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My name is not Pearl Jam

Eddie Vedder
Riverside Theatre
Milwaukee, WI
Aug. 19, 2008
Eddie Vedder Eddie Vedder Eddie Vedder

Story by Matt Schwenke
File photos by Phil Bonyata

The playbills offered up at the theatre for Eddie Vedder's solo performance should have been a clue to concertgoers that the show wasn't going to be your typical rock performance that Pearl Jam fans are used to. Even the famous Pabst tallboys were being served in plastic cups to prevent cantankerous interruptions to the show. When Vedder took the stage, he urged the crowd to get the yelling out of their system before he began, but a few selfishly rowdy fans and even a heckler would put Vedder on edge as he tried to shed his rock star image in an otherwise intimate setting.

Announcing the show would begin with his left foot, Vedder stomped out the rhythm of "Sometimes" to begin the evening, in front of an image of a quaint alley/backyard scene as a backdrop. But as Vedder tried to address the interruptions, remarking that it was his name on the marquee and that he was captain of the ship, a constant threat of mutiny remained as he tried to intently deliver Cat Steven's "Trouble" and Bob Dylan's "Girl From the North Country" along with some classic Pearl Jam tunes. The foreboding "Dead Man Walking" seemed to offer some cathartic release for Vedder but the interruptions were noticeably taking their toll. Taking a different approach, Vedder tried appealing to the tame members of the audience with a funny story about a guy who called 911 after the cajun sub he ordered was delivered without sauce. Then, as the backdrop changed to trees and crates, Vedder, perhaps talking to himself, said "Let's forget the real world. Let's forget we're in Milwaukee and go into the wild." His work from the soundtrack to the 2007 film "Into the Wild" featured Vedder's trademark tremolo and haunting guitar, but fans still yelled for Pearl Jam. Again Vedder tried to get the crowd to let it all out in calling for a sing-along to "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town," which worked for a while (at this point all alcohol sales had been cut off, apparently per artist management's stipulation).

Vedder was able to pick up a mandolin for a tune, then a ukelele for "Soon Forget" and had enough silence for a beautifully simple rendition of the Beatles' "Blackbird." He even managed to work in his support for Barack Obama-- as he said he wouldn't talk about who he endorses a giant Obama banner went across the back of the stage.

Though the setlist was full of gems and featured opener Liam Finn on stage with guitar for an encore, Vedder was noticeably perturbed and did push-ups and a few yoga stretches as security removed one unruly audience member from near the front of the venue. Tom Petty's "Won't Back Down" and Pearl Jam's "Wish List" had a bit of underlying angst to it, and after Finn had moved to drums for "Hard Sun," Vedder coldly thanked the crowd, shoved the mic to the floor and walked off-stage. The night had obviously not gone as he had planned.

Related articles:

Tom Petty / Pearl Jam - Concert review - Milwaukee, WI - June 2006
Pearl Jam - Concert review - Chicago, IL - May 2006
Pearl Jam / Robert Plant Hurricane Katrina Benefit Concert - Concert review - Chicago, IL - Oct. 2005
Pearl Jam - Concert review - East Troy, WI -June 2003
Pearl Jam - Concert review - Chicago, IL - Oct. 2000
Pearl Jam - Concert review - East Troy, WI - July 1998

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