A Home Run At Fenway: Pearl Jam Returns To Boston – Review & Photos
Words by: Andrew Bruss
Images by: Andrew Blackstein
Pearl Jam :: 09.02.18
Fenway Park :: Boston, MA
Fenway Park :: Boston, MA
Pearl Jam’s first of two sold out concerts at Fenway Park was a 30 song tour de force that featured moving tributes, outstanding showmanship, a few choice solos and more activity in the outfield from Eddie Vedder than Manny Ramirez ever showed in seven years with the Boston Red Sox.
The Seattle-based quintet has been performing at a handful of ballparks over the summer and in addition to a few nights before a hometown crowd at Safeco Field, they brought the heat to Wrigley Field before an audience of Vedder’s fellow Cubs fans. Vedder is an old friend of Cubs General Manager Theo Epstein going back to Epstein’s days assembling the Curse-Breaking 2004 Red Sox team before he miraculously pulled off the same feat in Wrigleyville. Although Pearl Jam doesn’t have any members from the East Coast, Vedder made it clear throughout the night that Fenway Park has always been a special place for him. He told a story about a Pearl Jam concert in July of 1991 at the Howard Johnson’s right behind the ballpark, telling his audience that he snuck into Fenway to take a few photos behind home plate before getting chased off and at the time, it was surreal for him because so much as being in Fenway Park had always been a lifelong dream.
Pearl Jam regularly puts on shows lasting over three hours so they didn’t need an opener. Unfortunately, they went on an hour late. But that didn’t stop them from serving up a setlist featuring choice covers, notable guests, an absurdly rare bust out, and a heavy emphasis placed on material from their fan-favorite freshman debut, Ten.
Vedder performed a solo cover of “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, commenting that they were the favorite band of Red Sox owner John Henry. Before he started, Vedder told a story about the apple red Fender Telecaster he was playing that was given to him by the Late-Tom Petty himself.
“Out of My Mind” had only been played three times prior to their first encore of the night, twice in 1994 and once more in 2009. Pearl Jam fans aren’t as big on stats as Phish fans but as far as bands outside the jamband community, they take this stuff very seriously and those kinds of numbers speak for themselves.
The highlight of the night was their performance of “Black,” which was followed by the introduction of Buffalo Tom’s Bill Janovitz for a performance of the Boston trio’s “Taillights Fade,” a first for Pearl Jam. When you talk about Boston bands most people think Aerosmith or Dropkick Murphy’s and although Buffalo Tom never had the commercial success of either of those acts, they came up in the late ’80s alongside other post punk/pre-grunge acts like The Pixies, Mission of Burma, and Dinosaur Jr. and their significance to the rock ‘n’ roll history of the Bay State is not to be downplayed.
“Black” one of the mellower tracks off Ten, is far from a rarity and frankly there was nothing unusual about their Fenway rendition but what made it so special was in the artistic excellence in its execution. Lead guitarist Mike McCready loves to shred along with his Wah-Wah pedal like he’s allergic to simplicity. Vedder has even joked in the past that they pay McCready per note. His technical proficiency is beyond reproach but often times the sheer density of his solos detract from the kind of tasteful instrumental simplicity that justifies the elite stature of guitarists like George Harrison and Keith Richards over more complicated players like Jeff Beck and Joe Satriani. That said, on “Black” McCready tempered his more adventurous impulses and served up a slice of instrumental excellence that told a heartbreaking narrative through the weeping sustain in each note, bringing to mind Eddie Hazel’s solo on Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain.”
Fenway Park is half the size of the average football stadium but twice the size of the standard indoor arena and even with the help of big screens, it was tough seeing what you were hearing unless you were seated on the field itself rather than the stands. Given Vedder’s penchant for running around the stage and getting down in the crowd, they would have immensely benefited from a catwalk extending through the crowd and toward second base. With that said, the sound was exceptional considering the awkwardly shaped ballpark is a notorious acoustical snake pit and while we’re discussing the technical production, the crew who set up the stage deserve a shout out for doing so in 100-degree weather during the hottest week of the year.
The majority of the material Pearl Jam performed was released in the ’90s and although there were a few songs off 2009’s Backspacer and 2013’s Lightning Bolt, it seemed most ticket holders were far more excited about material from the first half of their career than the second. At this point it’s accurate to call Pearl Jam a legacy act but unlike currently assembled ’90s acts like Tool, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Smashing Pumpkins or Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam is changing their setlist more extensively every night, keeping things interesting and actually giving fans a reason to go to both shows of a two-night run. Casual fans heard the hits and the die-hards got to go home with a new notch on their belt, so it’s fair to say that Pearl Jam fans of all stripes went home with full hearts and few complaints.
Photos by Andrew Blackstein[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”1645″]
Fan-Shot Videos | Captured by mfc172
Pearl Jam at Fenway Park
- Aye Davanita
- Low Light
- Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
- Why Go
- Mind Your Manners
- Given to Fly
- Army Reserve
- Even Flow
- Amongst the Waves
- Got Some
- Do the Evolution
- I Am a Patriot
- I Won't Back Down
- Just Breathe
- Present Tense
- State of Love and Trust
- Tremor Christ
- Taillights Fade
- Out of My Mind
- Rockin' in the Free World