The town of Telluride was abuzz in anticipation of Saturday night’s Ride Festival headliner, Pearl Jam. Pre-show rumors were rampant, ranging from a possible Neil Young appearance, to an all-acoustic show, to Mike McCready and Eddie Vedder requesting oxygen backstage due to the altitude. By show time, the ~11,000 capacity venue at Town Park was packed with fans, both young and old; from veteran to rookie.
As the band took the stage (and their respective stools) before sunset, frontman Eddie Vedder eased into the first 12 songs of the set with slower tempo titles from their catalogue. Leading with “Nothingman,” into the haunting “Pendulum” and Binaural’s “Thin Air“ before the ukulele was then brought out to Vedder for “Sleeping by Myself.” As if apologizing for taking it slow, Vedder mentioned several times over the course of the roughly 2.5 hour show, his concern over the extremely high altitude affecting their stamina – even joking about the strange head buzz some high notes were creating.
Seven songs in, reaching way back into the vault, the audience was treated to a rarity, when Pearl Jam played “Angel” for the first time since March 13, 1994. Another nugget followed when the band premiered Vedder solo song “Society” off the Into the Wild soundtrack.
Not until song 12 did the boys finally kick it up a notch with old school crowd favorites “Corduroy” and “Why Go,” followed by “Mind Your Manners” from the band’s latest LP Lightning Bolt, the mainstream favorite “Evenflow” and funkalicious “Glorified G.”
The festival’s Fred Shellman stage configuration (being high and narrow) seemed constrictive at times, prohibiting both lead guitarist Mike McCready and Vedder from wandering wide and interacting with the crowd, as is their custom during long solos and signature jam session songs (although both managed to leave the stage via makeshift crate-stairs and enter the crowd a few times).
Usually outspoken and not shy about using the stage as a political platform, Vedder consciously chose to keep the mood light throughout, preferring to honor the natural beauty of the setting and positive energy of the festival. The only real statement came with a timely and slight (yet profound) change in lyrics during the “WMA” tag following Daughter: “Police shot my brother again… Don’t understand Can’t understand Don’t understand Can’t understand…”
The Wednesday prior to the kick-off of Ride Festival, local bar The Cornerhouse and radio station KOTO, held an EDDIE VEDDER KARAOKE CONTEST to win a weekend pass. Pearl Jam’s people caught wind of this and requested the names of the winners just prior to the show. Consequently, Vedder invited both Caitlin Ketel and Brittany Hale on stage to sing with him during “Daughter” for a little entertainment and to show love on the local folks who worked so hard putting on the 5th annual Ride Festival.
Extending more well-deserved love to the local area, another rarity was pulled out with some more playful lyrical changes. “Santa Cruz,” only performed once before (at Bridge School 2010), was aptly changed to “Telluride.”
For the second time this tour, Pearl Jam covered Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down” which was followed by the always popular “Smile,” dedicated to fan David who lost a good friend and brother Mikey. Rounding out the healthy 29-song festival set, Pearl Jam finished strong with “Given to Fly,” Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb,” “Black,” stand-by rotational cover “Crazy Mary” (complete with Vedder sharing wine with the crowd and handing out EDVED picks to the large amount of littles in the front row), “Alive” and “Yellow Ledbetter.”
Given the picturesque venue, the friendly locals, the infectious good vibes, and the above-average festival set, I’d say the audience was treated to a special evening with Pearl Jam. Some even referred to it as “magical” – which I can’t refute when reflecting on the whole experience. And quoting one fan’s reaction the next day, “Vedder’s voice is like bud-dah.” Yeah, I’d say they’ve “still got it, still got it!”
Article: Shannon Leigh