Published Sep 12, 2011There should be a rule written for any band who plays in a stadium who has the financial resources to hire a decent soundperson: Never, ever should one's ears threaten to bleed when they are sitting 500 yards away from the stage.
Despite that, Mudhoney, in town to open for their longtime friends (and co-survivors from the '90s grunge scene), put on a surprisingly solid set, showing that muscle does not deteriorate with age, as they sounded less garage-y and more polished than their initial heyday in the early '90s. Their 1988 hit "Touch Me I'm Sick" was meatier than the original and performed to a thin but appreciative crowd.
Pearl Jam's opener, "Long Road," was befitting of not only Pearl Jam's 20 years of existence but also the events they have planned this fall. Right before they began their 20th anniversary tour (and first in five years), the band premiered the documentary Pearl Jam Twenty at the Toronto International Film Festival. In hindsight, the surprisingly dexterous Mudhoney were a fitting prequel to a impressively fit Pearl Jam. Sure, there was no way in hell 46-year-old vocalist Eddie Vedder was going to climb lighting scaffold and propel himself into the crowd like the good ol' days, but watching guitarist Mike McCready bouncing around the stage and Vedder pulling off some Elvis-like shimmies and impressive vocals, it was obvious the band were on top of their physical game.
The stage was set like the band: uncomplicated, yet thanks to well-executed lighting, bright and positive, consisting of the quintet, a touring keyboardist and a mountain of mismatched amps. Relatively small in comparison to other artists who have played the ACC, the stage seemed to have an intimate affect despite the sold-out crowd.
Pearl Jam churned out a collection of tracks from Ten, Vs., Vitalogy and their latest, 2009's Backspacer, such as "Not for You," "The Fixer," "Better Man," "Once" and "Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town," whereby lighters were replaced by the digital glow of cellphone screens as the audience waved and sang along to the chorus. The set list was full of what could be considered singles from a band who have eschewed videos and social media marketing, but with 20 years of recorded material for the group to draw from, not everyone in the crowd was going to be familiar with everything.
During the encore, Vedder mused over the comparisons between their hometown, Seattle, and Toronto. "Both have cement erections," he joked. "But Toronto's is bigger."
Early on in the show, Vedder mentioned the musical relevance of Neil Young and downplayed Pearl Jam's longevity in comparison to his. But people were still shocked when during their encore, Young joined them on stage to perform "Rockin' in the Free World," serving as the icing on the cake for this stellar musical event.
To see Exclaim!'s Pearl Jam photo gallery, courtesy of Fil ZuZarte, head here. You can also watch Neil Young join Pearl Jam in the video below.