Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Pearl Jam experience, part 2: Ten ... key points from the concert

Posters outside the stadium.

While I grew up with Pearl Jam's music, I have become more a fan as I've gotten older. And I must say, it was worth the wait to see them live for the first time in a place like Trieste -- a city nestled on the far side of the Adriatic Sea that is so remote some Italians have asked us "Why?" when we've told them it was on the itinerary.

But somehow Pearl Jam found it. And they put on a tremendous show.

1. They played for nearly three hours through a set list of 30 songs.

2. Eddie Vedder is quite the showman. He read Italian at one point to the crowd, opening his monologue with a joke about drinking too much beer after the prior show in Milan. He kicked off the beginning of "Once" on stage alone with just a guitar. He told a story about his 5-year-old daughter being impressed with the tiny toilet in her hotel room. And gave a hell of a show.

3. The Italian/Slovenian/Croatian/other European crowd was really into it. Most of the people around us knew most of the words to most of the songs. That's even more impressive considering none spoke English as their primary language. (A special shout out to the shirtless dudes in the inner circle who didn't stop head-banging, jumping and running around ... for three straight hours).

4. They played most of Ten. In addition to "Once," they broke out "Black" early on (a personal favorite) as well as "Deep," which Vedder introduced by telling the crowd they were going deep into their first album. "Even Flow," "Why Go" and "Porch" followed, and they saved "Jeremy" and "Alive" toward the end.

5. Mike McCready's behind-the-head guitar solo. Yes, he did the entire guitar solo in "Even Flow" with the guitar behind his head. Unbelievable.

6. They played lots of the new stuff. Their 10th album, Lighting Bolt, was well represented with seven songs on the set list by my count. Even the previous album, Backspacer, got decent play. I was especially pleased they chose "Unthought Known."

7. They ended the first half with a kick-ass version of "Rearviewmirror." It's always been among my favorites.

8. They played "Corduroy."

Ryan and Kate reacting to the opening notes of a song.

9. The Mother Love Bone tribute. The second song after the brief intermission, Boom Gaspar began playing those haunting first notes to "Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns." I know Pearl Jam has been playing this double-shot tribute to its roots more often since their 10th anniversary in 2000 and especially after their 20th tour. But it was still a treat to hear it live. And the in-house cameras even focused on a fan in the front row wearing a Mother Love Bone T-shirt -- as a tribute to the band that ultimately became Pearl Jam. It's different hearing Vedder's tones replace the late Andy Wood's early grunge/late '80s metal sound.

The crowd during the finale.
10. They capped off the encore -- and the night -- with Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" after fans in front of the stage unfurled a "Keep on Rockin in the Free World" banner that stretched more than half the width of the stadium. I don't know if that banner comes out at other Pearl Jam concerts, but I'd like to imagine that some of the people who helped hold up the banner were from some of the nearby Eastern European countries that were only joining the free world around the time that Pearl Jam was born.

P.S. from Elizabeth: We weren't at the show where Vedder covered "Let It Go" from Frozen - that was Milan.

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