Pearl Jam @ Rogers Arena - December 4th 2013
© Jamie Taylor

Live Review: Pearl Jam @ Rogers Arena, Vancouver – December 4th 2013

Pearl Jam fans are reputed as extremely enthusiastic and loyal. Touring in support of their new album, Lightning Bolt, Pearl Jam delighted a packed Rogers Arena, satisfying both high expectations of long standing fans and converting new comers. The mass appeal and radio success of Pearl Jam have long allowed the band to sell out large stadiums across the continent but their profits have not gone to their heads. When inducting their idol Neil Young into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, vocalist Eddie Vedder commented how Young’s influence had taught Pearl Jam about “dignity, commitment and playing in the moment.” The ever illustrious Pearl Jam, 23 years and 10 albums into their career, continue to live by those words. Vancouver’s high calibre rock performance left an awe-inspired audience feeling lightning struck.

The opening act selected for Pearl Jam’s Lightning Bolt tour was Mudhoney, a savvy bunch of take-no prisoner grunge punks from Seattle who are renowned for their significant influence on many distinguished North-western musicians, especially Kurt Cobain. Churning out a few high-quality tracks from their recent releases, the band ended with a pair of wild punk covers, Fang’s “The Money Will Roll Right In” and Black Flag’s “Fix Me.” While Mudhoney had the same opening slot for Pearl Jam’s 2011 Vancouver tour date, it has been some years since the band played a proper club show in the city. While the performance was agreeable, the audience was limited as fans gradually trickled into the arena.

Rogers Arena appeared packed to the brim as the seating sections and show boxes behind the stage were full of standing and cheering fans. Unlike the majority of major acts, Pearl Jam concert layouts allow both a front standing general admission area with floor seating behind; a well established fan club allows priority ticket opportunities for its diehard fan base. The band’s set commenced with a darkened stage illuminated by faint hanging light bulbs and overarching lighting rig in a bird-ish shape.

Opening with “Oceans”, a spacey and wandering track from the critical and commercial mammoth Ten, Pearl Jam were gradually lit up as they churned out song after song with both incredible professionalism and casualness. Four songs into the set, the anticipating and ambient guitar into of “Corduroy” peaked into a driving and fierce rock explosion with exceptional lead guitar contributions from Mike McCready. Yup, they’ve still got it. The atmosphere of the concert was electric as Pearl Jam blast through a wealth of and classics all over their career with a strong emphasis on early favourites. Launching into their new single “Lightning Bolt”, the song ended with a bang as the stage light up with thunder-shaped lighting rigs and illuminating the prior darkness of the stage. Pearl Jam look thrilled to be playing and at the dedication of their fans who provided backing vocals throughout the evening. Vocalist Eddie Vedder was more than happy to encourage many thousands of people to participate. The general enthusiasm and playful demeanour of Pearl Jam is comparable to musical legends The Rolling Stones; Vedder in particular pranced around the stage constantly sharing wine and guitar picks with fans, often while singing and not missing a beat. Pearl Jam have not only endured, they have grown better as the musicianship of guitarists Mike McCreedy, Stone Gossard, bassist Jeff Ament and drummer Matt Cameron. The rhythm section of Ament and Cameron, who was a former (and current, albeit on hiatus) drummer for Soundgarden, demonstrated exploration and steadiness; Matt’s drumming in particular is extremely bold and tight. The fiery attitude with which the long acquainted musicians executed cuts like “Even Flow” suggested that Pearl Jam have potentially grown finer with age. Vedder may be getting older, but he is still climbing and swinging on stage lighting while singing.

After a good twenty songs and the better part of two hours, the band walked offstage for a short break. Just about any other major act in the business would call it a day after a near two hours of high energy performance, but Pearl Jam isn’t your average band. Launching into an extended 9 song encore including a fantastic cover of Pink Floyd’s “Mother”, the band continued to knock out tune after tune, with sporadic periods of banter from a wonderfully sincere Eddie Vedder, who gave out praises to Neil Young, Lou Reid and the Canadian Customs office at the border. $2 from each concert ticket is donated to a worthwhile cause, which adds up when Pearl Jam plays to packed stadiums all across North America. The audience swell with adoration for the band just as the band adores its audience. Pearl Jam love their fans and love to play for their fans; their dedication to their listeners and concert attendants is unparalleled. Walking off the stage again, the band took another breather but returned shortly for another round of encores.

After playing 90s favourites “Go,” “Do The Evolution,” ”Black” and “Alive,” Mudhoney Vocalist Mark Arm and appeared for a collaborative effort. Seizing his microphone, Mark Arm screamed the order “Vancouver, it’s time to kick up the jams motherfuckers!” Pearl Jam and guitarist Steve Turner launched into a heavy and punk styled cover of MC5’s “Kick up the Jams.” What other as immensely commercially successful artists continue to promote such punk aesthetics? Vedder noted that the band had played 140 songs over the course of the tour. After several decades and a wealth of albums, there appears no lack of interest or boredom with performing. Eddie Vedder mentioned that it might be some time before the band was back in Vancouver, but that the city was near and dear to the band. Throughout the night, Vedder talked about talked about playing small clubs in the Vancouver early in Pearl Jam’s career and that he once saw opening act Mudhoney play the Commodore Ballroom in his early days. The night ended with poignant beauty and nostalgia as guitarist Mike McCready was handed a heavily worn telecaster. He then commenced “Yellow Ledbetter,” a smooth and fluttering b-side that simmers in the sweet clean tone of the telecaster. Often used as a final closing number, the audience’s satisfaction with the 36 songs performed was palpable.

The fans left the arena en mass around midnight, over three hours after Pearl Jam had taken to the stage. The audacity of the band, combined with their sheer popularity allows them to bend rules. Concerts at Rogers Arena never run that late, but then again, Pearl Jam aren’t an average mainstream touring group. Their fierce devotion to fans and music has led to a finely tweaked professional attitude that embraces sincerity and spontaneity. While there is merit in their albums and singles, the live performances of Pearl Jam are where the band shines brightest. Pearl Jam’s longstanding dedication, enthusiasm and progressions have made them perhaps the most influential American rock group of the past 25 years. The quality of their live shows is seldom equalled in quality and rarely, if ever in duration. Pearl Jam is legendary musical group whose loyalty and appreciation towards fans and listeners is without parallel.

Photos of Pearl Jam © Jamie Taylor

Some fan photos.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *