Pearl Jam Brought Arena-Sized Intimacy to Ottawa

Canadian Tire Centre, September 3

With Pluralone

Photo: Ming Wu

BY Daniel SylvesterPublished Sep 4, 2022

After a scrapped 2020 tour, along with the temporary sidelining of drummer Matt Cameron due to COVID and throat issues for vocalist Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam's Saturday night appearance in the nation's capital was a hard-fought victory for the Seattle icons.

After his 2019 firing from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Josh Klinghoffer made his Canadian debut as a member of Pearl Jam's touring band, two years after being brought on as an auxiliary member. Opening the show under his Pluralone moniker, the California multi-instrumentalist delivered a shaky but compelling solo performance that found him looping raw guitar and keyboard tones. Offering up covers of Tom Waits ("Dirt in the Ground"), Ramones ("Teenage Lobotomy"), and Daniel Lanois ("Sometimes"), Klinghoffer won over fans by sharing his love for Canada based on his passion of hockey, The Kids in the Hall, and his respect for reproductive rights.

Opening their set seated on bar stools, emulating their iconic 1992 MTV Unplugged concert, the five members of Pearl Jam, joined by Klinghoffer and longtime keyboardist Boom Gaspar, dove deep into their catalog, delivering a graceful rendition of the guitarist Stone Gossard-penned Binaural track "Of the Girl."

As Mike McCready gripped his acoustic for album cuts "Garden" and "Alright," the guitarist ripped into a beautifully ethereal solo during "Nothing as it Seems." Throughout a trio of tracks from 1998's Yield, including "Low Light," "Given to Fly" and "Do the Evolution," the band took to their feet, as their backless stage transitioned from being draped in dark purple lights to vivid white LEDs.

Continuing to connect with the packed arena, Vedder announced that they would be playing a track by "the greatest musician of all time" before launching into Neil Young's "Throw Your Hatred Down." As bassist Jeff Ament briefly moved to one of the stage's many keyboards for Gigaton single "Dance of the Clairvoyants," the band transitioned into the night's crowd-pleasing second half. Keeping the onstage energy sky-high during singalong performances of "Corduroy" and "Immortality," the band reached back to their wildly popular debut Ten for "Even Flow," "Black," "Jeremy," and "Porch."

Throughout their set, Vedder charmed those in attendance with a handful of stories about Ottawa fans who have reached out to him throughout the past two and a half years, including a "hero frontline nurse" who was celebrating her birthday, and "my new friend, Ashley," whom he plucked out of the crowd to watch the show from side-stage. But the most touching moment came from Vedder's remembrance of Taylor Hawkins (just hours after the broadcasting of the late Foo Fighters drummer's tribute concert), in which he praised his indelible energy, saying, "you know the kind, you had Gord Downie."

After a nearly two-hour performance, Pearl Jam returned for a whopping six-song encore, which found the band swivelling 180 degrees to perform "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town" for the concertgoers seated behind the stage. Moving into their cover of Victoria Williams's "Crazy Mary," which found Gaspar playing off McCready during their extended solo, the house lights illuminated the entire arena as the septet closed the night off with their second Neil Young cover ("Fuckin' Up") alongside iconic B-side "Yellow Ledbetter."

Never allowing the energy to dip throughout their marathon set, all while forming a bond with their fans and including numerous nods to Ottawa, Pearl Jam achieved the impossible: creating a wholly intimate and personal experience for around 20,000 people.

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