Out Jammed

Alpine Valley Music Theater
East Troy
July 26, 1998

Story by Tony Bonyata
Photos by Phil Bonyata

When Pearl Jam played at East Troy's Alpine Valley Music Theater as part of 1992's Lollapalooza festival they proved to be the showstopper for that tour. Not that they didn't have stiff competition. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ministry, Jesus And Mary Chain as well as Lush and Soundgarden all put on incredible performances. But it was Pearl Jam, or more appropriately lead singer Eddie Vedder, who stole the show. Vedder proved to be a new force in the then burgeoning grunge scene with his gravelly, soulful voice and unpredictable nature on stage. It was during this show, in fact, that he climbed to the ceiling of the pavilion, mid-song, then scaled across an I-beam to a chain hanging at the end of the pavilion roof. Climbing down the chain into the audience Vedder then was passed through the crowd to the stage atop thousands of fans' hands.
Pearl Jam Last Friday night and almost six years later Pearl Jam came back to 'the valley' to perform some of their older material as well as a good slathering of songs from their latest album Yield. Those in the audience, however, who were expecting to see Vedder's search-and-destroy stage antics were probably let down as he instead focused more on his singing, which really hasn't gotten any better or worse over the years, just less animated.
Bathed in green light and flanked by 5, ten-foot Eiffel Tower type structures with large white candles burning on them, the Seattle grunge wonder-kids proceeded to self-implode on their opening number "Do The Evolution", an Iggy Pop-styled primordial-punk masterpiece from Yield. Sporting relatively short jet-black hair, red and black striped shirt, loose black pants and Asian-styled slip on canvas shoes, Vedder aped over his mike and snarled, "I'm at peace...with my lust...I can kill cause in God I trust...it's evolution, baby!". The only problem was that for the rest of the evening the band had a hard time evolving past just that one song.
Frank Black and the Catholics Although the raucous "Brain Of J." as well as the more introspective "Given To Fly" and "In Hiding" (all from their latest album) showed the band, featuring guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard, bassist Jeff Ament and touring drummer Matt Cameron, in fine form, they lacked any real depth. Even though the audience went wild over songs from their extremely successful debut album Ten such as "Black", "Alive" and "Evenflow" (complete with an overwrought, flatulent guitar solo) they still couldn't muster any real spark or inventiveness. In fact, the third song "Last Exit" was so badly botched by the band that Vedder exclaimed, " #@!X that song...let's go to the next!"
Opening up for Pearl Jam was Frank Black, former singer / songwriter / guitarist from the highly influential alt-rock band The Pixies.
Black, with a shaven head, goatee, black suit and certainly no stranger to Big Macs, along with his tight four-piece band The Catholics, steamrolled through their set like a runaway freight train, barely catching their breath before blowing into another song.
Black exorcised songs from his solo career such as "Whitenoise Maker", ""Superabound" and the frenetic speed-metal of "Whatever Happened To Pong?" with a renewed vigor. Even his version of The Pixies "Wave Of Mutilation" took on a life of it's own. Black also showcased a good number of newer songs from his forthcoming album due out in September which ranged from deep-fried country to stage-diving punk angst. Slightly reminiscent of his former band, a few of his newer songs also featured odd timings, abrupt tempo changes and quirky lyrics.
While Pearl Jam may not be breaking new musical ground on this tour, they certainly need to be commended on their strong choice of supporting acts such as Frank Black (Iggy Pop, X, Mudhoney, Ben Harper and The Wallflowers will be opening for Pearl Jam on different dates throughout this tour).

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