We live in an extraordinary time. If the news headlines by the hour doesnt give you that impression, then maybe your music does. In this day and age, theres an overwhelming diversity in both the genres and styles of music than ever beforehand. Moreover, for the first time since perhaps the sixties, our generation (the current youth) idolizes the reluctant rock hero, one that doesnt feed on groupies, but instead pushes for social and political change. This outfit has become the trend for the successful, modern rock star. This is what crosses my mind when I think about my first Pearl Jam concert, last night at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
Walking into the arena, I got the same feeling as going to a Rolling Stones show. While certainly not as geriatric as their audience, Pearl Jams certainly held a more mature crowd, complete with Gen-Xers that had been in college during the grunge explosion. The twist? Instead of dates or gatherings, these aged fans were dragging their kids along for their first Pearl Jam experience.
With the Seattle rock unit, its never just another concert. For most fans, its an important life changing event. For youngsters, its something that gives them bragging rights to one day ask their friends, “Did you ever see Pearl Jam?” I was first made aware of this phenomenon when a good friend of mine would make a pilgrimage, with his family, every tour to both the Philadelphia and Washington D.C. shows. That struck me as fascinating, to think of an entire family vacation based around great music.
Fortunately for me, the Verizon Center provided great accommodations in sound and mobility. This much was obvious with the opener for the night, the cheery New Jersey act, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. I have been listening to these guys for some time now, so it was a great way to open the night. Props to them for scoring this tour; however, they seem more suitable for a club.
Like clockwork, Pearl Jam walked out shortly after with a slower opener than expected, Hard to Imagine off of 2003s Lost Dogs. The first set ripped through some of the old classics (Do The Evolution, Corduroy) and some hits that made their fair share of air time over the radio. Only live, these songs were a whole new beast. “Even Flow” and “Daughter” rocked harder than ever before, while the first closer, “Rearview Mirror”, built to a fever pitch, face-melting finish.
By the second set, I found myself in that perfect concert-going mind frame, where time doesnt matter and the things happening right in front of you are all thats important. Nobody, including myself, wanted this night to end and there was a commonality within that idea. It didnt hurt that Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, Mike McCready, and Matt Cameron were giving it all in a flawless performance.
With such a vast back catalogue to choose from, Pearl Jam’s set lists have been known to change frequently on tour. For an audience to treat every song like it’s a sing along, without ever having known the set list, is pretty incredible, and that’s just what the packed, nearly sold out Verizon Center did. At one point, Vedder had the band turn around to play “Last Kiss” for the audience sitting behind the stage… a modern rock star, huh?
The sing-a-longs continued right into the second encore. In fact, no one budged until the final bow, after the powerful “Yellow Ledbetter”. Its amazing how a single b-side turned into one of the most popular songs in Pearl Jam’s discography.
Looking back and feeling the wave of energy still, I have to say, I now understand, more so than ever, where these long time fans are coming from. This is a landmark event. And if theyre still touring, theres no doubt in my mind that Ill bring my kid to a Pearl Jam concert one day.
Hard To Imagine
Do The Evolution
Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
I Am Mine
I Got Id
Who You Are
Given To Fly
All Along The Watchtower