red lights


Hurricane's grief brings some relief

Pearl Jam / Robert Plant
Hurricane Katrina Benefit Concert
House of Blues
Chicago, IL
Oct. 5, 2005
Plant & Veder
Rober Plant and Eddie Veder
Plant & Veder
Rober Plant and Eddie Veder

Story and photos by Matt Schwenke

Bridging a generational gap in rock history amidst busy tour schedules, Pearl Jam and Robert Plant joined forces in a special Hurricane Katrina benefit that was nothing less than outstanding. With tickets priced at $1,000 a pop, the anticipation was palpable in the cozy confines of the House of Blues, and Robert Plant and his band, The Strange Sensation, were quick to tap into the crowd's energy. With an undeniable rock prowess, Plant pulled the crowd in with impassioned vocals on "Black Dog," and with a spotless version of "Freedom Fries." Pearl Jam Introducing the next tune as "the great american song, without the tuxedo," Plant and company stirred up a unique version of Hendrix's "Hey Joe" followed by a strong, set-ending "Four Sticks." Not satisfied with the crowd's overall response, Plant was playful in getting the amount of applause he thought necessary for the occasion before going into a pounding encore of "Gallows Pole." Though Plant's set was a mere seven songs, the almost magical quality of his performance had activated the musical palette and heightened expectations for the rest of the night.
Strolling out on stage in dim lighting and with a serious tone, Pearl Jam reminded the crowd that "all you need is love" with the hopeful message of "Love Boat Captain." Briefly eyeing up the relatively small crowd, Pearl Jam then exploded in the haunting "Grievance" and "Do The Evolution" with so much jump-kicking energy the crowd seemed to be taken aback. Responding in force, the crowd nearly overpowered Eddie Vedder's vocal mix on "Even Flow," which featured Mike McCready playing the guitar solo behind his head. "It's good to know there's still people out there who know how to have fun with their money," said Vedder, remarking on the now-frenzied crowd. Jumping around albums from their catalogue as much as they were jumping around, Pearl Jam kept the intensity surging with the choppy "Green Disease," in which Vedder accidentally hit his chin hard on the mic from playing so engrossed. As if reminding the crowd they were seeing Pearl Jam at such a small venue, Vedder grabbed a mirror and slowly reflected light on to the faces of the crowd while singing to the swaying rock of "1/2 Full." Following up with the hot guitar work of Stone Gossard on "I Am Mine," Pearl Jam boosted the intensity up to 11 with a tag of The English Beat's "Save It For Later" on the end of "Betterman." The set ended on an equally intense level with Vedder singing from the security fence in a high-speed version of "Porch."
Pearl Jam Quickly reassembling for an encore, Vedder made a few comments about the government's handling of the hurricane disaster and called Chicago a "city of big donors." With the entire band sitting, the sincerity could be felt in the touching ballad "Man of the Hour." Taking a rare song request, Pearl Jam then obliged to play the pulsing "Hard To Imagine" before cranking out the heavy "I Got Shit." Still ecstatic, the crowd was treated to a version of "Rearviewmirror" that featured bassist Jeff Ament and drummer Matt Cameron taking a solo before strobe lights animated Vedder spitting in the air to end the song and the encore. But, it didn't end there. Returning for a second encore, Vedder thanked the crowd and the organizers for the hurricane relief effort, and slyly added that the beneficiaries, The American Red Cross et al., include "no subsidiaries of Halliburton." In another understated moment, Vedder dedicated the second encore-opener "Given To Fly" to Plant-- the song's melody is similar to Zeppelin's "Going to California." Putting an end to any idea of bad blood over the similarities, Pearl Jam faded out as Robert Plant and his band rejoined on stage to play none other than "Going to California." As Plant's voice shone, Vedder and Gossard sipped some wine as the rock legend added in "leaving Chicago with an aching in my heart." But as The Strange Sensation left the stage, Plant stayed on to join Vedder in singing Elvis Presley's "Little Sister" and then "Money (That's What I Want)." In a live debut, Vedder and Plant read from a lyric sheet, which they later revealed and threw into the crowd, for "Fools In The Rain." The crowd was respectfully silent while Plant sang on "Thank You" before McCready tore up the fretboard with his encore-ending solo that left the crowd screaming for more. Returning to the stage yet again, Vedder asked, "How can we leave when it still feels like this?" Telling fans to sleep well and hope the people of New Orleans will be able to sleep well soon, Vedder announced, "Playing my guitar, Mr. Robert Plant." As McCready helped called out the chord changes to Plant on guitar, the entire building thumped to an extended version of Neil Young's "Rockin' In The Free World" that ended with a punk-like chant and a trademark band jump ending. All benefit efforts aside, this performance was worth well more than the typical concert ticket price and more memorable than any typical concert collaboration.

Pearl Jam Robert Plant
Robert Plant Pearl Jam
Robert Plant Pearl Jam

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