An extensive seven years had gone by since one of the biggest rock bands on the planet, Pearl Jam, last set eyes on the Steel City. Checking a calendar throws fans back into June 23rd, 2006 at Mellon Arena, an arena that’s since been demolished. Ironically, mere days before the release of their tenth studio album Lightning Bolt, Eddie Vedder and Company made a stop at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center, the arena of which replaced Mellon, to kick off their 2013 North American tour in support of both an album and a long waited return.
While Pearl Jam certainly isn’t the sort of act to neglect their live audience, Pittsburgh’s vibe for the evening was littered with embracing anticipation. Outside of any big arena show, every individual is met with at least one legitimate ticket scalper, seven more illegitimate ticket scalpers, bootleg T-shirt sellers, and unaffiliated drivers who kick themselves for not checking the daily traffic report. These different pockets scattered through the parameter of the arena on a cloudy October 11th, 2013 afternoon, but were sparse compared to the abundance of twinkles within pedestrian’s eyes as they awaited to whisk past security and enter into the sold out show.
Once situated, the lights eventually dimmed and a boisterous collective began while the opening notes to a live debut of “Pendulum” lifted off. No stranger to having bottles of wine on stage, this opening night was no exception as lead vocalist Eddie Vedder walked out with what he revealed toward the middle of the show to be a bottle with Franco Harris (of the Pittsburgh Steelers) and the Italian Flag. A little research leads you to Engine House 25 in Lawrenceville & the Clemente Museum, where it’s thought to have been visited by member(s) of Pearl Jam while spending a few days around the city.
As 2020k has stated, Pittsburgh loves its city and its sports, so if you’re a musican and happen to mention either; good standings come your way. Not only was the wine reference present, but Jason Grilli of the Pirates made an appearance on stage during the first of two encores, to spend some playful time with his good friends during the song “Whipping”.
Throughout the evening, a slew of first-time-Live-Lightning-Bolt tracks came to life, including “Infallible,” “Let the Records Play,” “Yellow Moon,” and an extremely heartfelt “Sirens,” which was dedicated to a journalist who’d interviewed the band once, and passed away (the family of the journalist was in attendance at the show). The thing about Pearl Jam is that even though the setlist was heavily with new material, back catalog favorites such as “Daughter,” “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town,” “Better Man,” and “Alive” roared just as relevant as they were when originally released – this sort of mix is expected due to the band’s noble way of coming up with re-inventive set lists each night before a show.
Speaking of Ten songs, during “Porch,” see-through light bulb fixtures that had glittered the stage all through the show descended for the band to rock out to. They pushed them, threw them around, even knocking over room-microphones as a means of electric fun and games.
On the contrary to this light-hearted side was a political “Unemployable” off their self-titled eighth album, which especially resonated as an introduction to the song stated that the title of it was wished upon everyone in congress (in reaction to the 2013 government shutdown).
Obviously known to the mood, Vedder took several moments in between songs to express his happiness to be back in the area, as well as his promise not to neglect in the future. At one speech segment, the lead singer expressed his apprehension for the evening. Would Pittsburgh be up for the show after all these years? Motivation, he said, came from Bruce Springsteen, who assured the band via phone that the Eastern based area would be outstanding.
Pearl Jam’s display of talent is forever endless, forever perfection, and forever perfected, so there was no reason the concert wouldn’t have sold out and no reason why the crowd wouldn’t be positively insane over these guys. They spoke in class, struck the venue with lightning, and infected every ear with over three hours of material and no signs of letting up until the house lights came on during a Neil Young cover of “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World.” Obviously not unintentional on the venue’s part, guitarist Mike McCready gave Stone Gossard a confused look, the band powered through the song while the lights remained getting brighter. After, one lone closing song remained, “Yellow Bedletter”.
Afterward, both the crowed and the band parted ways; seemingly gracious and in-awe of one another in the welcoming in of a back and forth participation banter of music and adoration that surrounded itself through the night.
Lightning Bolt was released October 15th, 2013 (vinyl, CD, digital download). Tour information can be found at Pearljam.com. All 31 songs played during the Consol Energy Center date are up over at Setlist.fm.