OK, so Pearl Jam walks out, and you can cut the electricity in the Fenway Park crowd with a knife. Then the first cords hit… Release! I could not believe it. After all these years, I finally experienced the one song I wanted to hear open a Pearl Jam show.
This set the stage for an epic 2 nights at Fenway Park, but first, back to Release. This song has been with me since the first time I heard it when I bought the group’s album, Ten, all those years ago. It’s been a go to song throughout many tough times in my life. I will admit, tears came down my face as I sang along, “I’ll ride the wave where it takes me. I’ll hold the pain. Release me.” Thirty-five thousand others sang with me, but for those few minutes, I felt alone with my favorite band in the world, having that moment I’ve always waited for, and this was only the first song!
The band kept things slow in the beginning. Long Road followed Release, then Elderly Woman, Low Light and a rarity, All Those Yesterdays. Five slow songs is a risky way to open a stadium show for a rock band, except for Pearl Jam. The crowd was in the palm of their hand, and when Mike McCready started to play the opening to Given to Fly, the crowd exploded. This song is a concert favorite, and gets everyone singing at the top of their lungs.
After some common songs (I’m so spoiled, I use Evenflow as my bathroom break song), we were treated to another semi rarity, Faithfull. Some songs translate so well to the live show when it comes to crowd participation and energy, and this is definitely one of them.
A great version of the Riot Act song, I Am Mine, got the crowd in sing along campfire mode. Then, as the main set drew to a close, we were hit with an emotion filled version of Black. Since its release all those years ago, this song is a huge favorite. At one point, thousands of people held up their cell phones (the new version of using a lighter at shows), and lit up Fenway with little dots. Amazing sight, and you can still after all these years hear the pain in Eddie’s voice when he ends the song with the tag, “we belong together.”
After bringing the crowd back down a bit with the somber, Black, the band got everyone moving again with Do the Evolution, followed by a one-two punch of rarities. The Bob Dylan song, Masters of War, is usually played acoustic or slower by the band, but tonight they went full on electric and it blew me away. Such an incredible version!
From there, Pearl Jam kept up the pace with a full version of I Am a Patriot. With the fans ready to rock out after these last few songs, the band ended the main set with Porch. Instead of their usual long jam in the middle of the song, the band remained faithful to the album version.
This being a common set closer matters, as every time I hear Porch, it feels like the first time. It left me feeling exhausted, but there was still so much more to go.
The band returned to the stage to prepare for their acoustic portion of the concert. Before getting started, Eddie showed the crowd some old pictures on the big screens from the 1991 tour. He said that when they first played Boston, they were staying at a hotel that was just around the corner from Fenway. He had always wanted to see inside because he is a lifelong baseball fan. Unfortunately, the park was closed, so he did what anyone else would do. He broke into the stadium and took a few pics with his polaroid camera. He showed the pics on the screen from 1991. Twenty-five years later and his band played in center field. To know that after 25 years, the band shares these moments with fans makes the bond between us even stronger.
Earlier, I mentioned that fans like myself keep a checklist of songs we haven’t heard live yet. Well, the opener of the first encore made everyone’s checklist. Strangest Tribe played for only the second time ever, and the first time in the U.S. It originated as a song on the fan club’s Christmas single in 1999, and appears on the Lost Dogs album. This was definitely a highlight of the night due to how special it was to hear, and that was only the beginning of the encore. Society was next. From Eddie’s solo album, which is also the soundtrack to the film, Into The Wild, this was another song that played for only the second time ever. They did their own take on this and made it feel a little bit country. The same happened with Sleeping by Myself.
After that, things kicked into high gear. We heard Life Wasted, followed by a roaring version of State of Love and Trust. Next, we were hit with a mind numbing version of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb. To me, what’s amazing is that Pearl Jam takes a classic song that is beloved all over the world and makes it their own. McCready, for example, produced an amazing guitar solo to prove once again that he is one of the best in the business. Seriously, this guy is never mentioned in conversations of guitar greats from the last 25 years, but he is very high on the list if you ask me. What he does during shows is amazing on so many levels.
The bad closed the set with Corduroy, which hasn’t happened in over 10 years. This is a song that gets the crowd going at earlier points in the show, and tonight they tore it up and set the fans into a frenzy.
But wait! There’s still more.
The band came out again, and in a nod to one of Boston’s most beloved sons, they debuted a first time cover of Aerosmith’s Draw the Line. Being from New Jersey, I don’t appreciate that song as much as the Boston fans in attendance, but it was a great version that had us all going.
Next came the song that signaled the end of the night, Alive. The is the track that brings everyone together. A classic, the first song I ever heard from the band. Originally written with dark tones, over the years (Eddie has said this), the song took on new meaning of hope. Alive was sung by every single person in that stadium, and we felt it in our souls.
After the song ended, Eddie read a letter he received from a fan in attendance who recently lost his father. Visibly choked up, he needed a minute to stop crying. Eddie went on to say that Matt (the guy’s name) was never able to fully bond with his dad over music, except for one song, so the band played for Matt and his dad, I’ve Got a Feeling, by the Beatles. Pearl Jam covered this song a bunch in their early days, but only once in the past 22 years. I definitely hope Matt received some closure.
As the show started, it ended in similar fashion, with the band’s version of Baba O’Riley by the Who. The lights went on in the stadium, and everyone clapped. Fenway was rockin’.
Once it was over and the band took their bows, Mike and I just stood there for a minute. WOW! We had just witnessed magic. I was so blown away by the show, and the fact that I was able to check off a lot of firsts tonight. Seven, to be exact. The final count was 32 songs at two hours and 45 minutes. What a show!
The best part? After a one-day break, we were coming back for night 2!
Did you miss part 1 of our trip to Fenway Park to see Pearl Jam? Find out why Pearl Jam is so important to me, and how I wound up 14 rows away from the stage! When you're ready, I'll tell you why night 2 of Pearl Jam made this one of the best concert weekends of all time.