Eddie Vedder goes solo at The Wang

A review of Eddie Vedder at the Wang Theatre on Thursday, June 16

, Managing Editor

To some people the ukulele may just be something one picks up as a souvenir on a trip to Hawaii- never to be played, it sits in the den as a decoration rather than an instrument. However, once in a while a person comes along who harnesses the true potential of the uke. People like Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, Jake Shimabukuru, and now Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. The grunge icon brought his solo act to the Wang Theatre on Thursday night to share tunes from his new album, Ukulele Songs, and a mix of his other solo and PJ work.

The ukulele is an instrument that is scarcely used in modern music, especially popular music, which is why Vedder’s new album proves to be another great moment in the instrument’s history. Vedder has found a way to create ukulele music that doesn’t sound forced or like some sort of shtick. Vedder’s strumming on the four strings certainly won’t have one thinking of grass skirts and the hula, but rather focusing on the music itself.

Vedder not only showed off his musical talents- playing ukulele, guitar, and mandolin throughout the night, but also displayed his warm sense of humor that has helped build such strong endearment for him in his fans. His down-to-earth, approachable personality is what makes the connection easy between himself and his audience. He pandered to the crowd as his introduced his uke, which spawned a Fenway-like chant of “Youuuuuk”. Vedder responded saying, “How did you know I named this one Kevin?” and then used the instrument like a bat as he mimed the Sox third baseman’s unusual batting stance before knocking “Light Today” out of the park.

After starting the show off with a string of tunes off of Ukulele Songs, Vedder then changed things up as he grabbed a guitar for a segment of Pearl Jam songs including the sing along-spawning “Just Breathe” and “I Am Mine”. After utilizing the ax for some time, Vedder grabbed a noticeably smaller instrument which had some fans calling for the “Youuuuk” again. Eddie smiled and joked “did you say ‘uke’? This is a mandolin you uncultured bastards!”, which got a rise out of the crowd before “Rise”.

Taking off following an extended version of Pearl Jam’s “Arc”, Vedder returned for a lengthy encore that started with “Wishlist”, featured show opener Glen Hansard on “Sleepless Nights” and “Society” in the middle, and ended with Vedder toasting the Boston fans on the Bruins Stanley Cup victory.

Returning once more, Hansard again joined Vedder as they collaborated on “Big Hard Sun” which Vedder did for the “Into The Wild” soundtrack. It’s a song of struggle, but the duo’s performance gave it an optimistic feel as they joyously bounced around the smokey stage in front of a beautiful oceanic backdrop in lab coats (the coats were a joke stemming from EV’s guitar techs all sporting them throughout the night). Different and delightful, it was the perfect ending for a night which went in that same manner.

Glen Hansard, best known for his work with The Frames and The Swell Season, opened the show with mostly new material. He created quite the sound with just an acoustic guitar thanks to his powerful strumming as several of his songs quickly shifted tempos. The Dublin-born singer mixed little stories and pretty numbers while thrilling most of all by going completely unplugged for “Say it to Me Now”, which could still be heard over the noise of the continuously arriving fans.

Setlist
Waving Palms
Can’t Keep
Sleeping By Myself
Without You
More Than You Know
Goodbye
Light Today
Dead Man Walking
Speed of Sound
Just Breathe
Around the Bend
I Am Mine
Setting Forth
No Ceiling
Guaranteed
Rise
Unthought Known
Immortality
Arc
Encore
Wishlist
Open All Night (Bruce Springsteen cover)
Sleepless Nights (with Glen Hansard)
Society (with Glen Hansard)
Crazy Mary
Porch
Encore 2
Hard Sun (with Glen Hansard)

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