It took me a full ten years to see Pearl Jam for the first time. Back in 1993, both ‘Ten’ and ‘Vs’ were some of the most played cd’s in my Sony Discman as an 8th grader, beginning my deep-dive into alternative and grunge music. As I entered high school, it took until the fall of my senior year for Pearl Jam to come to town here in Buffalo, during their ‘No Code’ tour. Sadly, tickets were only available via phone and I had football practice, so of course I didn’t go.
Fast-forward through my college years and it was the spring of 2003, when Pearl Jam finally returned to Buffalo on the ‘Riot Act’ tour that I was finally able to see some of the biggest heroes of my youth live. While I’ve been fortunate to see them a handful of times on many subsequent tours since then, it’s been a long wait since my last show, back in 2013 to finally see them again!
Pearl Jam’s tour in support of their 2020 release, ‘Gigaton,’ was one of my very first casualties of COVID tour cancelations, making this wait even longer than anticipated. Like so many other tours of the last year, many attendees have been holding their tickets for ages, waiting for their respective shows to finally happen.
Upon entering the floor of the arena, it was evident that the city of Hamilton was ready for Pearl Jam! The seats were filling in fast and the vibe was palpable. We set up to photograph from the soundboard for this tour, as Pluralone hit the stage, performing as a solo act. For those (like me) that didn’t know as the show started, Pluralone is actually Josh Klinghoffer (formerly of the Red Hot Chili Peppers). He’s also been a touring component of Pearl Jam, to help bring the elaborate songs on ‘Gigaton’ to life in a live setting (which I prefer to backing tracks any day).
The crowd reaction to Pluralone’s set was mixed, which is to be expected of any band standing between an audience and a generational band like Pearl Jam. Still, I blame my own naiveté in part, but I wish I’d known it was Josh before the set.
After a brief intermission, the lights went down and Pearl Jam took the stage. This was a different opening than any other time I’ve seen them in the past. The show opened to a dimly lit stage, as the entire band performed from seated positions. It was a quieter opening, to be sure, featuring “Oceans,” “Nothingman” and “Yellow Moon” to begin the set.
One important point of note when it comes to seeing Pearl Jam perform live. You simply cannot go to a show expecting to see a “greatest hits” set from night to night. For anyone following the band on tour for a few shows, this is a dream-come-true. Every night, the set varies tremendously from one show to the next. Yes, you’re going to get some of the staples, but you won’t get them all at one show. For the casual fan, I’m sure that can be frustrating, but for a band that’s been releasing music for over thirty years, it’s amazing to see how much attention they give their back catalog, while also heavily promoting their current album.
A few of the biggest hits of this performance included “Daughter,” “Black,” “Alive” and “State of Love and Trust,” just to name a few. A huge highlight of the evening was the very first performance of “Sad” since 2016.
The one word that just keeps coming to mind when I think about how Pearl Jam have evolved over the years is transcendent. This band began as an angst-fueled alternative rock band and have really evolved into an American hard rock staple. They’re a household name, with almost a dozen albums under their belt. Yet, they put their heart and sole into every single live performance, meticulously crafting each set list to bring each respective city a unique show, different from the most recent show on tour, as well as unlike the band’s last stop in each city they perform.
As mentioned earlier, this tour sold out back in 2020, but if you can find tickets and are considering checking out what a Pearl Jam show is like today, go do it! Eddie won’t be swinging from the rafters, but he and the rest of the band put just as much into their shows today as they ever have. I wish I could check out a few more dates on this tour, but I’ll be sure to catch them the next time they come around!
- Yellow Moon
- Man of the Hour
- Given to Fly
- Who Ever Said
- Red Mosquito
- Dance of the Clairvoyants
- Quick Escape
- I Am Mine
- I’m Open
- Superblood Wolfmoon
- Do the Evolution
- Inside Job
- State of Love and Trust