Jam Isn't Toast
As Eddie Vedder belted out a riveting version of “Alive” midway through Pearl Jam’s Thursday-night show at New York’s Madison Square Garden, it became apparent that reports of the band’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Yes, sales of the Seattle quintet’s latest album, “Yield,” have been disappointing (it quickly dropped out of the Billboard Top 100), and the band wasn’t invited to perform at the star-studded MTV Video Awards on the same night. But, even so, the nearly 20,000 fans at the Garden remained standing for the two-hour set, sang along with many of the 22 songs, and roared their approval for every Stone Gossard or Mike McCready guitar solo.
Aside from a meandering attack on Kenneth Starr for prying into the President’s sex life, Vedder kept his self-righteousness in check and concentrated on performing. From “Jeremy” to “Better Man” to “Wishlist,” Vedder and Co. ripped through selections from all five Pearl Jam albums. The stage was bare, the lighting simple, the rock star effects — smoke, strobes, lasers, flashing video images — absent.
Vedder began the show by acknowledging Pearl Jam’s losing battle with Ticketmaster (“You don’t care where you got your tickets, we don’t care where you got your tickets”) and ended it with seven encores, including a blistering Neil Young cover. He and the band will wrap up their summer tour with performances — and presumably many more encores — in Boston (Sept. 15-16), Washington, D.C. (Sept. 18-19), and Miami (Sept. 22-23).