Pearl Jam kicked off what might be their last nationwide tour in Kansas City last night. I gladly made the two-and-half hour trip to go see them for the first time. Oh, and having Band of Horses open was quite the bonus. Two birds with one stone and all.
Band of Horses did an ample job of getting the house ready for Eddie with a simple 9-song set opening with The General Specific and including favorites like The Great Salt Lake, Ode to LRC, No One’s Gonna Love You, and closing to a standing ovation with their anthem The Funeral. They also included a song from their upcoming album, Infinite Arms (May 18th), called Northwest Apartment. Cue David Spade joke about bands playing “new songs” at concerts being pointless.
After what seemed like a lifetime of an intermission, Pearl Jam entered stage left, and proceeded to rock my brains out with a two-and-a-half hour, 28-song setlist that included almost all of my favorites.
I have to give a lot of credit to Pearl Jam and bands with similar stature and history. It must be difficult to strike the balance between satisfying the fans that have been with you since the beginning and would like nothing more than for you to just roll out and play your debut album straight through but at the same time give credit to your recent work that you are no doubt proud of. Pearl Jam struck this balance playing a lot of their newer stuff early making us wait for the payoff in the end.
Opening without introduction with a heavier version of Of the Girl off of Binaural (a somewhat surprising pick to open) set the perfect tone. After a short salutation, the band went right into a rip-roaring Animal from Vs. This put the crowd in an absolute frenzy as we all tried to keep up the pace with Eddie. Keeping with the theme, the band continued with Worldwide Suicide, Got Some, and Unthought Unknown from their latest album, Backspacer.
Eddie then took to the microphone with some more pleasantries for KC, and introduced his next song as one that would help us warm up our voices, Elderly Woman Behind a Counter in a Small Town. I have never heard a crowd sing so loud at a concert, almost drowning out the band and causing Eddie to mess up a couple of the lyrics.
The next set the band continued to rock with MFC from Yield, crowd-favorite Even Flow, an edgier version of Present Tense, Daughter, among others and closing with Do the Evolution.
The first encore brought Eddie back on stage with…an acoustic guitar. Now we’re talking. After a short diatribe about someone on death row, PJ played Off He Goes which is among my favorite songs of all time. He followed that up with their latest single, Just Breath while the crowd joined him on several occasions. Pearl Jam finished the encore with an incredible version of Porch that included plenty of riffs from Gossard.
For the second encore, Eddie brought up Tomas Young, an Iraqi war veteran and KC native now paralyzed and wheel-chair bound. He is also the subject of the documentary Body of War for which Eddie Vedder did the music. With Tomas on stage, waving to the crowd, Eddie played an emotional No More.
Far from done, the band continued with the PJ conert staple, Black. And while Eddie didn’t let us sing the end by ourselves, he didn’t need to as the crowd had now completely drown him out. After Better Man, Alive, and Neil Young’s Rockin’ In the Free World we thought that was it. But Eddie asked, “One more?” The answer was obvious. He brought up another guest, this time Curtis Tomasevicz, the anchor of the gold medal-winning US bobsled team to chants of “USA! USA!” Eddie explained that Curtis used a PJ song as a way of getting fired up before each race. That song was Yellow Ledbetter. The song that almost everyone had been waiting for. And while nobody knew the lyrics, because…there really aren’t any, we sang along anyway.
A fitting end to an incredible show. On to the next item on my bucket list.
Band of Horses set list:
The Great Salt Lake
Ghost In My House
No One’s Gonna Love You
Ode To Lrc
Pearl Jam set list:
Of The Girl
World Wide Suicide
Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
Amongst The Waves
Do The Evolution
Off He Goes
Given To Fly
Rockin’ in the Free World (Neil Young cover)
*photo credits to the Kansas City Star