This past Thursday marked the long await return of Pearl Jam to Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Center. The show was night one of two to take place and was sold out with crowds that arrived hours in advance as they mingled in the parking lot and exchanged stories. Part of what makes a Pearl Jam concert exhilarating are the one of a kind stories that the fans bring with them to each engagement that the band puts on. We spoke to fans who were at a show years ago at the Trocadero Theatre in the city of Philadelphia and after seeing the band numerous times since it was their first show that they made it on the barricade, an evening that they will likely never forget. Pearl Jam fans come for the memories to be made and share stories time and time again growing the massive foot print of the band’s legacy.
There is no denying that Pearl Jam’s Philadelphia shows are a homecoming of sorts for the band and fans as the band did put on the last two shows ever at the Philadelphia Spectrum a few year’s back now. Being the last band to perform in the building cemented their importance in the heart’s of many in the city as that building was held in great importance to many before it’s destruction. In the sold out Wells Fargo Center you could sense in the anticipation in the air in the moments that lead up to the star of the show. as the fans waited to see their band, yes their band because the fans are just as much a part of Pearl Jam as the members are in my opinion.
The show began with no drama, just the roar of a packed house as the band walked out on stage with grins on their faces as they were welcomed home in Philadelphia (sort of). With a bottle of wine hoisted above his head Eddie Vedder grabbed the microphone of the stand as he turned to face the band and the house lights slowly dimmed. Lighting flickered to life across the stage as Pearl Jam welcomed Philadelphia to night one of their two night stay with “Once” off their debut album “Ten.”
From a technical and academic stand point there is very little you can add to the conversation about a Pearl Jam concert just for the pure fact that the band is one of the tightest live performers in the history of rock music. To that point it is no surprise when I write that Eddie Vedder’s vocals were stunning that night in Philadelphia, to an extent that I would say he has never sounded better. That is a statement that I can extend fully to the rest of the band as well however I think it is noteworthy to point out the stellar guitar delivery from Mike McCready from start to finish of the show. Even a band like Pearl Jam has hiccups in their set but they are true artists in the fact that they can own a moment and just make it a part of the show. For example there was a moment late in the set where the guitar’s just weren’t in tune and rather than complain jokes were made by Eddie about his guitars getting into his a wine a little too early that night. Moments become memories at a Pearl Jam concert and these memories live on for all the fans who were there to experience them.
The set was littered with moments shared between fans in the band; whether it was members of the front getting run their fingers across the neck of McCready’s guitar as they became a part of the show, songs dedicated to specific fans through out the show, a touching tribute to a young man of just nine years old who made it to the show thanks to Given To Live and even a couple in a suite that became husband in wife late in the set only to have a song dedicated to them as they shared their first dance to “Picture in a Frame” in the company of 10,000. Pearl Jam did not put on a concert, they put on an experience that last nearly three hours and truly left an impact on all those in attendance.
As the night came to a close you could see a wide variety of emotions that had begun to sweep across the crowd. For many this day had been the culmination of months of waiting, others the end destination for hours traveled but for all it was an evening that none of them would soon forget as Pearl Jam came home to Philadelphia yet again. It may be another couple of years before the band returns to the city of brotherly love but when they do return the fans will treat them like they are coming home because Pearl Jam is just as much a part of Philadelphia as cheese steaks, the Art Museum, Temple University, The Eagle or anything else.
Be sure to check out Sight of Sound’s exclusive photographs from night one of Pearl Jam below :