Pearl Jam at the Gibson Amphitheatre, Night One
View more photos in Timothy Norris' Pearl Jam slideshow.
What seemed to be the entire unofficial Los Angeles Pearl Jam fan club made it out to the Gibson Amphitheatre at City Walk last night, and that's a good thing, because Eddie Vedder certainly plays to his fans.
Pity the poor soul who purchased tickets believing they would re-live their college, high school or junior high glory days while frolicking in the radio-friendly sounds of "Better Man," "Jeremy," or "Yellow Ledbetter." That ain't Eddie's thang, and therefore it ain't Pearl Jam's thang either. The band or Vedder refuse to throw the greatest hits packages at their fans, and consistently produces new albums. Proof? Almost half of the songs performed last night were written after 1999. That's probably a horribly long and frustrating set to those looking for familiarity.
Here's why: Eddie Vedder is a showman and rock star. If ever a man was born with a predestined profession, it is him. Born to shred, to tear apart a stage, to conquer the platform. Who would have thought almost two decades ago (the number gets caught in the throat) Eddie Vedder would be, in some regards, the Last Man Standing of the 90s big rock world? He doesn't suffer from manorexia, collaborate with Timbaland, get egregious plastic surgery, or write drunken Tweets. (It doesn't hurt that he's still alive.)
The band? Drummer Matt Cameron keeps a tight ship. The drums were absolutely astonishing; it was hard to tell if it was due to the great sound in the theatre, or simply that he's been keeping lumbering grunge dinosaurs on time since the mid1980s. Even Mike McCreedy, who Vedder joked was "backstage watching Iron Maiden for an hour before this," jumped around the doing scissor kicks with the kind of enthusiasm and grace any Fall Out Boy would kill for.
Pearl Jam was on. And even when they made mistakes -- like during Vedder's intro to the song "Amongst the Waves," when he stopped in the beginning to announce, "Oh, I fucked it up" and konked his head with jokey, dumb-dumb fists -- the band picked him up and restarted with nary a glance at one another. They simply know what their doing.
The smell of weed wafted throughout as security guards walked up and down the aisles with flashlights on their "I thought I saw a putty cat" hunt. The aging frat boy fanbase thrashed against each other in raucous happiness. For the patient -- though everyone was mostly mesmerized throughout -- good things came as the band pulled out "Alive," "Black," "Evenflow," and "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town" in tour de forces that made you wonder if this is what rock was like for your parents in the 70s, when stages lit up like Christmas trees and you didn't need an army of dancers or Autotune to bring down a house. At one point Vedder joked, "In the old days when we were doing this, writing these albums we didn't give a shit, and now, well, we still don't give shit." Somehow, that's hard to believe.