I am a 90s baby through and through but you probably wouldn’t have known that on Thursday night as I watched Pearl Jam. Put on Third Eye Blind or Matchbox Twenty and I will be singing along to every word. Put on something ever so slightly harder or slightly more aggressive and I will be lost. It’s not that I don’t understand the importance of Pearl Jam, but more that that’s not what my parents had playing while growing up. My mom always had the radio on so I know the hits but that is about it. My dad was in his own world of avant-garde jazz that seems to haunt me to this day. Long story short, as the rest of the nearly sold-out arena was singing along to Pearl Jam, I felt like I was being introduced to a whole new world.
Before I get into Pearl Jam’s performance, let’s talk about the opening act Deep Sea Diver. Honestly, people seemed to be in no rush as far as getting to their seats on Thursday night. Long merch lines wrapped throughout the concourse and I have to believe they were still growing as this opener act took the stage. What a shame because Deep Sea Diver truly made for a perfect opener for the night.
Fronted by Jessica Dobson of The Shins fame, Deep Sea Diver’s band was both full of life and very cool, calm, and collected. The entire set seemed to be a bit of a juxtaposition of many things. There were bass-drive songs with an insane groove followed by more starry-skied-styled vocals (okay, I know that’s not really a thing but those are the best words I could come up with to describe the beautiful and slight ambiance I was feeling in some of their songs). There were times when the vocals almost sounded like a guitar rather than traditional vocals and other moments when the keys and synths sounded like the road of an audience (which was honestly pretty genius).
Deep Sea Diver was the perfect choice as an opener for this show for many reasons. Firstly, this is a group who is concerned about tone and the product that they are giving you as a fan. Every note was attacked with a sense of intention and every word sung fit in perfectly to everything else going on. Second was the amount of heart that radiated off the stage as they played. I didn’t know what I was going to get from Pearl Jam as I had never seen them before but, in retrospect, the fact that Thursday night was Deep Sea Diver’s first arena show made them a perfect opener. They had this feeling of wonderment and pure admiration for what they were doing throughout their forty-five-minute set that would pair so nicely with the energy felt from the headliners.
You know who Pearl Jam is. If not, you know who Eddie Vedder is. If not, then why in the heck are you reading a music blog? Long story short, everyone knows Pearl Jam and, although I feel like I’ve seen next to everyone I have ever dreamt of seeing, Pearl Jam is a name that never really crossed my thoughts. As I mentioned at the beginning, it’s not that I don’t understand the importance of this band, because I do. It’s more that I didn’t grow up on them and, by the time I was left to my own devices as far as what music to get into, Pearl Jam just wasn’t it. I regret that decision because as I stood in the audience watching everyone around me have what could only be described as a religious experience, I couldn’t help but feel a bit left out.
There was something ridiculously intimate about Pearl Jam’s performance on Thursday night even though I was in a sea of thousands of people. Part of it could have been the way the stage was set up. Instead of one end of the arena being covered and hidden by screens, there with just some floating lights behind the stage giving fans an opportunity to sit behind the band. Although I don’t think I would have been happy sitting back there, it gave the arena a very open and almost “in the round” vibe. The other part of this vibe could have been just due to the attitudes of the men on stage. There was something personable about all of them and the way they interacted with the fans in the audience. Although I wasn’t right up in the front row, I somehow felt like I was and I could just reach out and shake any of their hands.
The band powered through just over twenty songs in their nearly two-hour-long show. I could only sing along to the hits as I previously mentioned but every song was presented like a hit. Long-winded guitar solos done by the amazing guitarist Mike McCready somehow captivated me even though I’ve never been one for instrumentals. Even when the band started their set off slow and steady with all members perched upon wooden stools for a more acoustic-based couple of songs, I found myself completely dazzled by the music and just seeing such legends on stage. Thankfully, that acoustic-based vibe didn’t last and, by the sixth song, the chairs were thrown off the stage but the fact that this band, which I knew so little about, could have such an impact with some acoustic-feeling tracks, which is not typically my thing, said everything that needed to be said about the performance on Thursday.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed the performance from Pearl Jam, there was nothing super exciting about it. Sure, there were moments that had me grinning from ear to ear or moments where I could feel the music deep in my bones and soul but, overall, there was nothing extravagant about the set. That was perfect for a band like Pearl Jam. They were not up there to entertain their fans with a smoke-and-mirrors kind of show because that’s not the type of fans they have. Pearl Jam fans wanted to hear the music and see the legends on stage and that’s exactly what the band gave them.
I know I’m super late to the Pearl Jam train but here I am. Please send me all of your favorite Pearl Jam songs because, looking at their extensive discography, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed as I try to really get into this band.