Live Review: Eddie Vedder at The Wiltern
Daniel Kohn Vedder getting started
WHO: Eddie Vedder
WHERE: The Wiltern
There are many points over Eddie Vedder's 20-year plus music career where he's had moments of clarity. However, living in a crummy apartment in San Diego, he realized enough was enough.
"It was at this point I knew I had to get my life together," Eddie Vedder recalled. He had befriended neighbors since they had access to a car, hence were able to go on beer runs. As their odd relationship evolved, the singer became less comfortable with their circumstances. Eventually Vedder was named the best man at a makeshift wedding as his neighbor's (an ex-con) mother's house in San Diego. This, he said, was a turning point, and for that, the music world is a better place.
The Wiltern was as enthusiastic and loud as Staples is during a decisive Lakers playoff game. Though he was uncharacteristically terse, Vedder's voice was pristine, as if he were obligated to raise his game to suit a room that could have doubled as a high school auditorium. "Longing To Belong" and "Goodbye" had a warmth that made them seem more likely to feel at home in a child's bedroom than in a hallowed concert hall, while Pearl Jam concert staples like "Unthought Known" and "Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town" had the crowd on their feet and singing every word.
Vedder took some of the most hallowed Pearl Jam classics and managed to usher them into creative and unfamiliar territory. "Betterman" was unrecognizable except for the lyrics, a la Bob Dylan, and rearranged to the point where he received a standing ovation rather than the expected snarky grumbles from a fickle audience.
As has been the practice on his solo tour, Vedder cobbled together a terrific "who's who" of musicians, including a terrific string section to accompany him on several tracks. Much to the surprise of those in attendance (including this writer who thought the guest was dead), former Doors drummer John Densmore joined Vedder for beautiful renditions of "Long Road" and "Wishlist." Though Densmore looked more like Maharishi Mahesh Yogi than legendary rocker, his contributions filled out the tracks and were rewarded with polite applause.
What stole the show were Vedder's duets with opener Glen Hansard of The Swell Season: "Society" from Into The Wild (weird hearing it in this setting, considering Emile Hirsch was right behind us with a gorgeous blonde), "Falling Slowly" from Once (it sounded better than the original version) and a stirring rendition of Neil Young's "Rockin' In The Free World" with Hansard and Densmore that had everyone on standing and singing every word to the Young's iconic song.
Eddie Vedder managed to hold the attention of the crowd of nearly three thousand for more than two hours, which in Los Angeles is a feat. "In this town, you have many entertainment options, so I really appreciate you being out here tonight," Vedder said. Judging by the crowd's reaction, they wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else.
Daniel Kohn Vedder and Hansard dueting on "Hard Sun"
Set list after the break: