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Story & photos by Andy ArgyrakisAnytime the infrequently touring Pearl Jam swings through town it's a momentous occasion, especially after the group's now legendary 2013 appearance at Wrigley Field that went into the wee hours of the morning following a drastic rain delay. Three years later, Eddie Vedder, Mike McCready, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament and Matt Cameron seemed extra eager to make up for any lost time, turning in no less than 34 tunes that clocked in well over three hours.
Though no two shows are ever the same, the grunge era innovators turned all around alternative rock giants clearly tailor made the marathon to fit the mood of a festive Friendly Confines on a Saturday night right in the center of summer. That meant a lot more hits than usual, several remakes of the band's most revered influences, a couple relatively recent tunes from "Lightning Bolt," plus the periodic deeper track to keep Ten Club members on their toes.
Although there was nothing brand spanking new to debut, many selections took a revitalized approach in the context of a sold out audience ready to make some memories. For instance, "Release" was dedicated to the dude who lined up four days before the show to get a front row view, "Just Breathe" provided the framework for a military man to propose to his longtime gal and "Inside Job" was introduced by former New Orleans Saints' safety Steve Gleason, who may be battling Lou Gehrig's disease, but bravely demonstrated his love of life, and of course, Pearl Jam.
Even one of the most tried and trues, "Jeremy," echoed with an anti-bullying sentiment, "Light Years" offered support for terminally ill Tragically Hip leader Gord Downie, while a cover of Cheap Trick's "Surrender" served as one of the group's several local references. But more than any specific tune, this particular Pearl Jam gig was all about the vibe, whether it be the band's playful interaction with attendees (such as those neighboring fans respectively sporting Sleater-Kinney and Whitesnake T-shirts) or razzing freeloading onlookers trying to get a glimpse of the gig from the nearby rooftops.
Regardless of their geography, faithful appeared more than satisfied, screaming along to the likes of "Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town," "Even Flow," "Better Man" and "Corduroy" (to name but a few). As the guys wrapped their second encore stretch with the cries of "I'm Still Alive," that anthemic chorus aptly summarized Pearl Jam's status as not only one of the last entirely groundbreaking acts to reignite the entire rock scene, but also one of today's most vital.
Pearl Jam returns to Wrigley Field on Monday, August 22. For additional details, visit www.pearljam.com and www.livenation.com.
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