Pearl Jam kicked off the final of their two Fenway Park shows Sunday night (9/2) and while the historic home of the Red Sox may not be the most comfortable or acoustically exceptional place for a show, the band made it feel like home. After a late start, Pearl Jam barreled through a 30-song set to close out Labor Day Weekend.
Starting with No Code’s “Sometimes,” the band was in top form right from the start. There was no fat on the setlist. “Release” was at its cathartic best, followed by an intense “Low Light.” Before “Small Town,” Eddie Vedder sent out good wishes to Bono, who had lost his voice on stage the night before. The entire band seemed to get stronger as the show went on. Pick any song they did and know they played the shit out of it. “Why Go” and “Corduroy” smoked. “Army Reserve” was dedicated to veterans and John McCain in particular. But the show had a celebratory vibe all night as Vedder continually referenced the first-place Red Sox and all their storied history. The guitarists, Mike McCready especially, were on fire all night. Little Steven’s “I Am A Patriot” started as a ballad and turned into a Clash-style freight train.
After “Porch” ended the main set, Vedder emerged alone and told the story of how the late Tom Petty left him one of his guitars. “I Won’t Back Down” prompted the crowd to bathe the stadium in light in his honor. “Just Breathe” was played by request to bring a little romance to the show before a powerhouse sequence of “Present Tense,” “Once,” “State of Love and Trust,” and the rarity “Tremor Christ.”
“Black” may not have been a surprise, but bringing on local boy Bill Janowitz to play “Taillights Fade” sure as hell was. The Buffalo Tom hit was a first for Pearl Jam, but you’d never know it from the performance. Janowitz said it best. “I’m trying to play it cool but I’m on stage with Pearl Jam at fuckin’ Fenway!” For the second encore, Vedder came out with a Red Sox batting helmet with 23 painted on to commemorate the number of times the band has played Boston. After rattling off the options available to the now-legal weed consumer in Beantown, he looked through his notebook of lyrics for help with the next song. When he couldn’t find it, he said he’d wing it “like last time.” What followed was the first performance of the Vitalogy B-side “Out Of My Mind” since the final show at the Spectrum in 2009. To put it in perspective, the Halloween version was the band’s first since 1994. Needless to say, the crowd loved it. The tune itself is a nice departure from the usual Pearl Jam sound and sounds like something you’d hear on Sirius XM’s “Underground Garage.” “Alive” gave McCready one more chance to shine before “Rockin’ In The Free World” closed things out. What’s scary is that this was only the first Fenway show.