Eddie Vedder * 4.7.08 * Berkeley, CA
"Trying to remember, but my feelings can't know for sure
Try to reach out, but it's gone
Lucky stars in your eyes..."
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(Review from Heather at www.fuelfriends.blogspot.com)
With those lyrics, Eddie Vedder took the stage Monday night in Berkeley with a rare Daniel Johnston cover that I've heard only a handful of times since 1994. Sitting on a gorgeous set with actual decoration and design (old suitcases, projection machine, gold lamé wings, a backdrop facade with abstract buildings of wood, later lifted to reveal blue skies) Vedder strolled out, hung his coat up on a hook like he was entering his living room, and sat down with us for over two hours.
Thanks to the good people at the Ten Club, I was in Row C and felt intimately engaged in Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall (capacity 2089) with its pristine, warm acoustics. Given the amount of banter back from the crowd, maybe the acoustics were too good. Maybe we can work out the one-way directional acoustics somehow. More on that later.
Accompanied with an arsenal of guitars, ukuleles, a banjo, and an amplified footboard, Vedder's set was a far-reaching collection of solo tunes from the Into The Wild soundtrack, unreleased songs and covers, with only a handful of standard Pearl Jam tunes -- and many of those deep cuts from the back catalog. It was really a delight for this fan to see material I had never heard live, and Vedder's voice sounded rich and golden and pure.
There was little variation from the setlists of previous nights, so anyone who had read a review in the paper or trolled the boards online knew what was coming next. I would have liked to see a little bit more changeup from night to night, as there are so many great songs he could have explored, but I am not complaining.
The soaring "I Am Mine" is a favorite song, and it was gorgeous to hear early on in the night, as was the rare "Dead Man" from the Penn film soundtrack (Sean Penn was there both nights, I hear). Dead Man was the very first song I ever saw Vedder perform, in a solo pre-set at the San Jose show in 1995, so it was a somber treat to see it again. The rarely heard "I'm Open" from 1996's No Code was played as a modified version that left out the spoken word bit about a man lying in bed in a room with no door (good call there, Ed).
"Man of the Hour" did a phosphorescent slow-burn with its malleable melody and honey-rich vocals, while "Porch" was not something I was expecting, and completely rocked my face off. Ed's furiously strumming arm was a rapid-fire blur of heart and urgency, and I found myself (quietly!) singing along to every word and meaning it. That's my favorite song off Ten on most days, one of the few songs off that album that I could hear a good number more times live. It was nice to hear a rocker in with the acoustic stuff. And Lukin!! Acoustic performances of Lukin are something I never fail to get a kick out of.
Despite Ed's requests for mitigation of the constant barrage of comments from the small crowd, the living room feel proved too enticing for many who wanted a chance to converse with their idol in that quiet setting. Vedder first quoted Tom Waits in a gruff imitation, saying Waits had once revealed to him that "silence is like a blank piece of paper," then later telling the yellers a bit more blatantly to "shut the fuck up," to little avail. From song requests to comments about everything from presidential candidates (wait, he's supporting Obama?! Shocker) to general supportive "We love you" sentiments, I kept really wishing people would please just sit quietly and listen to the man I came to hear. I'm all for enthusiasm but it got a bit much after a thousand times.
One guy did yell after "Guaranteed" that Ed should've won an Academy Award, to which Ed humorously mused that he had been watching VH1 'I Love the 80s' special recently, and had seen that the Ghostbusters theme won an Oscar in 1985. "That song I just played you is not as good as Ghostbusters," he said with a smile, "but I'm going to keep trying." Ed also threw in some pretty horrifying song lyrics from a Bay Area punk band called the Yeastie Girls, during a conversation about Fugazi. The words yeast and girls should really never ever be used in a sentence together, much less a band name. Please and thank you.
After an amazing run of well-selected cover songs, Ed closed his first encore with the vocal loopings of the song "Arc" from 2002's Riot Act. The piece incorporates layers of wordless vocalizations, and was written for the 9 Pearl Jam fans killed in the crowd during the tragic happenings of the 2000 Roskilde festival. In 2003, Pearl Jam played this song at 9 shows, one show for each of the victims. It is rarely-played, a raw and haunting piece that echoed on after the blue velvet curtain closed and Ed left the stage.