It’s a Saturday night in Manchester, TN. The air is thick and extremely hot. The skin feels as if grape jam has been spread on it, it’s an uncomfortable feeling that we try to embrace, as there’s no use fighting it. It’s the third day of Bonnaroo and Pearl Jam is about to play to 50,000 worn out, but supremely happy people. As we waited for our heroes to appear on the big stage, we watched another popular act from Seattle in Macklemore & Ryan Lewis get booted from the stage due to some nasty thunderstorms in the area after a handful of songs. Shortly after, the entire crowd was told to evacuate and find cover in their cars, RV’s etc.. This seemed all to familiar to those Pearl Jam fans who were in Chicago three years ago back at Wrigley Field when the show was postponed due to some magnificent lightning for a few hours and dramatically cut their set time due to it.
After a short time watching the storms run to the south of us and debating when and if Pearl Jam would play, an unmistakable roar started to rise from the farm signaling we were clear to return to our queues and spots of the massive lawn. Macklemore would come out and finish his set, as us faithful breathed sighs of relief, knowing our boys would be coming on soon. As soon as they did appear and ripped into “Go,” the goosebumps arrived and the farm started shaking.
Not wasting anytime, the guys would follow with a blistering “Save You,” and a flawless “Corduroy” that even had had the rookies clapping and jumping along to the energy building beat. A rousing, and oh-so appropriate version of “Lightning Bolt” was next and had guitarist, Mike McCready, running around the stage pointing out to those fans losing their shit.
Eddie was quite vocal on this night and ripped into Donald Trump without actually saying his name mid-way through the 2 hour set by remarking, “There’s a candidate we all know; maybe we should build a wall around him, ya know, leave a little window in it so everyone can give him the middle finger,” and the peaceful crowd roared in approval. He would also remark on the inflammatory bathroom bills in the south and TN regarding transgender folk on this night, which for the crowd at Bonnaroo, was an important message and was well received.
Definite highlights of the set was one of the best versions of Joe Strummer’s “Arms Aloft” I’ve ever heard, a gorgeous take on “Comfortably Numb,” that was requested by Dead And Company’s own Mickey Hart, who Ed had met during the weekend. Black was downright beautiful with Brendan O’Brien taking over for Boom on the piano that ended with the always heartbreaking “We Belong Together” tag. We would also sing “Happy Birthday” to Eddies daughter Olivia while holding our lighters and phones up high as “the candles” on the cake, nice birthday present kiddo!
The setlist was strong on their debut album Ten, which was to no surprise to those that had seen their spring tour, but threw in gems like “Daughter” and the crowd pleasing “Better Man,” that had almost all the 50,000 people singing along. After a sinister “Porch” the band would take a short break and would come back with an eight song encore. Pearl Jam would eventually end the night with the life affirming “Alive” and the usual Neil Young cover “Rockin’ In The Free World.”
For those who were in attendance for their legendary 2008 performance at Roo, seemed a bit disappointed in the brevity of the set, but even for this fan that has seen 56 (and counting) PJ gigs, it was a fine performance. The set may of been shortened to the storms, and the fact that there were still a handful of bands to play, made it so Pearl Jam had no choice to stop when they did. They aren’t Kanye after all.
Article: Shayne Hanley