PEARL JAM at the Air Canada Centre, Tuesday, May 10. Rating: NNNNN
When it comes to Pearl Jam shows, the element of surprise is of paramount importance. With 10 albums, a thousand or so B-sides and even more covers to choose from, the six-piece Seattle act have built a Grateful Dead-type following who love the deep cuts.
It’s that element of surprise that’s kept me coming back (15 times!) since August 1998, when I saw them at the dust-up in Molson Park in Barrie, all the way up to last week at Madison Square Garden in New York City and then Tuesday night at the first of their two Air Canada Centre concerts.
The 25th anniversary show (the closing of this leg of the tour, no less) held the promise of something special despite the band not having a new album to promote. And unlike the current inhabitants of the barn on Bay Street, Pearl Jam did not disappoint.
Here are five things you missed:
Binaural in its entirety
Pearl Jam have played two albums start to finish on this tour: their debut, Ten, in Philadelphia, and VS. in Greenville. Toronto got Binaural, their moody sixth record from 2000, which is light on radio-ready hits and heavy on the brood. However, 25 years in, the band knows which side their bread is buttered on. They’re still in business because of their dedicated, scrutinizing fans, whom the set targeted. Kudos to Pearl Jam for rewarding the faithful for years of service.
If you were fortunate to be seated on stage right, you had a view of Pearl Jam’s madman lead guitarist, Mike McCready. He stormed the stage, looking every bit the caged lion, tossing picks into the crowd, looping through the floor seats and spearing his Marshall amp with the headstock of his guitar. His solo during Even Flow was especially impressive.
Four powerful covers
The Q107 crowd must have been happy with PJ’s cover choices: Lennon’s Imagine (picture a thousand smartphones lit throughout the ACC), Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb, The Who’s The Real Me and Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World. For anyone put off by the deep, deep cuts in the first set, the encores brought casual fans back into the fold. I didn’t think it’d be possible, but Toronto one-upped last week’s New York City crowd in volume during this portion of the set.
Vedder’s take on Trump
Everyone has a take on The Donald these days, including politically charged Pearl Jam. Before solo ukulele track Soon Forget, about the pitfalls of a lonely man and his money, Eddie Vedder told the crowd that he recently realized the song was in fact about Trump, some 16 years after its release. Instead of placating us by suggesting that the band might move to Canada if Trump is elected (as Vedder joked during a 2000 ACC stop before George W. Bush was elected), Vedder suggested that Canadians build a wall to keep Americans out.
A cameo by Prince’s former guitarist
Pearl Jam are fans of Prince, and they showed their love and respect for him during closing song Rockin’ In The Free World, by Neil Young, when McCready summoned Toronto-based guitarist onstage. Grantis was a member of Prince’s band 3RDEYEGIRL, and she tore through a solo all while clad in a Raptors jersey.
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