Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready (left), Eddie Vedder, Jeff Ament, Matt Cameron and Stone Gossard played Ottawa’s Scotiabank Place Sept. 14.
“By the end of the night it should feel like Friday out here,” proclaimed Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder early into the band’s Wednesday night show.
And while it would take the near sold-out crowd of 13,000 a little while to match those expectations, the band was on from the start.
Vedder, rhythm guitarist Stone Gossard, bassist Jeff Ament, drummer Matt Cameron and lead guitarist Mike McCready are celebrating twenty years since the grunge icons released their debut album, Ten, in 1991.
They hosted a festival in Wisconsin, and a few days ago their retrospective documentary, Pearl Jam Twenty, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (the film will screen in Ottawa Sept. 20).
While all the festivities would seem like a perfect opportunity to go flashy, the band stuck to a traditional stage show, sans special effects and giant video screens. Vedder and co. clearly prefer to let their music and stage presence do the talking.
When McCready took his obligatory guitar solos, eyes didn’t roll, but instead were fixated as he left the crowd in a trance during an extended-jam “Rearviewmirror,” or serenaded on the show-closing “Yellow Ledbetter.”
The rhythm section shone too, including a powerful bass-line by Ament during a cover of The Who’s “The Real Me.”
Vedder, 46, dressed in plaid and a peace-sign t-shirt underneath, was a force of nature.
When not singing, dancing or playing guitar, he took swigs from his bottles of red wine.
During “Given to Fly” Vedder returned centre stage, singing the words “had a smoke in a tree” while releasing tobacco smoke from his mouth (many in the crowd blew out too, albeit using a different substance).
Whether it was lifting and shaking their hands to mock a church worship on “Do the Evolution,” fist-pumping on “Even Flow” or just singing along, the band appears to have mastered the art of crowd participation.
Another strength of the show was Pearl Jam’s ability to switch seamlessly from slower songs like “Wishlist” – played in honour of the fan-started Wishlist Foundation’s fifth anniversary – to rockers like the brand-new “Olé” and “1/2 Full.”
During “1/2 Full” Vedder lifted his guitar high above his head, angling it to deflect a white stage light onto the arena’s Canadian flag. Not only did this lift the crowd into a frenzy that had been somewhat lacking earlier in the show, but it lead into the set-closing, popular, “Better Man.”
As “Alive” was played towards the end of the second encore, Vedder could be seen tossing tambourines to the crowd, jumping on and over speakers and ultimately kicking down the mic stand.
With the house lights up, nearly two-and-a-half hours later, a triumphant Vedder looked out to the crowd.
“That’s a Friday night,” he said.
— Photos by Amanda Stephen