Words by Brian Heisler :: Images by Adam George

Pearl Jam & My Morning Jacket :: 05.16 :: United Center :: Chicago, IL

My Morning Jacket :: 05.16 :: Chicago
There's no doubt about it, from the lake to the suburbs, a buzz was in the air for Pearl Jam's first return to the Windy City in three years. And the hype was just, for it was to be the best live performance I have seen in years. It was a night to be remembered, filled with personable conversation from Eddie Vedder, every rock & roll trick in the book, and an honest sense of homecoming for the Evanston, IL-born front man. Nonetheless, it should be noted that a decade after their bout with Ticketmaster, Pearl Jam had fans dishing out over $60 per ticket after service charges.

Patrick Hallahan - MMJ :: 05.16 :: Chicago
A seemingly thin early crowd gathered in the United Center to greet Louisville's favorite space-rockers, My Morning Jacket, for a head-banging pre-party. Although anchored by bright guitars, wailing singing, and full body rocking, the band received little response from the Pearl Jam crowd but was also hindered by the terrible acoustics that seemed to distort the sound. As the stadium filled, the crowd grew warmer (as did the sound) to MMJ and their rock star style, reminiscent of a young Pearl Jam with lead singer Jim James' long hair and performance-ending pose with one foot on the end of the stage. While MMJ put together a solid set of strong rock and eventually received a mild reception, the sold-out crowd was simply not there to see anyone other than the main event.

Eddie Vedder - Pearl Jam :: 05.16 :: Chicago
With the entrance music blaring, lights down, and the United Center filled with hysterical cheers, one could not help but get goose bumps reminiscing in the house that Michael Jordan built. A bottle of booze in hand, Eddie Vedder fittingly took the crowd back to the early '90s with "Release." Following the first song, Pearl Jam quickly made it clear that they can rock with their new material, blasting the United Center with new-school-meets-old-school versions of "World Wide Suicide" and "Life Wasted." Yet, still a humble start, Eddie made no comments until after the fourth song, "Severed Hand." "Hey, Chicago, can't talk now; we've got work to do."

Pearl Jam :: 05.16 :: Chicago
From here the setlist intensified, and each of the next 24 songs became their own concert, beginning with "Comatose." The night was filled with so much great commentary by Vedder, it is difficult for any of it to go unnoted. "It's starting to feel 'united.'" Vedder, an avid basketball fan who grew up in Chicago, had much to say about his memories of the United Center. "A lot of great things happened under this roof. Jeff and I sat up there (pointing to the 300-level skybox behind the stage) many nights. This roof is 230 metric tons; with your help we might be able to raise it." And as the crowd screamed the band slid right into what has become a classic of the newer albums, "Given to Fly." It seemed every song Stone Gossard would switch out one guitar for another and Mike McCready would run circles around the stage as if he was still 24. Jeff Ament did his usual grooving and slamming on the bass, Matt Cameron was smooth, fluid, and under control as always on drums, and Vedder caressed the mic, belted, sweated, head-banged, and did everything he has done for more than 16 years, but all in one night. "Corduroy" was the first classic Pearl Jam song chanted by the crowd, which led to a McCready jam. During "Even Flow" Gossard returned the solo as Eddie walked behind the stage to have a cigarette for the first of many times over the course of the evening.

Eddie Vedder - Pearl Jam :: 05.16 :: Chicago
"This is an American song," said Vedder as he introduced the band's new tune "Unemployable." Interweaving new material with old, constantly breaking-up their setlists, they followed with a crowd favorite. Vedder's statement, "This one's called 'Thank Heaven for Little Girls,'" introduced a version of "Daughter" into "W.M.A." with Ament on electric upright bass. Replacing "Police man" in the line "Dirty his hand it comes right off, President," Vedder made one of several political statements of the night. Yet, true to form, Pearl Jam is focused and relentless in their views. What you hear in their press releases is what you hear on their albums, and also what you hear at their concerts.

Pearl Jam :: 05.16 :: Chicago
"We might have trouble with the sound tonight with all these banners in here. I think we should take the Michael Jordan banner down first..." Before he could explain himself, Vedder was met with a myriad of boos, as no one messes with Chicago's favorite son. Quickly he explained, "I want to put it in my suitcase. That was an amazing time if you grew up in Chicago." During the opening chords of "Do the Evolution," Ed took a drink from his bottle and spewed it into the air like a fire breather. Again paying homage to Jordan, Vedder pointed to his banner during the lyrics, "Admire my god."

Mike McCready :: 05.16 :: Chicago
The whole night seemed like a personal conversation with Eddie Vedder. Stopping everything after "Do the Evolution," Vedder took a moment to reminisce in one of the most amazing moments I have ever witnessed in rock & roll. Pointing to a man in the front row amidst a crowd of 20,000 people, "There's a man in the front here. What's your name? Bob or Rob? It's Rob. You used to come to Mother Love Bone and Mookie Blaylock [original name of Pearl Jam] shows in Seattle. Jeff, see this guy?" he said to Ament as he came forward to view the man. "You had different glasses and you used to bring your girlfriend with you. Are you still with her?" Rob pointed to the man who came with him. "Now he's with an older man. It's good to see you, here's an old one for ya." And the guitar intro to "Jeremy" spurred the crowd. Ed spun in circles with the mic as the crowd essentially sang for him. "Pretty good singing, Chicago. Keep it up, and you'll no longer be the Second City."

Eddie Vedder :: 05.16 :: Chicago
Jam bands do set breaks, Pearl Jam does two encores. The difference is that every song in an encore seems as if it might be the last, so everyone in the room puts every ounce of energy into each song. Equipped with a harmonica around his neck and an acoustic guitar in hand, Eddie emerged alone for encore number one. "There's something about playing Chicago, it's like no other place. We're proud to be a Seattle band, but for better or for worse, I think for better, I'll always be a Chicago kid." And as everyone expected, Chicago was serenaded with The Beatles' "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away," the first cover of the night. "Neil Young just recorded a new album with a 100-piece choir, I think we can do better than that." Vedder, still solo, opened up "Betterman" with an extended intro and eventually let everyone into the mix. "Thanks for singing, Chicago." The first encore closed out with "Black" and "Alive." A giant disco ball lit up the room and everyone in it, and as the song came to an end, Eddie fell to the floor exhausted.

Encore two brought out a partial cover of George Clinton's "Atomic Dog," as well as one of the greatest rock songs of all-time, The Who's "Baba O'Riley," complete with smashing tambourines and the house lights on to leave no doubt that we were near the end. McCready's intro to "Yellow Ledbetter" made it clear this was the last song and it was time to soak up the night. Eddie's chant, "I don't wanna stay!" seemed like a goodbye somehow. After the last lyrics, he sat down beside the microphone and smoked a cigarette while McCready finished out the music alone. Everyone came forward for one last bow and an honest wave goodbye. In true Eddie Vedder form, he picked up his two bottles of what seemed like wine and gave his last words, "A two-bottle night!"

JamBase | Chicago
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[Published on: 6/5/06]

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jamarama starstarstarstarstar Mon 6/5/2006 06:12PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

saw msg show that they made a dvd of couple years back...
ben harper guest appearance
and as vedder says...
that was a FIVE BOTTLE NIGHT (4 and a half hours)
ill never forget it

Alex.Anastas starstarstarstarstar Mon 6/5/2006 07:32PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I haven't seen Pearl Jam since Randall's Island of '96 and I am very excited that they are coming down here to Sydney in NOVEMBER and I am taking my girlfriend, a virgin to live PJ!

Thank you Jambase for the amazing words (Brian Heisler) which made me feel like I was right there and the accurate and tight images (as always, Adam George) which were very crucial in the timing of the whole thing - THIS WHOLE PIECE ONLY GOT ME MORE EXCITED TO SEE THEM!

Chapelchilla Tue 6/6/2006 04:43PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I just made a 16 hour round trip road trip to catch Pearl Jam in Camden, NJ over Memorial Day Weekend. It was well worth the effort. Simply a great show by a great, tight band. Pearl Jam is at the top of their craft this tour. Don't miss them if you get the chance. They can jam and noodle with the best of them but also have one heckuva great SONG catalogue to back it up. I dig their politics too...

ChiT starstarstarstarstar Fri 6/16/2006 11:52AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Great review! I'm a Chicago girl now living in Las Vegas and I can relate to the feeling you get at the United Center re:Bulls/Jordan era...missed that show, but will catch them July 6 @ MGM Grand!!! My first time was a Lollapalooza gig at Tinley Park (early 90's) and I didn't know who they were ---until this WALL-OF-SOUND came at us!! Everyone was standing on their seats and the crowd energy was unbelievable! I think "10" had just been released and I was like, "Who ARE those guys?!?" Its one of those great concert memories (among so many concerts) that sticks out...

Cr4wley starstarstarstarstar Fri 6/23/2006 04:28PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Great Review!!!! I wish I was there!

PJ Rocks! Fuck Bush!

DesignVHL starstarstarstarstar Wed 6/28/2006 12:08PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Great Review. I was at this show and thought it was incredible! The show was very well described...however I thought MMJ ripped it up. Best show I think I've seen them do IMHO. I didn't think that the crowd response was mediocre, they got a good hand. :) All in all I was so happy to see PJ again (Alpine a couple years ago didn't count). Before that my last show was in 1995.