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Pearl Jam 20 billboard at Alpine Valley PJ20

Doing the Evolution: Pearl Jam at Twenty (Sunday)

written by: on September 7, 2011

Sidestepping Saturday’s rain, Eddie V.’s “Last Waltz” without the ‘last’ continued on its second day of communal rockness with rumors of Uncle Neil in tow.  Or so the social media sites sparkled with.  And tour posters hinted at.

Spoiler alert – Neil Young never showed.  Though nor did a bummer cloud in its place.  The energy was so lurid with an era of grunge spawn survivors and the lineage of rock they hath wrought, PJ staying away from a greatest hits puppet show, every supporting act periodically filling in on each other’s sets, that when the time came for the predictable “Rockin’ In The Free World” closer, fans actually started to leave the amphitheater content.

PJ would go on to draw the masses back in for one last aching sing-along to “Yellow ledbetter,” an easy nostalgia way out.  But again, it didn’t matter.  They earned it.  The fans earned it.  It’s really what the whole weekend was about.  And besides, everything that preceded it was full of deep b-side cuts and stage antics that rivaled their arguable prime.  Except that Eddie, much like his trademark bottle of vino that he carries around, ages well.  And the whole crew just keeps getting more punk rock as they push on.  If only Yield gem “No Way” always sounded like it was incubated in CBGBs.  When Ament crunched in to the chorus, Eddie frothed at the mouth when narrating that bit about how he’ll stop trying to make a difference.

Moments like these served to rile up the mood more fiercely satisfactory, prod the irony of it all.  There were Public Image covers.  No Code duets with Glen Hansard, Hansard’s voice cracking right along to the breaking point in “Smile” and when the harmonica lets loose.  Julian Casablancas would come out after his immaculate suave-punk New Yorkisms with the Strokes previously and help out with “Red Mosquito.”  While Chris Cornell, once again, gleamed through all the old Temple of the Dog catalogue, with a choir of all the day’s performers filling harmonies huddled around a stage-left mic.  Everyone came out, except for the band that ignited PJ’s own flame, Mudhoney.

Of course Eddie paid a visit to Mudhoney’s set earlier.  As he did with Liam Fynn shortly after Joseph Arthur and the rest of PJ turned his classic horizon-watcher “In The Sun” into a searing areas-ready guitar battle.  While Glen Hansard did another duet with Eddie, likewise the artist’s classic “Once” number “Falling Slowly,” after a tender anecdote from Hansard about how Eddie mentally saw him through a stage-death tragedy late last year.  All of these mounting into one of the most genuine for-the-love-of-music parties the band could have put on.  Nobody phoned anything in.  Not once.

The only phoned-in opp the evening could have had, that little angsty pigeonhole of Pj’s career, “Jeremy,” exposed its nerves so unabashedly 30,000 people turned into a ballad, collectively howling the “whoa!” into a ’92 time- warp, with a sea of America’s youth that survived the bullshit happenings early 90s education and politics, something of which allowed the band to be where it is today and carry on the torch of the sentiment that rock can save the world.

Whether it’s true or not, Pearl Jam are arguably the last crusaders of the thought.  And even if not, it was endearing to watch Eddie come up for an encore with a guitar and his lonesome and tremble out a melody behind a lyric he wrote that afternoon, “So glad we made it/’til when it all got good.”

Pearl Jam Setlist from PJ20: September 4th, 2011 (Sunday)

1. “Wash”
2. “The Fixer”
3. “Severed Hand”
4. “All Night”
5. “Given to Fly”
6. “Pilate”
7. “Love Boat Captain”
8. “Habit”
9. “Even Flow” (with Liam Finn)
10. “Daughter/It’s Ok”
11. “Leatherman”
12. “Red Mosquito” (with Julian Casablancas)
13. “Satan’s Bed”
14. “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” (with Dhani Harrison)
15. “Unthought Known”
16. “New World” (with John Doe)
17. “Black”
18. “Jeremy”


19. “Unknown” (New Song)
20. “Just Breathe”
21. “Nothingman”
22. “No Way”
23. “Public Image” (Public Image Ltd. cover)
24. “Smile” (with Glen Hansard)
25. “Spin The Black Circle”

Encore 2

26. “Hunger Strike” (Temple of the Dog cover) (with Chris Cornell)
27. “Call Me A Dog” (Temple of the Dog cover) (with Chris Cornell)
28. “All Night Thing” (Temple of the Dog cover) (with Chris Cornell)
29. “Reach Down” (Temple of the Dog cover) (with Chris Cornell)
30. “Sonic Reducer” (Dead Boys cover) (with Mark Arm)

Encore 3

31. “Alive”
32. “Rockin’ in the Free World” (Neil Young cover)
33. “Yellow Ledbetter”
34. (Star-Spangled Banner outro)