by Larry Kaiser
On Sunday, September 2nd, Pearl Jam began the last of their “Away” shows with the first of two shows at Boston’s Fenway Park. With the Boston Red Sox sitting atop baseball with the best record, it is fitting that arguably America’s greatest band play Fenway this year.
Pearl Jam’s Home and Away show tour is a brief four-city, seven-show trek with previous stops at home, in Seattle, as well as Missoula, Montana and Chicago’s Wrigley Field. With the Fenway shows being the only east coast shows, fans come from far and wide to see the band.
For the days leading up to the show, communication from Fenway Park indicated that the band was going to hit the stage at 6:30 PM due to Fenway’s strict 10:30 PM curfew. As most fans know, the band would not start at that time and security was informing the fans that the show would start at 7:30 PM. As the band hit the stage at 7:56 PM, the 30,000+ crowd was growing impatient. Once the show started though, the Pearl Jam faithful were singing along word for word and clearly having a blast.
For a band that has been making music for almost 30 years, their fan base has aged with them. When you’re waiting in line for merchandise or to get into the venue, you meet all sorts of people who share stories and become friends. The most typical question usually is, “How many shows have you seen?” For this contributor, the answer is 34, and I love those conversations. What is great to see is how many people are now bringing their kids to shows. Sharing it with them, the music that means so much to them. There was even a couple who had an infant with them, who was wearing large headphones. The child was smiling, but probably had no clue what was going on and more than likely won’t remember his first Pearl Jam show.
The band opened with ‘Sometimes,’ the opening track from the 1996 album No Code. This was a fitting opening song as this album just recently celebrated its 22nd anniversary. The 18-song opening set featured many crowd favorites such as Release, Low Light, Given to Fly, Evolution, Lukin, and more. Fans were treated to the rarity, Army Reserve, off the 2006 self-titled album, Pearl Jam., which fans refer to as the “Avocado album.” Before playing the song, lead singer Eddie Vedder paid respect to recently deceased US Senator, John McCain. Eddie spoke fondly of the band’s respect for those that have or are serving while calling McCain a true American hero.
The first set also featured an English lesson of sorts for fans as Vedder talked about the word “fuck” and proceeded to go through a conjugation tree as he explained a conversation with his daughter. An entertaining lesson for those in attendance. The lesson concluded with Eddie suggesting the crowd uses “Fuck” as a verb and to say “Fuck You” when they vote in November. Vedder then dedicated ‘Given to Fly’ to an old friend named Dick from Boston who has worked many shows as security and was recovering from a health issue. The opening set ended with a raucous version the Ten cut Porch, which has been a staple as the first set closer this tour.
The second set began as most do for Pearl Jam – with Eddie Vedder alone on stage to start a run on slower songs. Vedder discusses how Red Sox owner John Henry’s favorite band was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and that Petty played Fenway back in 2014. Eddie mentions how the guitar he is about to play has only left his house two times and was a gift from Tom Petty. Petty had told him that there were a few songs left in it and Eddie agreed. Eddie asked the crowd to help him connect with Tom and then started into Petty’s ‘I Won’t Back Down.’
The first encore featured a song to which Eddie referred to as a request for something romantic. He referred to a sign in the front row that said ‘The last time we saw you, we got pregnant, and we want to get pregnant again!’ The band then played a moving version ‘Just Breathe.’ Also played in the first encore is the fan favorite, but not often played Vitalogy track, ‘Tremor Christ.’ Eddie mentioned that if they screw it up, it’s his fault since they rarely play the song. The encore finished with a great run of songs featuring ‘Taillights Fade’ by the legendary Boston band, Buffalo Tom. Guitarist Bill Janovitz joined the band on stage as the night’s only guest appearance to play one of Eddie’s favorite songs. The band closed the encore with ‘Blood.’ Amazingly, Pearl Jam is probably one of the few bands that can weave George Clinton’s ‘Atomic Dog’ into one of their songs and get the reaction they did from the crowd.
With curfew approaching, the band was quickly back on stage for another encore starting with the super rarity ‘Out of Mind,’ which had only been played three times before. Vedder stated that he didn’t have lyrics when they wrote it originally and that he was going to make it up along the way tonight. The band closed the show with ‘Alive,’ from Ten, and Neil Young’s ‘Rockin’ In The Free World,’ a song that Pearl Jam has made into their own that took them past the curfew by a few minutes.
Because of the late start and the curfew, the band was forced to scratch four additional songs from their set. As the crowd dispersed to the streets around Fenway, there were mixed reviews of the show. While almost everyone enjoyed the show and the set list, others were complaining about how late the band came out and that they ‘only’ played 30 songs. At just a little over 2 hours and 30 minutes, this was the shortest concert during this run of U.S. dates. But with 30 songs played, the crowd got their money’s worth.
The band has one more show at Fenway on Tuesday, September 4th, and then presumably heading into the studio to put the finishing touches on their next album.
Sunday’s Full Set List
03. Low Light
04. Elderly Woman Behind the Counter In A Small Town
05. Why Go
07. Mind Your Manners
09. Given To Fly
10. Army Reserve
11. Even Flow
12. Amongst The Waves
13. Daughter / WMA / It’s OK
14. Got Some
15. Do The Evolution
16. I Am A Patriot
Encore Break 1
19. I Won’t Back Down
20. Just Breathe
21. Present Tense
23. State Of Love And Trust
24. Tremor Christ
- Taillights Fade-(Buffalo Tom) with Bill Janovitz
- Blood / atomic dog
- Out Of My Mind
30. Rockin’ In The Free World