Pearl Jam, DCU Center Worcester, MA – 10/15
Photo by Chad Anderson
For a mainstream rock act, Pearl Jam has certainly done it their way. Tuesday’s performance, their first ever in Worcester and the first of two nights at the newly renovated DCU Center, was no different. Billed as ‘An Evening With’, the night was Pearl Jam’s alone, a three-plus hour journey that spanned the legendary band’s career from old classics to the brand spanking new, an onslaught welcomed with open arms by one of the most loyal crowds in rock n’ roll.
The band took the stage shortly after 8 o’ clock to prerecorded PA music before easing into the gentle notes of ‘Release’, its delicate intent offering a hint of what the night had to offer. After a run through the rustic pulse of the “Merkin Ball” B-Side “Long Road,” the crowd jumped in for a huge sing-along of the Vs. staple, “Elderly Woman in a Small Town.”
The first of the new songs appeared next with the anthemic “Lightning Bolt,” a selection perfect for a raucous night of rock. Lounge “bulbs” that had descended for the living room feel of the first trio of tunes were quickly replaced by fiery strobes and popping lighting-shaped lights behind the band. The blistering, abrasive “Mind Your Manners” followed quick on the heels, and the gauntlet had been laid.
“Where are my manners?”Vedder quipped, acknowledging that the band had taken the stage minutes following a Boston Red Sox playoff victory. “Welcome to the after-party!” he noted to unsurprising applause.
A string of early to mid-career hits (“Hail, Hail,” “Even Flow’,” “Red Mosquito,” “Whipping,” “Corduroy”) comprised the core of the primary set, and showcased the yeoman sound the group has perfected in their two plus decades together.
Everything starts, of course, with Vedder’s majestic baritone, which remains a rock n’ roll treasure, but it is the band that makes this engine go. Guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard mesh scream with swell, respectively, while bassist Jeff Ament and drummer Matt Cameron maintain a steadiness that solidifies the foundation, even as Ament jumps and shreds around the stage.
Particularly refreshing on this night and certainly a precursor to the rest of the tour was in the vibrancy of the new material, which shined as brightly as anything from the band’s career—especially in the tension and release of the robust “Infallible” and the the sensitivity of the McCready-penned “Sirens.”
There is an energy between Pearl Jam and its audience that cannot be understated. Beyond Vedder’s praises for Boston—which evolved to pandering at a certain point—the band is wholly conscious of how to play for its audience. McCready was at the forefront ripping guitar solos all night, at one point jumping down to the rail (until he was struck on the temple by an overzealous admirer.) Vedder hung corner stage at points during solos, shaking hands. The band offered “Last Kiss” to the crowd behind them, turning around to play from the back of the stage, with Vedder singing from Cameron’s riser. Then there was the vinyl and wine passed out to lucky folks along the rail.
The last leg of the night finished the evening strong, beginning with an extended ‘Porch’ that had the band playing tetherball with the lounge lights that had descended once again towards the stage. “Crazy Mary” was carried on the back of an animated organ effort from touring keyboardist Boom Gasper, before the familiar chords of “Alive,” another Ten classic that, despite years of being played, is still worked over by the band in the best way possible.
If this night was any indication, this tour is not a facade—it’s not about money, or memories, or retirement. As always with Pearl Jam, it remains about a dedication to the cause—and these guys continue to bleed for their belief.