On the heels of their fifth number one record, “Lightning Bolt”, Pearl Jam hit the stage at the XL Center in Hartford on Friday.
Rewind 21 years to 1992, the first time I saw them live, just a few short months after the release of their first album, “Ten”. The Cameo Theater in Miami Beach, Florida is a small venue that holds 1,200 people. The show was sold out, but since I worked in a record store at that time, I knew Ticketmaster would release a few more the day of the show. A co-worker and I took the day off and camped out at the theater box office all morning waiting for them to open up. We watched the band go in and out of the theater for some time and when the afternoon rolled in, we listened to the band conduct their sound check. The show was spectacular. We all knew we had just witnessed something special and incredible and that this was a band that was going to be destined for greatness.
The second time I saw them was the following year. This time it was in a much larger venue, the 8,000-capacity Bayfront Amphitheater in Downtown Miami. A full house inside and 25,000+ outside, myself included. Those of us on the outside listened and sang along as the show grew with intensity. They began to play “Rockin in the Free World”, it began to rain and combined with the intense energy we were all feeling, the crowd began to tear the fence down. On success, we swarmed in. The riot police were called to control the crowd. It was an intense night.
Last Friday, I was taken back to those years. It was like hanging out with old friends and picking up where we left off without skipping a beat despite not seeing each other for some time. From the photography perspective, the show started out rather dull. We were relegated to one side of the stage or another without the ability to switch sides. The lights were low and they opened with three short songs: “Pendulum”, “Long Road” and “Sometimes”. From the fan perspective, I was in heaven. They were absolutely phenomenal. I was blown away that I was even standing there to begin with – but I feel that way before every show I photograph. After the photographers were escorted out, the show took off with “Corduroy” and the band continued to play with passion, fury and perfection for another two and a half hours.
Notable moments: Eddie Vedder’s jacket donned a patch commemorating the town of Newtown and Sandy Hook Elementary school and later on in the show, homage paid to Miley Cyrus by swinging on one of the many large globed lights that made up the subdued stage set. Two encores – an almost 30 song set covering the span of their entire career. Extra special touches: Mother Love Bone’s “Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns” and not one, but TWO Van Halen covers, “Eruption” and “Ain’t Talking ’bout Love”.
To best summarize my thoughts on the show, all I can really say is, “Just GO!” You won’t be disappointed.