As a concert goer, there are some axioms that should be followed regularly. Some that come to mind are that one should regularly see the opening band if all possible (they might become a favorite), should refrain from loud conversations or cell phone use when the band is playing, and above all, never miss a Sunday show (ok, this is a Grateful Dead/Phish thing). I think it is safe to add one more: never miss a Pearl Jam show in Chicago, especially one at Wrigley Field.
On Saturday August 18th, Eddie Vedder returned to his childhood stomping grounds with his band and treated adoring fans to a robust evening of Pearl Jam mainstays as well as deep cuts and covers of those who influenced him greatly. There was an electricity that could be felt from the South Loop all the way to the Wisconsin border. An army of devotees had marched into Wrigleyville as if a Cub’s World Series win was on the line. This was theme for the evening. A Cubs vid, their World Series Trophy, the Cubs owner, and of course the customary Cubs hat and jersey would be showcased during the nearly three-hour show 32 song show, but nothing could take away from Pearl Jam’s performance.
They began the show with the track “Wash” which they dust off for this tour after nearly a 15 year off and on hiatus. Neophytes were probably unfamiliar, but once “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town”, nobody was left out of the singalongs. The same can be said for the like of “Corduroy”, “Even Flow”, and “Porch” in the opening set. Clearly the band was feeling nostalgic for those that inspired them as they covered Chris Cornell’s “Missing” and Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down”. Eddie seemed a bit choked up as he played Petty’s guitar on the cut. Everyone joined in on this one.
There was a bit of a lull in the action in the second set, maybe a 7th inning stretch, but everyone knew what was coming, or they thought they did. Rally caps were on. After the band left the stage for the 2nd time, they remerged, this time with Cubs owner Tom Rickets, the 2016 World Series trophy, and David Bote’s walk-off grand slam video cued. The crowd erupted and were treated with the band’s debut of David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel”. Vedder and Co continued to honor those that are important to them. The band closed out the evening with no-holds-barred renditions of “Better Man”, “Alive”, “Rockin in the Free World”, and “Yellow Ledbetter”, all under a fully lit Wrigley. As the evening came to a close, the crowd never thinned and their enthusiasm never waned, just like Cubs fans between World Series victories.
Pearl Jam have remained true to their rock and roll form for nearly 30 years. They continue to reward their fans with as full blown a live concert experience as one can get. Let’s hope they keep it up and not have to go to the bullpen.