Review and Photos by Darren Eagles
It’s always an event when Seattle rockers Pearl Jam come to your town. They tour a lot but don’t always hit the major cities every tour. So the last time they were in Toronto was way back in 2011. The first of two completely sold out to the rafters shows this week was everything we have come to expect of a PJ show. The set was a solid 3 hours of furious energy and soulful abandon.
After opening with three barn burners in “Go”, “Do The Evolution” and “Mind Your Manners”, the band settled into their album in its entirety section of the show and pulling “Binaural” out of the closet and absolutely nailing it. Eddie Vedder led the charge as frontman but all of the band seemed like they were channeling their 1991 selves, with lightning bolt energy levels and significant crowd interaction. The fans were on their feet from the first note. Lead guitarist Mike McCready is just a joy to watch. Pacing the stage in circles like a madman while looking for his next victim, he worked his axe collection and the crowd into a frenzy. At one point he jumped down and walked the perimeter of the Ten Club General Admission section shredding to the delight of those uber fans before going right into Section 118 of the seats to give everyone a closer look.
‘Matt Fucking Cameron’, on a large fan sign at the front of the pit said it all – the monster machine drummer, who plays with Soundgarden as well, is huge part of the freight train that is PJ. Jeff Ament was his larger than life self, wrestling his hot pink or turquoise bass and playing off McCready on their side of the stage. Stone Gossard kept the comfortable old denim jeans guitar riffs and hooks coming in full force.
Encores are a mainstay of any PJ show, usually with almost as many songs as other bands do in a whole show. Two encores with a total of 14 songs were our serving at this show. Opening with a haunting cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and later with a spot on version of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”, the band cemented itself as the kings of epic covers. Old standard fan favourites “Even Flow”, “Betterman” and “Porch” closed the first encore.
The second encore saw the band address the fans in seats behind the stage. These seats are arguably some of the best in the house due to how close they are to the action on the stage. The band played “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” facing those fans with Cameron on a mini kit at the back of the stage. PJ usually puts a track from The Who into their shows – Vedder working his inner Roger Daltry was perfect on “The Real Me”. Their breakout hit “Alive” from the TEN album was a triumph and never sounded so good.
Closing the show was their customary cover of “Rockin’ in the Free World” from Neil Young. Joining them onstage was Mississauga’s own Donna Grantis on guitar. Vedder introduced her as having spent a lot of time in Minneapolis as she was Prince’s latest guitar wizard on recent tours, up until his untimely death. Trading licks with McCready and the rest of the band in a circle at one point, it was a killer hometown return for her.
The second PJ show was originally scheduled for Wednesday May 11th, but had to be moved to the next night due to the Toronto Raptors Game 5 against the Miami Heat. I’m sure the crew had some choice words for the NBA about having to break down and re-assemble the stage twice in the same city. Vedder and Ament were seen enjoying the game.
Get to the show on Thursday night if you can. There are not many bands out there doing what these guys do at such a high level night after night.
Click on photos to enlarge and scroll through gallery.
Do the Evolution
Mind Your Manners
Nothing as It Seems
Of the Girl
Sleight of Hand
(John Lennon cover)
Let Me Sleep
(Pink Floyd cover)
Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
Given to Fly
State of Love and Trust
The Real Me
(The Who cover)
Rockin’ in the Free World
(Neil Young cover) (with Donna Grantis)