JAM Magazine Concert Reviews

November 15, 2013
American Airlines Center
Dallas, TX USA
Review by Love Tsunami
Photos by Michael Insuaste

Pearl Jam

Lightning Bolt Strikes The American Airlines Center

Sometimes you think you know someone inside out and you don't. You become complacent. You take them for granted while you give attention to things less worthy. So it is with Pearl Jam and me. I believed I knew and loved them. I grew up with them, figuratively speaking. In my rock fantasy, Eddie Vedder was the hot, cool older brother of my friend that I secretly crushed on who would notice me someday with stars in his eyes. On November 15, 2013 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas surrounded by a thronging crowd of Pearl Jam fans, I realized I was lukewarm all those years that I claimed to love them. I enjoyed radio hits and own most of their CDs, but my infatuation was superficial. I never gave them my heart or listened to their dark secrets or let myself be consumed by the raw emotion they pour out. Now I have. I let them in and I can't get enough of them.

A blast of white light blinded the audience as they walked onstage to take their places and they waved to the cheering crowd. Eddie held up a bottle of wine to toast the evening and another cheer filled the arena. With that gesture, a drinking game was born. My friend looked at me said, "We drink when Eddie drinks." If you see Pearl Jam in a subsequent city, play along. It's fun. They opened without commentary and played "Pendulum" from new release Lightning Bolt. The diehard fans already knew it, singing along like it was an old favorite even though it was just released last month. It was then that I had a moment of reckoning. When someone else openly appreciates someone you take for granted, it's a call to action. If you see what they see, you seek to find the connection you let go or maybe never had.

Pearl Jam spun out four or five songs before Eddie addressed the crowd with heart and generosity. It was overwhelming to feel the love in the room move back and forth between stage and audience as a reciprocal flowing circle. That love exists between most bands and their fans, but it's not always so fluid and balanced. I've seen front men beg their audiences to sing along and watched their mounting frustration as audience response fell short of what they expected or felt they deserved. Not Vedder. He opened the floodgate to drown us in his devotion while other band members channeled their own energy as a vessel to carry that emotion out to us and it flowed back to drench the band in absolute adoration. In an arena that seats more than 10,000 people, they created the kind of intimacy usually found in small club venues between local bands and their most loyal fans.

A dazzling light show shifted the mood ever so slightly as one song bled into another. A large abstract sculpture resembling a pile of bones hung over the stage, lifting and dropping, moving and changing shape in a slow dance to the music, anchoring the visual interest with complimentary lighting inside. For all the incredible light design affecting the imagery of the scene, the brightest light came from the hearts of the band.

Every good front man acknowledges his band, but sometimes it isn't the obvious introductions when you see a group with the longevity of Pearl Jam. It comes in the form of letting them shine. Mike McCready belted out several amazing solos while Eddie stood back and slugged off his wine bottle, beaming with the look of a guy who can't believe how lucky he is. There is an undercurrent of mutual respect between them. Vedder is aware that his job as a front man includes making sure that his band knows how much he appreciates them. He followed through and drew attention to each member by standing next to them and letting them know with his silence that the spotlight was theirs and they should show off a little. Watching Matt Cameron pound those skins with the passion of a man going up in flames brought tears to my eyes. I was always a little partial to drummers. When PJ brought on the former Sound Garden member in 1998, he gave them a fortitude that I didn't even know was missing until it was there.

Eddie's masterful rapport with the audience wasn't dependent on conversation, but when he spoke, it was with the grace of a true gentleman. Before they played "Jeremy", he confirmed a rumor that the song was written about a terrible local incident in Richardson, Texas. My friend got teary eyed when they finally played "Porch" at the end of the first encore while I waited for "Black", but it never came. I'm glad because there was such a great vibe that bringing it down with the relentless pain would have been emotional blackmail and who wants that?

Shortly after the first encore began, Eddie got a second bottle of wine and talked about how it had been ten years since Pearl Jam came to Dallas/Fort Worth. He said,"It's a nice place and we've got the place to ourselves." to let us know the show was far from over and a faint memory of dissonance with Rainbow Ticketmaster floated across the space in my head. In a consummate act of consideration, the band turned and gave a song directly to the people in the horrible seats behind them. I never saw a band do that and it choked me up. I got choked up a lot during this show. It was just THAT GOOD.

Pearl Jam gave everything they had and then a little bit more for three straight hours until the staff at American Airlines Center raised the house lights and threatened to pull the plug, but not before the notable Carrie Brownstein and St. Vincent joined them onstage to perform Neil Young's "Keep On Rockin' in the Free World". Yes, little girl, rock and roll dreams can come true. They gave us "Indifference" to close the night and took their bows. I always liked them, but I didn't appreciate them. I see them through new eyes. I fell hard for them and I doubt I'll be getting over it anytime soon.


Set List:
Pendulum - NEW, Lightning Bolt 2013
Nothingman - Vitalogy 1994
Can't Keep - Riot Act 2002
Interstellar Overdrive - Pink Floyd cover
Corduroy - Vitalogy 1994
Lightning Bolt - NEW, Lightning Bolt 2013
Mind Your Manners - NEW, Lightning Bolt 2013
Got Some - Backspacer 2009
Brain of J. - Yield 1998
World Wide Suicide - Pearl Jam 2006
Given to Fly - Yield 1998
Sirens - NEW, Lightning Bolt 2013
Lukin - No Code 2006
Not for You - Vitalogy 1994
Jeremy - Ten 1991
Glorified G - Vs 1993
Infallible - NEW, Lightning Bolt 2013
Unthought Known - Backspacer 2009
Better Man - Vitalogy 1994
Encore 1
Yellow Moon - NEW, Lightning Bolt 2013
Future Days - NEW, Lightning Bolt 2013
Footsteps - Lost Dogs 2003
Daughter - Vs 1993
Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns- Mother Love Bone cover
Why Go - Ten 1991
Porch - Ten 1991
Encore 2
Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town- Vs.1993
The Real Me - The Who cover
Do the Evolution - Yield 1998
Alive - Ten 1991
Rockin' in the Free World - Neil Young cover
Indifference - Vs.1993