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Eddie Vedder

Eddie Vedder at Tower Theater in Upper Darby, PA, June 11th, 2009

Jun 17, 2009 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

As the frontman for the only good band to come out of the grunge period still thriving, Eddie Vedder has both reaped the benefits and shouldered the blames for being the second-most recognizable face of grunge. Make what you will of the more recent output from his main gig, Vedder and his gang have enjoyed a longevity rarely seen by bands of their time, and they still enjoy a rabid following. Vedder is proving, however, with his one-man shows, that he is deserving of a class completely by himself, irrespective of his work with his main band and rivaling that of his idols, Neil Young and Pete Townshend.

June 11th found Vedder gracing the stage at Upper Darby’s Tower Theater for the third night of his 14-date solo trek, his first since last summer’s jaunt. On this night, Vedder highlighted songs from his soundtrack to the Sean Penn film Into the Wild, along with select Pearl Jam songs and covers, played on guitar, ukulele, and mandolin. If this sounds to you like an exercise in ego stroking or a tedious attempt to rake in some cash in between Pearl Jam albums, then you would be dead wrong. Opening with Daniel Johnston’s “Walking the Cow,” Vedder showcased his powerful vocals and better-than-expected guitar playing through 90 minutes of a performance that was both loose and masterful. Despite forgetting lyrics and muffing song endings, things that happened more than once on this night, Vedder’s compositions were, in almost every case, more powerful tonight than they are on record. Even the raucous “Lukin,” originally off Pearl Jam’s 1996 album No Code, was more raw and immediate than its full-band version.

Perhaps even more impressive than the artistic delivery, however, was how Vedder was able to hold a capacity crowd of over 3,000 in the palm of his hand. Whether telling stories about Jack Nicholson or Julius Erving, taking a break for a drink and a smoke, during which he chatted up the crowd, or interjecting pieces of Pink Floyd (some of “Brain Damage” worked as the intro to “Sometimes”) and ABBA (a bit of “Fernando” preceded Into the Wild’s “Rise”), Vedder kept the crowd enrapt and hanging on his every word. After closing the set proper with an impromptu cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City,” the aforementioned “Lukin,” and a blazing “Porch,” Vedder encored with a few songs played with opener Liam Finn—“Society,” the old Hunters & Collectors anthem “Throw Your Arms Around Me,” and “Hard Sun,” which Vedder, Finn, and Finn’s musical partner Eliza Jane Barnes played in front of sea-and-sky backdrop. [As an aside, for the fans who chose to stay in the vestibule area drinking and snacking before Vedder’s performance, Finn and Barnes staked their claim as perhaps the most electrifying duo since The White Stripes, evidenced by their loop-crazy 45-minute set.]

Pearl Jam is, and probably always will be Eddie Vedder’s main gig. However, at the close of this night, it was clear that the power inherent in Vedder’s voice, his songwriting, his playing, and his overall presence can capture a room just as well as his band can, and, in this humble reviewer’s opinion, even better. We know that Vedder worships at the feet of rock idols. If he keeps performing like this, a place will be reserved for him alongside them.

Author rating: 8/10


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Gary Knight
June 18th 2009

Great review, Frank.