May 12, 2022
Photos by Raymond Ahner (IG – raymond_ahner)
Flannels and hoodies, and ball caps…oh my! Such was the uniform of choice for most fans that congregated to see Pearl Jam storm Oakland Arena and deliver on shows that were delayed years due to pandemic restrictions.
Even so, COVID still had a grip on the performances, as drummer Matt Cameron (formerly of Soundgarden) contracted the virus and had to sit out the Bay Area performances. Instead of postponing again, the grunge (hate that label) pioneers chose to carry on.
Using a revolving door of drummers that included ex-Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist (and current Pearl Jam utility instrumentalist) Josh Klinghoffer and Oakland’s own (via Seattle) Richard Stuverud (ex-Fastbacks), Pearl Jam stomped through a 2½ hour set that left the crowd energized and cheering for more.
The last of the ‘Big 4’ seminal Seattle grunge bands with their predominantly original lineup still intact (the others of the ‘Big 4’ being Soundgarden, Nirvana, and Alice in Chains), Pearl Jam proudly carried the torch of the “Seattle sound” (though the 4 bands sound nothing like each other).
From the get-go, it was the Eddie Vedder show. Beginning the evening with a couple of pre-set solo covers (‘The Needle and the Damage Done’ – Neil Young and ‘I Won’t Back Down’ – Tom Petty), Vedder captivated the full house.
When the main set started with the full band rendition of Young’s ‘Rockin’ in the Free World.’ the doors were blown off the hinges and there was no turning back. Pearl Jam had assumed control. From the open GA area in front of the stage, though the floor seating, and up into the rafters, Vedder and company owned the evening…leaving no doubt as to why they had risen to superstardom.
While the creeping intro to ‘Corduroy’ (Vitalogy – 1994) slowly built, Vedder strummed his guitar and McCready pogoed up and down violently with the increasing guitar grind. All the while, Gossard and Ament strolled back and forth across the stage perfectly holding down the lurching rhythm.
A few songs later, as the band started into the emotive masterpiece ‘Black’ (from the epic 1991 album Ten) it was McCready that was stalking both ends of the stage. Then flailing and wailing away on his pedalboard during the soaring solo, after which Vedder saluted him with ‘we are not worthy’ bows.
The highlight of the main set was the closing duo of classic songs pulled from Ten…‘Jeremy’ and ‘Porch,’ before which Vedder popped a bottle of wine to drink toasts with those clamoring up in front who were lucky enough to get passed a cup.
Exiting to thunderous applause, and re-emerging for their encore, the night was not nearly done, and Pearl Jam would unleash another seven songs before the night ended. The crowd went ballistic when the band treated them to a cover of The Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’ singing along at the top of their lungs as Vedder chanted “…teenage wasteland….it’s only teenage wasteland” with Stuverud doing his absolute best Keith Moon impression.
As if that were not enough, the finale of the evening saw Pearl Jam go back to musical chairs on the drum throne. This time pulling from the crowd to enlist lucky local fan Josh Arroyo for percussion duties on ‘Yellow Ledbetter.’
Even the choice of venue played into Pearl Jam passing the love on to the crowd, as I heard some folks discussing that ticket prices would have cost more if the show were played at the more expensive Chase Center. Vedder even went on to say that this crowd was the best yet on the tour (albeit just the fifth show).
Opening the night for Pearl Jam was Pluralone, the alter ego band of the under-rated Josh Klinghoffer. Opening with ‘Offend’ from his recent release This Is the Show, Klinghoffer showed off his songwriting skills before moving on to a handful of covers that charged up the early crowd.
Most notable were a beautiful cover of ‘Buttercup’ by Brad in which he and Stone Gossard honored Brad’s brilliant and unfortunately departed singer Shawn Smith, and a closing solo version of Prince’s ‘Purple Rain.’