Pearl Jam celebrate Lightning Bolt in Worcester

A review of Pearl Jam at the DCU Center on October 15, 2013

, Contributing Writer

Rarely has there been a tour name more fitting for a performance than for Pearl Jam’s concert last Tuesday. The legendary rockers rolled into Worcester’s DCU Center to celebrate the release of their new album Lightning Bolt and delivered a marathon set that mixed new and old over the course of 3 hours.

The main set seemed very much like a lightning storm: there were lots of quick hitting explosions and then the energy would ease for a bit, leaving the adoring crowd waiting for it to return.

Pearl Jam kicked off the show on a great foot with a trio of crowd favorites in “Release”, “Long Road” and “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town”. “Release” set the bar high, featuring lead guitarist Mike McCready’s famous, echoing lead riff and frontman Eddie Vedder’s haunting lyrics, which he celebrated by diving into his notorious bottle of red wine early in the night. The next two tracks slowed down a bit with rhythm guitarist Stone Gossard and his acoustic guitar leading the way for two great sing-along songs. During “Long Road”, the camera zoomed in on the “Boston Strong” patch on Vedder’s jacket, sending the crowd wild during the slow tempo song, making for a very intimate moment.

With the show taking place on the day of release for their tenth studio effort, Pearl Jam took time to deliver several new tunes off Lightning Bolt. Lead single “Mind Your Manners” and title track “Lightning Bolt” were both a bolt of energy, while “Sirens” was also warmly received from the crowd. “Future Days”, performed during the band’s encore acoustic set, seems destined to replace “Just Breathe” as their fans’ go-to wedding song.

Not all the new tracks were winners, however. “Swallowed Whole” was lackluster, as was “Let the Records Play” and “Infallible”. Twenty-plus years into a tremendous career, no band is going to deliver excellent material on each and every track on a new album and Pearl Jam is no exception. It made sense that the band would feature more new material on the day of its album release, but these tracks added almost nothing to the show. Unfortunately, the show’s lulls were not reserved to the new material. “Hail, Hail” was forgettable and “Evenflow”, a usual live staple for the band, fell shockingly flat.

Vedder was in good form throughout the night. Vocally, he notably shined on “Nothing As It Seems”. He worked the crowd throughout the night, often openly sharing his bottle of wine with fans. Vedder seemed to recognize the set’s lulls and like a quarterback at the line of the scrimmage, called a few audibles to regain momentum including the energetic “Save You” and the crowd-pleasing “Leash”, a track off 1993’s Vs. that the band very rarely performs live. He also happily recalled the band’s long history of Boston-area shows, recalling a particularly funny story about the band’s first gig at the old Axis club.

Before the band broke into main set closer “Better Man”, the baseball-loving frontman shared with the crowd about how they had the opportunity to witness the “baseball miracle” of David Ortiz’s grand slam in Game 2 of the ALCS earlier in the week at Fenway Park, thanks to Pearl Jam fanatic and former general manager of the Boston Red Sox, Theo Epstein. Vedder described the mystique of the moment, saying “I now have a strong belief in God – his name is David Ortiz and he wears number 34.” Heretical theology aside, it was a fun moment for the crowd, many having just watched the Red Sox win Game 3 against the Tigers before waiting in the massive line outside the DCU Center, with yelling and car horns filling the Worcester night with hopes of a World Series appearance.

The encore started off with a laidback performance of a few tracks that got the tremendous encore going in the right direction. After dedicating “Man of the Hour” to his deceased idol, “A People’s History of the United States of America” author and former Boston University professor Howard Zinn, Vedder preceded “Yellow Moon” by saying they had been mixing the track in a studio in Seattle the day of the Boston Marathon bombings and “we were thinking about you then and we’ve been thinking about you the whole time.”

“Porch” ignited a torrid race to the end of the show, which featured a nearly flawless six song run that the crowd had been waiting for all night. The band made their way to the back of the stage and performed “Last Kiss” for fans seated behind the stage. “Crazy Mary” gave touring piano/organ player Boom Gaspar some time in the spotlight, while a thrilling rendition of “Alive” had Vedder swinging from a stage light over the crowd. “Sonic Reducer”, a Dead Boys cover featuring driving punk chords by Gossard and Matt Cameron’s tight work on the drums, nearly blew the rood off before “Indifference” brought the show to a more calming close.

Pearl Jam never disappoints live. They’ve held themselves to a standard of knocking the ball out of the park night in and night out, tour after tour, for over 20 years. Tuesday’s show, the first of two in Worcester, was not one of the band’s best in their rich history of Boston-area shows but it still proved they have plenty left in the tank. Here’s a red wine toast to many more shows of one of the greatest rock bands in the world. Cheers, Eddie.

1. Release
2. Long Road
3. Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
4. Lightning Bolt
5. Mind Your Manners
6. Hail, Hail
7. Sirens
8. Evenflow
9. Nothing As It Seems
10. Swallowed Whole
11. Red Mosquito
12. Whipping
13. Corduroy
14. Infallible
15. Got Some
16. Save You
17. Leash
18. Let the Records Play
19. Do the Evolution
20. Better Man
   Encore #1
21. Man of the Hour
22. Yellow Moon
23. Fatal
24. Just Breathe
25. Spin the Black Circle
26. Unknown Thought
27. Porch
  Encore #2
28. Last Kiss (Wayne Cochran cover)
29. Crazy Mary (Victoria Williams cover)
30. Alive
31. Sonic Reducer (Dead Boys cover)
32. Indifference

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