Concert review: Pearl Jam delivers a show for the ages at Amelie Arena, Tampa

Eddie Vedder & Co touched on all eras of their 25-year career during a nearly three-hour performance this past Mon., April 11.

click to enlarge Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam performing at Amalie Arena on Mon., April 11, 2016 - Tracy May
Tracy May
Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam performing at Amalie Arena on Mon., April 11, 2016


Just a sec — checking my Thesaurus.

Phenomenal. Awe-inspiring. Unforgettable. Transcendent. Puissant (look it up). Oh, and let’s not forget … fuckin’ great.

Those are just a handful of words to describe Monday night’s Pearl Jam concert at Amalie Arena. And just so you know: This is coming from a long-time fan and advocate who’s seen the band more times than I can specifically say (but just so you don’t mistake me for a Deadhead/caravan type, it’s somewhere around 10). [Text by Eric, photos by Tracy.]

click to enlarge Pearl Jam at Amalie Arena - Tracy May
Tracy May
Pearl Jam at Amalie Arena
Pearl Jam’s two-hour-and-45-minute set did little more than declare the life-affirming power of an extraordinary rock ‘n’ roll show. Its 32 songs spanned the band’s 25-year recording career (the only album not represented was 2000’s Binaural), ranging from rage-fueled punk-rock to meditative ballads.

click to enlarge Concert review: Pearl Jam delivers a show for the ages at Amelie Arena, Tampa - Tracy May
Tracy May
Concert review: Pearl Jam delivers a show for the ages at Amelie Arena, Tampa
Eddie Vedder, the can’t-take-your-eyes-off-him frontman, appears, at 51, as fit and vibrant as ever, his tortured-soul days behind him. He was grimly confessional at times, buoyantly playful others, and always intensely immersed in the experience. He regularly cast a light on his mates, specifically including a tribute to drummer Matt Cameron. This is a band whose very apparent esprit de corps suffuses its performances.

click to enlarge Concert review: Pearl Jam delivers a show for the ages at Amelie Arena, Tampa - Tracy May
Tracy May
Concert review: Pearl Jam delivers a show for the ages at Amelie Arena, Tampa
Vedder bounded informally onto the stage at 8:30 p.m. carrying what appeared to be a bound notebook, which he set on the floor. His four bandmates followed and took their positions. Vedder mumbled something, saluted the crowd with a bottle of red wine, then the quintet launched into “Why Go” from its monumental 1991 debut Ten.

click to enlarge Concert review: Pearl Jam delivers a show for the ages at Amelie Arena, Tampa - Tracy May
Tracy May
Concert review: Pearl Jam delivers a show for the ages at Amelie Arena, Tampa
This briefly blasted me back to April 22, 1992, when Pearl Jam debuted in the Bay area at Jannus Landing with a jaw-dropping show — the kind of historic show that people say they were at, even if they weren’t. (I was, honest). At the time, the band only had enough material to play about 70 minutes.

Quite a bit has changed since then. And quite a bit has not (see “life-affirming power,” above). Pearl Jam sucked me back into the present with another rager, “Mind Your Manners,” from 2013’s improbably terrific Lightning Bolt album.

click to enlarge Matt McCready, Pearl Jam. - Tracy May
Tracy May
Matt McCready, Pearl Jam.
A simmering guitar/drums build-up pushed the audience to anticipatory frenzy, and then the opening riff of “Corduroy” pushed the whole thing into delightful bedlam.

It pretty much went on — and on — that way:

Repeated crescendos: “Evenflow” (Mike McCready leaning into the crowd, playing guitar behind his head Hendrix-style). “Lightning Bolt” (for which Vedder summoned a lighting effect in the rafters used at Tampa Bay Lightning games). “Jeremy” (with its cacophonous sing-along). “Alive” (after which Vedder mock-collapsed to the floor), followed by set-closing tandem of The Who’s pulse-pounding “Baba O’Reilly” and the wind-down, Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing.”

click to enlarge Matt Cameron, Pearl Jam - Tracy May
Tracy May
Matt Cameron, Pearl Jam
Tender moments: “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town,” played acoustically, facing the crowd behind the stage. John Lennon’s “Imagine,” dedicated to war veterans.

Outliers: “Come Back,” a medium-tempo, bluesy tune from Pearl Jam that proved to be a Vedder vocal tour de force. The choppy “In the Moonlight,” a 2012 fan club track. “Hard to Imagine,” a moving ballad from 2003 odds-and-sods collection Lost Dogs.

An instructive thing happened about 80 minutes in. Pearl Jam finished a manic “Blood,” then left the stage. At normal concerts, this would cue the audience to go batshit demanding an encore. This crowd just chilled. They knew their guys were just taking a break; they’d be back, and for quite a while. At that point, the crowd needed a little break, too.

What ultimately struck me about this 25-year band’s concert was its root honesty, its utter lack of cynicism. Pearl Jam is not too cool for sincerity, for caring. It’s very clear that this band staunchly believes in the life-affirming power of an extraordinary rock ‘n’ roll show.

click to enlarge Cheers. - Tracy May
Tracy May
Cheers.

About The Authors

Eric Snider

Eric Snider is the dean of Bay area music critics. He started in the early 1980s as one of the founding members of Music magazine, a free bi-monthly. He was the pop music critic for the then-St. Petersburg Times from ‘87-’93. Snider was the music critic, arts editor and senior editor of Weekly Planet/Creative...
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