Pearl Jam Rocks Red Sox Nation at Fenway Park & Eddie Vedder Shares Stories & Special Guests (SHOW REVIEW)

When one visits the great city of Boston, Fenway Park is most often at the top of the To Do list. Whether it be a visit to watch a Red Sox game, an official tour, or even just to walk around Lansdowne Street to look up at the Green Monster from the outside. But, over the past several years, Fenway has opened its gates to a different type of fan base, concert music fans. Fenway has hosted big names, which include the Rolling Stones, Sir Paul McCartney, Roger Waters, James Taylor, Aerosmith, and Bruce Springsteen. Now, Fenway can add Pearl Jam, Seattle’s sons of the grunge rock era, to their growing list of legendary artists.

Pearl Jam set up shop in Fenway’s centerfield on a most glorious Friday, for the first of two shows scheduled for the start of their current tour. The band was slated for a 6:30 PM start but didn’t appear until 7:40 PM. It was speculated that it was mostly because the fans were slow to arrive and to get to their seats at such an early time and possible confusion as to what time the show was actually going to start, as it was advertised to begin at 7:30 and even as late as 8 PM via different media outlets. There were also rumors swirling of a secret acoustic set with special guests, which unfortunately did not happen. Regardless, Pearl Jam did not have an opening act scheduled and their fans that did pay attention to the official start time, waited patiently in their respective seats, drinking cold beer and chatting up their fellow spectators.

pearljamfenwayTemperatures were in the mid-eighties and there was a small breeze gently passing from left field to right. As the house music played the Cars’, a Boston-based band, “Let’s Go”, patrons sang and clapped along. The time was 7:35 and an hour past the scheduled start time. Some took the irony of the song’s title and chanted its name anxiously as they awaited Vedder and crew to take the stage. Their patience was rewarded as “Let’s Go” was cut short and the introduction to the Who’s “Baba O’ Riley” was thrust through the band’s monitors. If this were a baseball game, it was the band’s way of shouting, “Play ball!”

Guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard, along with bassist Jeff Ament and drummer Matt Cameron and keyboardist Boom Gaspar, came out on stage waving their hands while smiling and pointing to the crowd before them. Their enthusiastic fans screamed, clapped and cheered upon this sight. Lead singer Eddie Vedder was only one half of step behind them, but he arrived to center stage carrying a bottle of wine and what appeared to be a thin, three-ring binder with notes. Vedder, wearing mostly black with a T-shirt with the number 21 printed on the front, stepped up to the mic and humbly said with a smirk, “They said there’d be some people here.” As he raised his bottle of wine, he continued with, “Let’s go to church.” before the band got the show started with the moody and melodic “Release”. Subtle blue lights lit the stage from above as an ominous scrap-metal sculpture, seemingly in the shape of a bird, swayed back and forth slowly above the band in time with the song. Within minutes, the music brought the band and everybody in attendance together as one.

At the conclusion of “Release”, McCready could be spotted showering the band’s fans in front of him with a plethora of white guitar picks. Vedder strapped on his Telecaster and said, “Hey, hey. Let me get a good take a look at you before the sun goes down. I don’t know how it happened, but look at us, we’re all in center field.” A chorus of laughter emanated from the audience as the band broke into “Long Road”, “Elderly Woman” and “Low Light”. For “Yesterdays”, the over-sized light bulbs descended down to the stage. The lights changed from yellow to green and during the outro, Vedder, sipping from his wine bottle, read off all of the Red Sox championship banners, one of the first signs of his love of the sport and being inside Fenway Park itself.

During “Given To Fly”, the bird-shaped scrap metal sculpture looked as if it was flapping its wings slightly as various lights became illuminated within its structure. The Creedence Clearwater-style intro and Vedder’s emphasis on, “Hey, fucker!” certainly added to the intensity of the song’s lyrics and emotion, which made for a great segue into the punkish “Mind Your Manners” which featured a short, but frenzied solo by McCready. The band maintained their momentum with an energetic and ferocious version of “Why Go” which featured yet another heartfelt and intense hammer-on, pull-off and wah fueled solo by McCready. At the end of the song, Vedder joked, “We’ve got some quite stuff.” and then asked the audience, “How’s everybody doing out there? It’s great up here. Obviously, it’s great for baseball, but it sounds great up here.”

The band took a short breather, giving Vedder time to mention that he’s a Cubs fan, which brought on a heavy round of boos from the audience. Vedder questioned why they were booing a National League team and told them that they could be nice to a fellow sufferer. Vedder then compared the number of World Series rings the Cubs have to the number of Donald Trump’s balls and quickly changes the subject to telling Red Sox Nation that, “My favorite American League team has always been the Red Sox.”

During “Daughter” the band brought the song to a new level with a mellow jam which then turned into Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall Part 2” and during the final chorus, Vedder changed the lyrics to “People leave your guns at home”, which drew cheers from the crowd. After “Daughter”, Vedder looked to the sky with a smile and pointed up, telling the crowd to “Wave to the chopper.” Then, Pearl Jam crushed the audience by performing one of their biggest hits, “Even Flow” during which McCready left the stage climbed down to the barricade and soloed with his beat-up Strat behind his head, inches from his and the band’s adoring fans.

Vedder continued to endear himself to the Red Sox’ fans by dedicating the next song, “Faithfull” to Red Sox Nation and Big Papi (David Ortiz), stating, “I can’t believe this is going to be his last year. “Grievance” followed and Vedder apologized for bringing up Donald Trump earlier in the set and that he wanted the night “to be all about getting along and feeling safe together.” Pearl Jam then offered up stellar performances of  “I Am Mine”, “Down” and “Black” with special guest, former Red Sox pitcher, Bronson Arroyo on acoustic guitar. Vedder asked the audience to hold up their cellphone lights so Arroyo could see just how magical the place can be.

The band continued with “Evolution” and a heavy, intriguing version of Bob Dylan’s “Masters Of War”. Vedder’s voice was gritty and sharp during “Masters”. He sounded as if his blood was boiling and one could only wonder whom he was mentally directing this song towards as his eyes pierced through the dark sky above. The cutthroat covers continued with “I Am A Patriot” by Steven Van Zandt. The whole band played relentlessly for the next few minutes before taking it down a notch for “Porch”. Vedder left the stage and visited the band’s fans down in front of the barricade. He popped back up on stage wearing a blue Red Sox baseball cap, for which he smiled and said, “Thanks!”

After the band’s first the break, Vedder returned to center stage and took a seat. He reminisced with the audience about the band’s history and love of Boston. Polaroids of the crowds he took on the first tour were displayed on the twin video screens.  He shared the story about the first time they played in Boston at a club called Axis and that he doesn’t have pictures from that show because he took pictures of security guys beating up a kid. The security guards confiscated his photos and he laughed over how the huge security guard was emasculated trying to tear the Polaroids and couldn’t. Unfortunately, he did not get those infamous pictures back.

He also shared Polaroids from when he snuck into Fenway because he just had to get in. The fans loved the video montage and Vedder’s stories. The rest of the band joined Vedder on stage. McCready with an electric guitar, Gossard with an acoustic and once the stories were wrapped up, the audience was treated to a short, semi-acoustic set that included “Strangest Tribe”, “Society” and the beautiful “Just Breathe”, where Vedder played by himself with an acoustic guitar. After “Breathe”, Vedder appeared to ruminate out loud as to what song he wanted to do. He asked if he could get a uke. He asked this a few times and it didn’t take long for the Sox fans to catch on to his joke, just before former Red Sox player, Kevin “Youk” Youkilis, delivered Vedder’s ukulele. Vedder exclaimed, “Hey, I got a Youk!” They both drank wine and together praised the Red Sox nation. As Youk left the stage, Vedder sarcastically thanked him for dressing up for the occasion.

The band carried on with “Sleeping By Myself”, “Wasted” and “State Of Love And Trust” and before the guitar solo, Vedder chose to lay on his stomach while singing eye to eye with his fans. One fan offered up his beer to him. He took a sip, handed it back and then spit it out with a huge grin on his face. After “State”, Vedder stood under a white-hot spotlight and shared, “We are going to borrow a song from our friend Roger. We sang it together for a Hurricane Sandy Benefit and we have done it ourselves a few times, but it seems like a great song to play outdoors.” and then he amusingly muttered, “And if anybody is tripping balls.” Pearl Jam then laid out a wonderful version of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” which went over exceptionally well. McCready’s second solo was profoundly moving and spot-on compared the song’s first. Vedder’s took over on the piano at the end before the band played “Corduroy” as the last song in the second set before the final encore.

Vedder sincerely thanked the fans for being so great and praised Fenway. He asked, “How ya doin’ out there at the Pesky Pole? How about you up there where the President sits? We’re so happy that we get to do this again. Boston has always been good to us. They then tore into a passionate cover of Aerosmith’s “Draw The Line”, possibly as another nod to Boston (Saturday night’s version would feature Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith on bass). McCready nailed the song’s trademark slide guitar solo. Vedder added, “That’s for Joe Perry. We are thinking about you.” McCready also paid homage to Perry, by playing a translucent Dan Armstrong acrylic guitar for “Draw”, one that Perry often used while playing this song with his respective band. The rock and roll continued with the crowd favorite “Alive”. The band’s energy combined with the crowd’s response, could have kept “Alive” as a perfect finale, but Pearl Jam was ready to go into extra innings.

Vedder then introduced the band along with the great sports writer Peter Gammons who came on stage to give Vedder a hug and a wave to the audience. The show wasn’t quite over yet and Vedder took a few minutes to share a letter and story from a fan.

Vedder said that the band was going to try and play a song they haven’t played since they first came to Boston and one that they may have recorded. The request came in the form of a letter from a fan named Mathew Plummer, whose father had passed away. Vedder was clearly choked up while talking about it. He said, “This is hard.” and he asked for a minute to gather himself. He added that Mathew wrote that he and his father didn’t always get along musically, but they could on the next song. With all of the lights still illuminated inside the park, Pearl Jam played a magical rendition of the Beatles’ “I’ve Got A Feeling”. The crowd erupted with applause at the end and with just enough time left on the clock, the band ended their set with the Who’s “Baba O’Riley” before their 10:30 PM curfew expired.

Fans danced together in the aisles savoring every last note that Pearl Jam offered up. The band clearly gave everything that they had in their tanks to ensure that each member of the audience went home happy and satisfied. The band’s appreciation of their fans did not go unnoticed as being just one more facet of their generosity, which included the band’s Vitalogy Foundation, donating $1 dollar of every ticket sold from their two concerts at Fenway to four local non-profit organizations. Tonight, Pearl Jam were the ones to hit it out the park in this city of champions.

Pearl Jam Setlist Fenway Park, Boston, MA, USA 2016, 2016 North American Tour

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One Response

  1. THANK YOU for the writeup. I was there Friday and what a NIGHT! Followed PJ for years and see them where I can. The love affair between the band and Boston continues!

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