Pearl Jam deliver hits and rarities for faithful crowd

A review of Pearl Jam at the TD Garden on May 17, 2010

, Editor-in-Chief

As their 28th show in Boston came to a close with yet another stellar rendition of “Alive”, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder shouted, “Hey Boston, we’re all still alive!” It was a fitting statement for the group that rose out of the infamous Seattle grunge rock scene some 20 years ago. Along the way, the band has amassed a dedicated and faithful following that rivals the Deadheads, and when the two collide, as Monday’s show at the TD Garden in Boston allowed, it can make for a special night.

On a darkened stage the band opened the show with the slow and melodic “Release” to the delight of the crowd. PJ followed with a fast and hard take on “Animal” before “The Fixer”, lead single and first of five songs played on the night from their latest album, 2009’s Backspacer. What followed was an unpredictable set that wove through the band’s deep catalog.

Pearl Jam is always known for mixing up their setlists and Monday’s show was one of their most diverse. “We’ve done 27 shows in Boston,” Vedder estimated before declaring, “tonight, we’re gonna fuck with things a little bit…hope you don’t mind.” For the near-capacity crowd, that was just fine. In fact, seemingly every song was met with a huge roar from the faithful crowd. Sure, there were the expected sing-alongs in “Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town” (which Vedder dedicated to small towns like Norwood and Shrewsbury) and “Given To Fly”, but even the more obscure songs like “Sad” were well received. For the true diehards the band pulled out a handful of tunes that were real surprises in “Pilate”, “Push Me, Pull Me” and “Undone”, the latter of which was dedicated to the late Howard Zinn. Unfortunately, at times throughout the night, the band’s timing on the rarities would fall between big hits and unfortunately killed the momentum they had previously built up.

The early highlight of the night was undoubtedly “Even Flow”, a song that never fails to reach even greater levels in the live setting thanks to awesome fretwork from guitarist Mike McCready. Later, “Got Some”, a fast, straight-forward rocker and one of the finer tracks off Backspacer, kicked off a memorable run through “State of Love and Trust” and “Why Go” to bring the main set to a rocking end.

Vedder returned with bassist Jeff Ament to begin the first encore with an acoustic take on another rarity, “Bee Girl”, after praising the crowd and declaring that they felt they could do just about anything they wanted to on stage. A heartfelt rendition of their second single from Backspacer, the lush “Just Breathe” followed. Touring keyboard/organ player Boom Gasper led the band through a spot-on cover of The Who’s “Love Reign O’er Me”, which nearly blew the roof off the arena. “Rival” and “Save You” brought the crowd back down before the band kicked into another epic fan favorite in “Rearviewmirror”.

Following another short break, Pearl Jam returned to bring the night to a close with a final 7-song encore. They began with “Smile”, which Vedder dedicated to a longtime employee of the Garden and fan of the band that is battling an illness. “Wasted Reprise” followed before the band launched into the always fun “Betterman”, complete with the bonus tag of The English Beat’s “Save It For Later”. After guitarist Stone Gossard took time to praise Boston-based Partners in Health and advocate for their work in Haiti, the band turned to fans behind the stage and delivered “Soldier of Love”. Proving that they still had one last surprise, Vedder declared “27 shows and I don’t think we’ve ever played this one here” as the band kicked into a cover of Mother Love Bone’s “Crown Of Thorns”. Approaching 2 1/2 hours and with the house lights on, Pearl Jam brought the night to a close with “Alive” and Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World”.

Like a fine wine (as usual, Vedder’s drink of choice on stage), Pearl Jam seem to be getting better with age. Sure, they might not deliver another Ten anytime soon, but Backspacer is a very strong offering and finding a band that thrives and delivers so consistently in the live setting is nearly impossible.

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