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Wildmen to Elder Statesmen: Five of Pearl Jam's Most Important Live Performances

Thursday, 22 February 2024 Written by Huw Baines

Photo: Danny Clinch

It’s not strictly a surprise but Pearl Jam’s longevity is something to marvel at. Emerging from the Seattle grunge scene with perhaps the most easily-aped style of all their contemporaries, the band have adapted and evolved across more than three decades to stand tall as one of the enduring modern American rock bands.

With ‘Dark Matter’ — their 12th studio record since forming in the Pacific Northwest as Mookie Blaylock in 1990 — on the way in April, Pearl Jam have announced a massive accompanying tour, which will get underway in North America in the spring before landing in Europe for a mix of stadium shows, arena dates and festival appearances, including stops at Dublin's Marlay Park and Manchester's Co-Op Live before the truly epic prospect of a night at London's Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. After all that, it’s back to the US before they head to Australia and New Zealand towards the end of the year.

To get everyone in the mood, here we take a look back at some of the shows that shaped Pearl Jam into the colossus they are today, with Eddie Vedder morphing from stage-diving wildman to commanding, weathered elder statesman alongside songs that have bucked and kicked against stagnation. 

Even Flow, Moore Theatre, Seattle, 1992

In the here and now it’s easy to overlook the power MTV had to push a band into people’s lives. The video for Even Flow, the pulse-quickening second single from the band’s seminal 1991 debut ‘Ten’, was captured on home soil at the Moore Theatre by filmmaker Josh Taft. It chopped together moments from a set that found Vedder at his exploratory best, using the rigging as monkey bars before dropping into the crowd as the chorus swells. If you grew up with this clip its imagery — from Vedder’s “this is a fuckin’ rock concert” intro to Jeff Ament’s bass slide — will be permanently etched in your memory.

Porch, Pinkpop Festival, Landgraaf, 1992

Landing in the Netherlands as ‘Ten’ continued its march towards the stratosphere, Pearl Jam’s set at Pinkpop hosted one of Vedder’s most memorable, even controversial, stage dives. As Porch spins out into a jam, the singer mounts a camera boom, eventually launching himself into the crowd as the crew try to keep the thing upright. Years later, Vedder sought out the cameraman. “When he’s yelling, he’s not yelling at me, he’s yelling in the mic for the guys to jump off the back, because once I jumped he would have gone shooting into the fucking atmosphere,” he recalled. “So, the whole time, we were working in tandem but we had no clue whatsoever. He hasn’t been angry at me this whole time, and I just feel so fucking forgiven.” 

Blood, Soldier Field, Chicago, 1995

When Pearl Jam hit the stage at Soldier Field in the summer of 1995, they didn’t know they were bobbing in the wake of rock history. A couple of days earlier the Grateful Dead had played the same venue in what would become their final show, a month out from the death of Jerry Garcia. Pearl Jam were stuck between stations here, thrashing against the machinations of the music industry while also showing that they could turn in epic, emotionally-coruscating shows to match anyone in the classic rock pantheon. This version of the ‘Vs.’ rager Blood is a throat-shredding release of pent up anger, with Vedder right on the edge, smashing things, roaring his guts out, totally unconstrained for just a moment.

Bu$hleaguer, Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, 2003

As they hit the road in support of 2001’s sprawling, uneven ‘Riot Act’, Pearl Jam had some things they wanted to get off their chest. During Bu$hleaguer, Vedder began parading a mask of president George W. Bush, who was enjoying a patriotism-fuelled phase of popularity during the Iraq War. In Uniondale, he spiked it on his mic stand before firing back at the crowd’s boos and chants of USA! USA!. As the atmosphere shifted, Vedder and the band didn’t take a backwards step, immediately following Bu$hleaguer with covers of the Clash’s Know Your Rights and Neil Young’s Rockin’ in the Free World. “Born on third, thinks he got a triple,” is a hell of a lyric, and one that could be tacked to many, many figures in our current reality.

Hunger Strike, Alpine Valley Music Theater, East Troy, 2011

In 2011, Pearl Jam celebrated 20 years as a band with a mini-festival at Wisconsin’s Alpine Valley Music Theater, pulling in friends and guests for a freewheeling run through their history. One of those invitees stands out, though. The late Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell joined Pearl Jam for a rare run through four Temple of the Dog songs, winding the clock back to 1990 and their tribute to Mother Love Bone’s Andrew Wood. Beginning with the Cornell-Vedder duet Hunger Strike, there is an obvious sense of reverence in the room, its weight only made heavier in hindsight by the loss of Cornell a few years later.

Pearl Jam Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sat May 04 2024 - VANCOUVER Rogers Arena (Canada)
Mon May 06 2024 - VANCOUVER Rogers Arena (Canada)
Fri May 10 2024 - PORTLAND Moda Center (USA)
Mon May 13 2024 - SACRAMENTO Golden 1 Center (USA)
Thu May 16 2024 - LAS VEGAS MGM Grand Garden Arena (USA)
Sat May 18 2024 - LAS VEGAS MGM Grand Garden Arena (USA)
Tue May 21 2024 - LOS ANGELES Kia Forum (USA)
Wed May 22 2024 - LOS ANGELES Kia Forum (USA)
Tue May 28 2024 - SEATTLE Climate Pledge Arena (USA)
Thu May 30 2024 - SEATTLE Climate Pledge Arena (USA)

Sat June 22 2024 - DUBLIN Marlay Park
Tue June 25 2024 - MANCHESTER Co-op Live
Sat June 29 2024 - LONDON Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Tue July 02 2024 - BERLIN Waldbuhne (Germany)
Wed July 03 2024 - BERLIN Waldbuhne (Germany)
Sat July 06 2024 - BARCELONA Palau Sant Jordi (Spain)
Mon July 08 2024 - BARCELONA Palau Sant Jordi (Spain)
Thu July 11 2024 - MADRID New Madrid Festival Venue (Spain)
Sat July 13 2024 - LISBON Passeio Maritimo de Alges (Portugal)

Thu August 22 2024 - MISSOULA Washington Grizzly Stadium (USA)
Mon August 26 2024 - INDIANAPOLIS Ruoff Music Center (USA)
Thu August 29 2024 - CHICAGO Wrigley Field (USA)
Sat August 31 2024 - CHICAGO Wrigley Field (USA)
Tue September 03 2024 - NEW YORK Madison Square Garden (USA)
Wed September 04 2024 - NEW YORK Madison Square Garden (USA)
Sat September 07 2024 - PHILADELPHIA Wells Fargo Center (USA)
Mon September 09 2024 - PHILADELPHIA Wells Fargo Center (USA)
Thu September 12 2024 - BALTIMORE CFG Bank Arena (USA)
Sun September 15 2024 - BOSTON Fenway Park (USA)
Tue September 17 2024 - BOSTON Fenway Park (USA)

​Fri November 08 2024 - AUCKLAND Go Media Stadium Mt Smart
Wed November 13 2024 - GOLD COAST Heritage Bank Stadium
Sat November 16 2024 - MELBOURNE Marvel Stadium
Thu November 21 2024 - SYDNEY Giants Stadium

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