Pearl Jam Wraps Up First Leg of Dark Matter Tour with Unique Sets

Despite coming out of the Grunge Era, Pearl Jam sure know how to instill both the elements of punk rock with those of how the Grateful Dead used to approach shows.

They're punk not in sound or style, but ethos. Many of the traditional ways of doing a rock tour are often thrown out the window with the Seattle veterans hit the road. One of them is: you have no idea what they're going to play.

Which is a trait The Dead mastered.

Poster art by Arian Buhler

Pearl Jam are touring with a hot new album that is clearly popular, solid, and road-ready. While some bands dole out sample-sized tastes of the new material, PJ seems to love Dark Matter and have been performing good chunks of it on the first leg of their world tour.

Their first show, for example, on May 4 contained 9 songs off the new LP, which accounted for 36% of the set. So more than every third song was a new jam, so to speak.

That show was special because to make room for newbies like "Upper Hand," and "Won't Tell" (which got their live debuts that night in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), the band didn't play their most-performed song "Even Flow," or others in their top 10 most-played like "Porch" "Jeremy" or "Better Man."

Which is ballsy, risky, and yes, punk rock.

It's also something the Dead never seemed to worry about.

Play the songs that are going to rock live at that venue on that night in that set seemed to be the blueprint.

Of the 11 shows they did in May, only four songs found their way in the set every show, and only one was a classic, "Alive." The other three were all from Dark Matter: "React, Respond," "Wreckage," and the title track.

There were a trio of songs that got 10 plays out of the 11 shows, and those three were also from the new album that hit #1 on five different Billboard charts.

The Victoria Williams cover "Crazy Mary" is always nice to hear, but in order to keep things fresh, PJ is taking it easy with it and some of their other hits.

PJ is mixing it up so much, staples like "Daughter" only made to six sets, "Better Man" only appeared in three shows, and even covers like "Baba O'Reilly" and "Crazy Mary" have only been played twice.

They also played 50 songs just one time in the 11 shows. Including "Man of the Hour" as a tribute to basketball star and music lover, Bill Walton.

As a tribute to Bill Walton, Pearl Jam played

Am I alone in thinking this is the way it should be? By now fans aren't just getting into Pearl Jam are they?

This band has been together for 34 years. There's an excellent chance that most in the audiences that will greet them along the next legs of this tour would have seen them at least once or twice, and I'd bet many in the crowd have seen them multiple times.

Eddie has covered the NIN classic 5 times solo, but yesterday in Seattle was the first time he's ever done it at a PJ show.

Reward them with new memories, which includes new tunes, particularly nowadays when Pearl Jam's brand of rock music is fading away either through the tragic deaths of their peers or because it's just harder than ever to be a rock band these days.

Also when you have a dozen albums and you lean that hard into your new one, you're expressing confidence in where you are today instead of reaching back to where you were when you had long hair and climbed speaker towers and jumped off balconies.

Jeremy did not speak in class today, he spoke in class last century.

There will be plenty of time, God willing, to become a nostalgia act, until then good for Pearl Jam for insisting their story is still being written.

Watch it unfold live, be it in European arenas or American baseball stadiums this summer. Tickets available on the Pearl Jam website.

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Last updated: 12 Jul 2024, 23:49 Etc/UTC