Photo Credit: Barbara Sheridan
According to Eddie Vedder
, Pearl Jam hasn’t played Florida very often. This made the fact that he was ending his 2012 solo tour with 8 shows in the state all the more special. Add to that a 6-month tour postponement and fans were absolutely frothing once Vedder finally came to town.
As on his 2011 tour, Vedder was joined on the road by Irish singer-songwriter Glen Hansard
. A healthy dose of applause greeted him as he walked onto the stage and introduced himself. The 2007 Academy Award winner pulled the audience along with his plaintive, earnest brand of acoustic rock. Original songs like “Leave” or “This Gift” or “Say It To Me Now”, a song where he unplugged his battered guitar and stepped out from behind the microphone to the very front of the stage, filling the venue with his plaintive voice and strumming like he’s back to busking on Grafton Street in Dublin.
Hansard laced his set with selective covers as well, from the likes Van Morrison and Daniel Johnston. Morrison’s “Astral Weeks,” with a crunchy, distorted acoustic breakdown gave way to a couple lines from Pearl Jam’s “Smile”, as if to prepare the crowd for what was to come for the evening. An a capella clap-a-long of Johnston’s quirky “Devil Town” ended Hansard's set with a nice balance of levity and fun.
The crowd came alive as the plucked melody of “Tuolumne”, from the 2007 Into the Wild
motion picture soundtrack, hit the PA. They jumped to their feet as the curtain rose and Eddie Vedder entered from Stage Left. The crowd remained standing as Vedder opened the show with a “1-2-3-4-2-3” as he led the fans through the Pearl Jam sing-a-long “Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town,” which he then followed with another PJ tune “I Am Mine” before he encouraged the audience to sit down and take advantage of the nice seats they paid their hard-earned money for.
“We are going to be here awhile”, he said. Picking up a Ukulele for “Can’t Keep,” yet another song from Pearl Jam, but one that he covered on his sophomore solo effort 2011's Ukulele Songs
. These first 3 songs offered very little hint of what was to come, as he weaved from instrument to instrument, hardly ever using the same one for consecutive songs. The ukulele made a strong showing, especially early on, including a very rare 1952 vintage Gibson model with an electric pickup. This little guy gets LOUD! Eddie then jumped between acoustic guitars for Bob Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country,” as well as “Far Behind” and “Guaranteed” as Eddie implored the audience to follow him into the wild.Photo Credit: Barbara Sheridan
Accompanied by an on-stage campfire and twinkling LED star curtain for a backdrop, this section of songs from the Into The Wild film soundtrack felt like a definitive touchstone for Eddie Vedder. Like a compass, working on this compilation allowed him to find a direction toward playing these types of shows. Away from the comfort and stability of the group which he has fronted for over 20 years most certainly provides for a more vulnerable and honest yet powerful performance. Acoustic guitars and ukuleles are obvious tools in these more intimate settings but that doesn’t mean Vedder is afraid to test the local noise ordinance. Electric guitars provide the perfect accompaniment for Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage” that bled into Pearl Jam’s “Sometimes,” as well as a rollicking version of Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open The Door”. PJ’s “Immortality” also benefitted from the elevated amplification levels, along with a “stomp box,” whose thunder resonated throughout the hall.
Mr. Vedder brought Mr. Hansard out for more stage time as they harmonized through “Sleepless Nights” and “Society,” which included an extended strumming drag race to the finish. They finished up with Glen's Oscar-worthy hit “Falling Slowly,” which Eddie remarked was a song he'd miss singing, and claiming that he’ll miss singing it with “the best friend a guy could ask for”. This song was a truly sublime moment and I’m sure the audience would have been satisfied had the curtain dropped at this point. But not Vedder, who continued on into the more recent PJ territory with “Just Breathe” and “Unthought Known”.
Wrapping up with Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” finally brought the curtain down and Eddie ran along the edge of the stage thanking the fans, many of whom had left their seats and made their way to the front at this point. He ducked between the curtain and disappeared for a few minutes before returning, in front of a new, very brightly, almost sunlit, stage with the image of infinite sky and calm sea as a backdrop. Glen once again joined Eddie on stage for “Hard Sun.” This is the single moment that became compulsory for the solo shows. It’s in this performance that Vedder’s at his “rock star” best as he wails on his Fender Stratocaster guitar at the front of the stage. He worked every inch as the stage floor filled with haze and the audience was treated to some Townshend-esque jumps and guitar work. In what could have been billed as “A quiet evening with Edward Vedder,” we’ve been reminded throughout that he’s not afraid to turn up the volume. All Photos Courtesy Of Barbara Sheridan PhotographyPhoto Credit: Barbara Sheridan
Photo Credit: Barbara Sheridan