TORONTO - While fans Sunday evening reflected on a horrific event that transpired ten years ago, a band celebrating their 20th anniversary played a hell of a show in NYC: Neil Young Country.
Pearl Jam punched in for a 150-minute performance at a sold-out Air Canada Centre but put the proverbial cherry on top by closing with Rockin’ In The Free World as Young appeared onstage for the song’s homestretch to a delirious reaction. Unfortunately for the group, they should know a homestretch for “Uncle Neil” begins with about a 13-minute guitar solo.
Nonetheless, the group made no mention of the events back in September 2001 but the 26-song set contained several numbers whose lyrics fans could easily connect the dots to. Whether it was on the show opener Long Road (“How I wished for you today”), the gentle Just Breathe (“Love you till I die/Meet you on the other side”) or the rousing Alive during the encore, lead singer Eddie Vedder and company got the message across.
The group – in town also for the premiere of their Cameron Crowe-produced documentary Pearl Jam Twenty – had the audience up and belting out songs without any coaxing. This was particularly evident on Better Man as Vedder opened the nugget before realizing the arsenal of amplification wasn’t nearly enough to fight the united thousands.
Meanwhile the band seemed to gently sprinkle the show with a nice ebb and flow, Vedder’s thoughtful softer side showing through on the warm Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town or the roots-y Off He Goes while Do The Evolution and The Fixer being tighter rock offerings.
The tandem of guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard also dazzled on early favorites such as the haunting Black and the rollicking Not For You, the latter reeking of Young’s garage-like vibe but which was wrapped up by a snippet of Sleater-Kinney’s Modern Girl. McCready also went to town on the lengthy, beefy Porch which concluded the 80-minute main set.
Thanking the crowd for coming out and later on their wives and girlfriends for letting them do what they do, Vedder kept his banter to short spurts. Giving Toronto kudos for having a “bigger concrete erection” in the CN Tower versus Seattle’s Space Needle, Vedder also mentioned how the documentary enabled them to “move on to the next 20 years with a clean slate.”
If there was one lone disappointment, it might have been that the latest song Ole – performed last week on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon – wasn’t done. But Pearl Jam more than made up for it with Daughter, Rearviewmirror and a combination of Mother Love Bone’s Chloe Dancer with Crown Of Thorns, something Vedder said they had never tried before.
Earlier in the night Vedder mentioned how if PJ20 is the band’s logo for this year, then Neil Young would be NY51. And while a rumored appearance by Chris Cornell and possibly U2’s Bono never came to fruition, fans would have to settle for Neil Young.
Oh the hardships some concert goers must endure.
Do The Evolution
Nothing As It Seems
Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
Not For You/Modern Girl (Sleater Kinney)
Given To Fly
Off He Goes
Better Man/Save It For Later (The English Beat)
Chloe Dancer/Crown Of Thorns (Mother Love Bone)
Rockin' In The Free World (with Neil Young)