June 21, 2003

Pearl Jam Still Going Strong

By Randy J. Klodz

Pearl Jam, the sole survivors of the Seattle grunge-rock scene that exploded during the early-to-mid 1990s, took to the stage on an early 8:15 p.m. start time and just as the band’s storied career, they lasted longer than most bands. Pearl Jam played to a packed Alpine Valley Music, in East Troy, Wis. for nearly three hours.

Pearl Jam, which includes Eddie Vedder (vocals, guitar), Mike McCready and Stone Gossard (guitars), Jeff Ament (bass) and Matt Cameron (drums), is currently touring the globe in support of “Riot Act,” the band’s latest album, which released in November of 2002. This tour also brought the band to Chicago where the band played the United Center on June 18 and reportedly played a shorter set with a selection of songs geared toward supporting the recent album.

But Vedder and Co. had a different plan for the large-capacity crowd of Alpine’s outdoor amphitheatre. Sure, Pearl Jam played “Bushleaguer,” “Save You,” “Green Disease” and “Love Boat Captain” from “Riot Act,” but that left 24 other songs where the band reached into its steady pool of hits and four covers.

Sure, Vedder may be without the long, brooding hair that used to flow onto his face, but the frontman was at his best during the show. Midway through the set, a spotlight shone down upon only Vedder and his guitar. As he stood at the microphone, he strummed the opening cords to “Betterman” and he observed in amazement as more than 30,000 fans performed vocal duties for the first minute’s worth of lyrics for the song. The rest of the lights returned, as well did the entire band to finish the song which left the crowd hopping until the lights dimmed again.

The opening bassline to “Jeremy,” Pearl Jam’s initial hit off “Ten,” which was one of the best-selling albums of the 1990s, sent the crowd into a tizzy, seeing as how “Jeremy” rarely appears as part of the band’s live set. Vedder gripped the mic with both hands and ragingly hopped about with the mic stand. Before beginning “Glorified G,” Vedder asked the crowd who had traveled from Chicago or farther destinations. “We just want to make our show worth the ride home,” Vedder said in appreciation.

Vedder, a native of Evanston, and Cubs fan, was in town to sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the 7th Inning Stretch at Wrigley Field on June 20 during the first came of the Crosstown Classic. Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood was also reportedly in attendance for the Alpine Valley performance.

Pearl Jam’s current tour is set to end on July 19 in Mexico City. Vedder had hinted that the band’s typical “take time off, make an album, start a tour” habit may have to be altered a bit to “visit a few places before the next election.” With a performance such as this, the devoted Pearl Jam fans wouldn’t mind seeing the band play every year. For more information on Pearl Jam log onto www.pearljam.com.
Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam Photo: Randy J. Klodz