Pearl Jam is not a band -- they are a movement, with possibly the best soundtrack one could ask for. The depth of their pre-Thanksgiving concert at Oracle Arena in Oakland, CA on Tuesday, Nov. 26th, was felt not only in the music but through the band's interactions with its fans.
Coming out to a packed house, about an hour after ticket time, gave the audience a chance to get comfortably settled, many folks cordially introducing themselves to the community of spectators in their vicinity -- as if this group now became your family and you were about to set out on a journey together.
Following the precedent of some previous shows on this tour, the band opened with "Pendulum" from their newly released 10th studio album, Lightning Bolt, a song that seems to convey a softer tonal side yet delivers an almost ritual opening chant. The band played an additional five songs from the new cut, but interestingly enough, they generally made their appearance toward the front half of the show. The crowd seemed to enjoy the set up that the titled track "Lightning Bolt" provided for the Dead Kennedy's-esque "Mind Your Manners", the latter providing a harder rock tone but letting us all release some energy.
In speaking with Matt Shields, an Oakland native and knowledgeable PJ connoisseur, I was curious to know how the rooted fans were taking to the new album. Not only was he looking to hear some of the new songs that weren't played in the previous shows he attended this tour, but he wanted to hear more of "Lightning Bolt", "mostly because [he] knows there's three or four songs in there that [he'll] love for the next twenty to thirty years".
The feeling must be mutual, as Eddie Vedder interacted with the fans numerous times, be it sharing his bottle of vino with a group from the front row, taking song request signs up on stage to play, or giving a shout out to a larger gathering of Brazilians adorning a huge flag. Vedder's own words seem to best sum up this relationship: "You're all beautiful. Every single one of you".
An especially magical moment came when the band paid homage to the Bridge School. Eddie has been a part of its annual benefit concert to help physically challenged children -- playing it almost a dozen times since the early nineties. The majority of the band ventured out to a special section where some of the Bridge School kids were watching the show and then performed a heart-felt version of "Last Kiss" (a Wayne Cochran cover).
In addition to the some of the more well known staples that an array of fans would tend to enjoy, such as, "Nothingman", "Even Flow", "Daughter", "Better Man" and "Alive"; the band also dug a little deeper playing one of the tracks, "Setting Forth" from a Vedder solo album. There were also no lack of covers from a well-rehearsed "After Hours" (The Velvet Underground) to "F'ing Up" (Neil Young).
In the later part of the first set, Eddie also frankly communicated his feelings on the dynamics in play with Liz Chenney and her infamous father. Making it clear that the moto of, "to each their own" shall resonate in their case too; the Bay Area fans certainly cheered in support.
While the pseudo-political messages that Eddie seems to convey at many concerts were well received, some die-hard fans were more thrilled to hear "Thin Air" which hadn't been played since the summer 2008 tour, and has only made just over 30 appearances.
The fan interaction continued with a nice light climbing act by Vedder who ended up swinging on one of the stage lights and eventually throwing good old tambourines to enthused fans.
Whether it was the well rehearsed band, Eddie's spoken thoughts, or the tribute to the Bridge School kids in attendance, it was hard for anyone not to get caught up-or rather lost in the moment-there was something for everyone at this show. The addictively engaging nature of the band, drew us all in for whatever reason.
For Daniel Cohen, a SF-based NY-transplant and long time Pearl Jam fan, the journey was "completely therapeutic". In lieu of the traditional course of blowing off steam, the concert went further for him: "Your problems don't get less complex as you get older. You turn to the music even more -- that's why 36 or some songs and almost four hours was so special."
Looking back, I think we were all happily lost for those four hours.
Oracle Arena-Oakland, CA 11.26.13
Pendulum, Nothingman, Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town, Why Go, Hail Hail, Lightning Bolt, Mind Your Manners, Dissident, Faithfull, Setting Forth, Corduroy, Even Flow, Sirens, Daughter, Unthought Known, Let the Records Play, Down, State of Love and Trust, Betterman.
After Hours, Yellow Moon, Last Kiss, Just Breathe, Thin Air, Given to Fly, Untitled, MFC, Big Wave, Do the Evolution, The New World, Porch.
Smile, Crazy Mary, Black, Alive, Fuckin' Up, Indifference