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Published: 2006/05/24
by Jon Hansen

Pearl Jam / My Morning Jacket, United Center, Chicago, IL- 5/17

“Last night wasOK. This was the night we were really looking forward to,”

joked Eddie Vedder to a packed house that roared in approval at the United Center in Chicago. It was a homecoming for the Evanston-native, as Pearl Jam capped off a two-night stand in the Windy City on their recent world tour. A homecoming indeed, and not just for the enigmatic frontman, but for the entire band, who have returned to the road with a youthful exuberance that first catapulted the Seattle-based outfit into fame nearly 16 years ago.

On the heels of their latest self-titled release, Pearl Jam has been out to prove that their 1990’s dominance (mirrored nicely by the Bulls’ 6 championship banners hanging from the rafters) as alt/grunge rock’s best touring band was not a peak, but only a beginning. Their closing night’s performance was a stellar reminder that the twilight years are still far down the road as they continually evolve and refine an already legendary career.

On the bill for opening duties was My Morning Jacket. The young, psych-rockers served up a short, but to the point set, highlighted by a number of songs off their highly acclaimed 2005 record, Z, including “Dondante,” Wordless Chorus,” and “Off the Record.” They received a warm reception from the growing crowd, but MMJ would have to be satisfied with their “understudy” role for the night, as the anticipation for the evening’s headliner became almost palpable.

Taking the stage to the eerie first 30 seconds of 1991’s Ten emanating from the loudspeakers, Vedder and Co. launched into a trio of new numbers, reeling off a vicious “Severed Hand,” the bluntly political “World Wide Suicide,” and the thrilling album opener “Life Wasted.” The show’s 2 hours read like the group’s musical history, as the band confidently ripped into old classics like “Even Flow” and “Animal,” as well as rare gems like “Crown of Thorns,” all with the vitality and energy that has defined their sound for so many years. As the lights went up, Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” resounded, leading to a sing-along that called for freedom in uncertain times, while offering the promise of it chorus.

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