Ezy Reading: The Cud Concert Review: - Pearl Jam, Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH, 20 May 2006

Evan Kanarakis

After what has increasingly become a pre-concert ritual for Eddie Vedder catering to those fans not still guzzling beers in stadium lobbies –an acoustic opener, and in this case it was Last Kiss- he joined support act, Kentucky-natives My Morning Jacket for The Band’s It Makes No Difference, before allowing the lads to deliver what was an impressive display of their own spirited brand of rock, highlighted by lead singer Jim James’ distinctive, often eerie voice. On songs like Golden My Morning Jacket make me want to grab a case of beer, a pack of cigarettes, and sink into a comfortable seat on the front porch, watching summer days go by. Between this brief glimpse of the band, word of their legendary Bonnaroo live performances, and the 2005 release Z, I’ll happily admit I’m an enthusiastic convert eager to hear much more.

Just after 9pm Pearl Jam hit the stage with Better Man, allowing the crowd to sing near half of the tune before Vedder finally opened up to the sell-out arena’s delight. The band have always been known and applauded for giving fans their money’s worth in terms of tight musicianship and length of time onstage. This evening was no exception, and the band soon trotted out what is a near standard for them- nearly 30 songs in over two and a half hours.

Obviously Pearl Jam are busy promoting a new self-titled album, and they offered up a number of tracks from their stellar new release – World Wide Suicide, Life Wasted, Severed Hand, Gone, Comatose and Unemployable, however during their first encore it was Inside Job, the closing song on the album, which proved to be a particular highlight. Guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard interplay some especially haunting guitar strains here, but it managed to reach such a crescendo –peaking with another trademark McCready solo (and many, this night, were played behind his back for good measure)- that Inside Job was firmly set in concrete as a new, capable live staple for the band’s gig catalogue.

For those fans itching to hear Pearl Jam hits of old, they didn’t leave unhappy. Do The Evolution, Black, Alive and Spin The Black Circle were all on offer, and the oft-jam-extended Daughter spun out into a rendition of Dead Moon’s It’s Okay, a song especially welcomed by folks familiar with the band’s spectacular Jones Beach, NY 2000 concert.

But again, at the end of the day, there are few who can leave a Pearl Jam concert dissatisfied. Unfamiliar punters will generally always get to hear the tracks they’d have at least caught in radio play a few times somewhere before, and the die-hards get to listen to Lost Dogs specials like You and Don’t Gimme No Lip. Regardless, new or old fans are hard-pressed to ever escape without admiring the effort the band throws into their live performances. Vedder may not be dangling from the scaffolds like he once did, but from lead singer to Jeff Ament on bass, Matt Cameron on drums, and the aforementioned McCready and Gossard, at risk of putting it down to a cliché, their love for the almighty fucking rock and the roll is undeniable, and it shows. Sure, there might have been some impressive lights, lasers and hell, even a guitar-transformed-into-crowd-spotlight on offer, but fans going to a Pearl Jam show know they’ll never be witness to KISS concert-level flames and explosions of fireworks, and that’s just fine.

Deep into their second encore the band returned to live standards – Neil Young’s Fuckin’ Up and their traditional closing anthem, Yellow Ledbetter. Cleveland fans may soon have been mourning the demise of their beloved Cavaliers in the NBA playoffs, but Pearl Jam paid due respect to a city that claims the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as its own.

It was the end to an almighty show, and my sincerest thanks to some of the finest drinking partners and music lovers around who made it all the more worthwhile - the likes of Smiley, Woody, Mike, E-Prim, Sherf, Des and Akron Dave. It was a memorable bloody weekend indeed.

The Set-List-

Pre-Opener: Last Kiss

My Morning Jacket: It Makes No Difference (w/ Ed Vedder), Anytime, Off the Record, Golden, Wordless Chorus, What a Wonderful Man, One Big Holiday, Run Thru

Pearl Jam: Better Man, Given To Fly, World Wide Suicide, Life Wasted, Severed Hand, Faithful, Unemployable, Gone, Daughter/ (It's Ok), MFC, Immortality, Lukin, Do The Evolution, Spin The Black Circle, Porch

Encore 1: Wasted Reprise, Thumbing My Way, Inside Job, Black, Alive

Encore 2: Go, Comatose, U, Don't Gimme No Lip, Smile, Why Go, Fuckin' Up, Yellow Ledbetter