Pearl Jam Honors 9/11 First Responders With Emotional Madison Square Garden Show
The Seattle band pays serious fan service with concert packed with old faves, deep cuts and beloved covers
We knew walking into New York’s Madison Square Garden to catch Pearl Jam on the 21st anniversary of 9/11 was going to be something special.
Little did we know how much we underestimated the situation as we took our seats.
“What song do you think they are going to open up with,” a young woman sitting in the row in front of us asked as we were settling in.
“I think they are gonna start with ‘Release,'” I answered.
Then, like 10 minutes later after PJ took the stage (seated on stools), Mike McCready began playing the opening scales of the beloved closing song of the band’s 1991 debut Ten. I felt like I should have won a prize or something.
But that was the just the tip of the Gigaton iceberg for this two-and-a-half hour show that was literally one surprise after the other. PJ knew we’ve all been waiting over two years for this concert, what with the original date being an early victim of the COVID-19 pandemic and all. And Eddie and the boys literally blessed the crowd with arguably the best set of this tour yet.
Ten was the album they leaned on heaviest this evening, playing six songs from the LP, which was rounded out by impassioned renditions of “Why Go,” “Alive,” a truncated but no less ferocious “Porch” and “Even Flow,” which saw Eddie congratulate WNBA superstar Sue Bird on her retirement and shout out Venus and Serena Williams who were sitting in the audience. They also played four songs off Vs., including “Dissident,” “Daughter” (where Eddie went into “Chaise Lounge” by Wet Leg), a visceral “Rearviewmirror” and a version of “Elderly Woman Behind The Counter…” where the band played exclusively for those unfortunate souls sitting behind the stage.
I was surprised they only did three songs off Gigaton, because they’d been leaning so heavily on it since going back on the road. But each of the tunes–“Who Ever Said,” “Seven O’Clock” and “Dance of the Clairvoyants”–were all greeted by the New York crowd as warmly as fan faves like No Code’s “Present Tense,” Yield’s “Do The Evolution” and Vitalogy’s “Better Man.”
Yet it was the selection of covers Pearl Jam chose to deliver to their faithful fans that really made this concert arguably “the most memorable of them all,” as Vedder told the crowd after informing us this was their 37th time playing New York City.
Indeed Eddie was correct in his assumption, especially when you consider the fan service of breaking out tunes they’ve been covering since the early days like the Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer” and Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.” But they also surprised us as well with an emotional version of Prince’s “Purple Rain” with PJ’s new third guitarist, Josh Klinghoffer (who also opened the show as Pluralone), sharing vocals with Vedder. Yet it was the opening piano strains of Mother Love Bone’s “Chloe Dancer/Crown Of Thorns” that truly brought the house down, marking the first time the band played it since playing MSG in May 2016.
“There was a time we supported each other,” Eddie said while paying tribute to the large number of first responders in attendance on this night. “That’s the part we cannot forget. Let those lessons be remembered as our solidarity to come together and keep this country straight.”
Now I could assume the guy in front of me hugging me and giving high fives throughout the night was a total Trump voter. But as Pearl Jam just kept slaying us with fan fave after fan fave, it didn’t even fucking matter, because the shared joy we all experienced at MSG last night transcended us higher than any political high horse we rode in on.
And 21 years after the worst day in American history, it was an honor to be a part of this collective outburst of joy amidst the permanent pain of September 11th.
VIDEO: Pearl Jam 9/11 Remembrance
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