I cannot think of anything that I would rather do than sit in a darkened room and watch Eddie Vedder make masterful music. The man is incredible.
(click image for source)
I was a latecomer to Pearl Jam fandom. Back in the days when they were fresh and taking the grunge scene by storm, I was still listening to teenage girl garbage. It was only that I happened to go along with a friend to see them play live, when they toured for Riot Act, that I discovered how mind-blowing their music is and was drawn in by their dynamic, intense and stunningly talented frontman, Eddie.
I was hooked. I listened to nothing but their back catalogue for months and I haven’t since missed the chance to see them live, they never disappoint.
Last night, for the first time, Eddie Vedder played in Melbourne without the rest of Pearl Jam. I have been shaking with excitement since I first heard about the tour and bought tickets months ago. It felt like I had won the lottery. Eddie Vedder was coming to play at The Palais (my favourite venue in Melbourne) and I had scored front row balcony seats!
In The Palais, this section of seating is referred to as “The Lounge” on account of the seats are wider, squishier and more comfortable than the rest of the theatre. Sure, the front row front row is the best place to be close to an artist, however the balcony is the best place to be for the best sound. I couldn’t have asked for better seats! I also couldn’t have been more thrilled that the gig was in a theatre, as opposed to the stadium shows that Pearl Jam usually tours. Stadiums are great fun and all, but really not the best places for sound quality.
Eddie is nothing if not pure quality. Top of the line rock star. First grade.
Performing the night before in Sydney. Click image for source.
I loved the little retro, homey set; old suitcases, a rug and the circular design of the minimal staging helped to create a feeling of intimacy, almost like being privy to a private session between Eddie and the music.
Oh, the music. If, for some alien overlord’s reason, I was forced to only hear one voice singing for the rest of my life then it would be Eddie’s. Mmmm, so deep, so rumbly, so powerful and distinctly articulate. The kind of voice you hear with your chest, ricocheting off your ribs. A superbly crafted instrument that delivers songs that have aged decades without a trace of waning emotion and always with a new take, a different view, renewed vigour.
The setlist included some Pearl Jam classics, some tracks from the soundtrack to Into The Wild; Vedder’s only solo album to date and many brilliantly performed covers, including his much loved versions of You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (The Beatles cover, originally from the I Am Sam soundtrack) and Rockin’ In The Free World (Neil Young cover) – this was a total evening highlight, the crowd went nuts, Eddie went off and the balcony danced under the pressure of a hundred stomping feet.
The absence of the rest of his band (who are amazing) gave a chance to really appreciate the seemingly endless talent that boils inside this musician. The music vibrates out of his every pore. The intensity with which he strums his guitars and ukeleles, with which he pounds his foot on a cool amplifying box-y-ma-thing, was awe inspiring. Also, inspiring, inspiring; there is something magical about watching someone do what they do and do it so well.
Eddie teased with mention of an upcoming solo album that he is releasing, all tracks performed with a ukelele. Ah, so rustic. There is something so utterly genuine about a musician who can create masterpieces with only the simplest of tools. The preview he gave is making me drool with anticipation about this album. I. Cannot. Wait.
Wielding his trusty uke, Eddie gave us a re-inspired version of Better Man – a song that most members of the 1990s and any Pearl Jam fan knows inside out and back to front. His peeled back solo performance gave the song a new feel, a deeper connection to the lyrics, a fresh and fascinating reincarnation. Simply superb.
Elderly Woman was as moving as ever; this is one of my favourite songs of all time. As is tradition, the crowd lights shine brightly when Eddie reaches the lyric “I just wanna scream…HELLO”. This element never fails to bring a smile to my face as my eyes squint and I feel connected to both the performance and the room filled with ecstatic fans.
Wishlist never fails to delight and I couldn’t help but bounce in my seat with joy when he strummed the opening chords. Such a sweet, nostalgic song. How I wish I was the full moon shining off a Camaro’s hood…
The second encore ended with heightened fabulousness. For his final song, a performance of Hard Sun (from Into The Wild) the back drop became an an ocean covered with clouds sporting licks like those of painted surfer waves. The stage filled with smoke, giving another ocean illusion and my grin managed to get even wider. Pearl Jam has long preserved their surfer vibe, they surely have more tracks built on ocean references than any other band and Eddie has long been a surfie, grunge god. He knows his audience.
Leaving his seat as the song built, Eddie reminded us that “Oh, by the way, I’m a fucking rock star”. He didn’t need to say it, he emanates it. A couple of his signature rocking out poses and the crowd was going insane, myself included. He is a performer with such energy that it can fill arenas and during most of last night, all that energy and intensity that usually has him jumping around a stage was channeled into his music…ah, I’m running out of words for awesome.
See the full set list here.
I love the fact that, in this internet era, Eddie Vedder is still an untouchable, ever evolving rock GOD. You won’t find him on Twitter. You won’t find him exploiting himself, or explaining his art. Why should he? Such brilliance needs no embellishment. His in-between song chatting is always amusing and the rare chance to hear him speak feels like a privilege.
His kind of wonderful simply needs appreciation and by golly, I will be savouring last night for years to come.
Love & Rock Royalty,