck you” when he discovered the duo had sold out three consecutive dates of the same venue in the days following the band’s own show.
As expected, a good deal of Lightning Bolt material made its way into the setlist with “Mind Your Manners,” “Sirens,” and the title track garnering the most acclaim. The more obscure numbers the band chose to tackle included a take on the track “Breath,” which originally had been recorded for the soundtrack to the Cameron Crowe film Singles. This was in addition to a solo Vedder cover of the Velvet Underground’s “After Hours” (played in tribute to that group’s recently departed frontman, Lou Reed) and a timely performance of the little-known Christmas single “Let Me Sleep.”
The energy inside the packed arena really came to a head, however, when the group busted out a succession of their more renowned hits, among which numbered superb takes of “Better Man,” “Alive,” “Rearviewmirror,” “Black,” and “Daughter.” Indeed, the earthshaking force of the crowd’s response to these songs led Vedder to wonder aloud if he had mistakenly wandered into a Seahawks home game.
As always happens with a Pearl Jam concert, the music itself was absolutely on point. Time and again, lead guitarist Mike McCready dazzled the audience with bombastic displays of guitar virtuosity, going so far as to play the solo to “Even Flow” behind his back. Vedder’s voice has never sounded better, even with the massive demands placed upon it, and the trio of rhythm guitarist Stone Gossard, drummer Matt Cameron and bassist Jeff Ament continue to be the steady driving force and heartbeat of the band throughout any given show.
The evening drew to a close with the invitation of Steve Turner and Mark Arm of Mudhoney as well as Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil onstage for a searing all-Seattle performance of the MC5 classic “Kick Out The Jams,” after which McCready, at the urging of Arm, let loose with an incendiary take on Eddie Van Halen’s finger-tapping opus “Eruption.” The guests departed soon thereafter and the band let loose with a meandering version of “Yellow Ledbetter,” to finish things off. It was an evening that will go down in Seattle lore, and a well-seized opportunity for Pearl Jam to close out their tour on a high note.
“Mind Your Manners”
“Given to Fly”
“In My Tree”
“Let the Records Play”
“Spin the Black Circle”
“Let Me Sleep”
“Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns”
“State of Love and Trust”
“Kick Out The Jams”