You know a band is gigantic when they refer to a concert at Viejas Arena as being “intimate.” When Eddie Vedder announced this to an audience of 12,000 fans, he was not joking. Circa 2013, this somehow is an intimate showcase for Pearl Jam. The boys who penned “Alive” back in the early '90s haven’t done so bad for themselves over the years.
Pearl Jam may seem a bit more like Who’s Next–era Who these days, but it was still the golden grunge oldies that seemed to hit the crowd the hardest. A ridiculously elongated take of “Even Flow” was one of the first songs to lift the audience into a frenzy. You know how you can tell a band has performed a song a billion times? When the lead guitarist (in this case Mike McCready) chooses to execute the entire extended solo section with his axe behind his head a la Jimi Hendrix. In yet another ode to Hendrix, McCready knocked out a searing version of “The Star Spangled Banner” near the end of the concert.
Early in the night Eddie Vedder was hinting at the fact that it was going to be a long show and, once again, he wasn’t joking. The band started around 8:30 and concluded just before midnight. The main set was 20 songs deep, followed by two seven-song encores. The concert had a great looseness to it, as there was no opener, and the band had numerous friends and family in attendance. At one point Vedder pointed out his brother, who happened to be working a spotlight in the rigging; Vedder later had a bottle of wine hand-delivered by audience members from the stage to his mother. He even mentioned the fact that he originally recorded “Better Man” on a cheap cassette recorder just blocks away from the arena.
The second set of encores was easily the highlight of the night. The proceedings kicked off with the rollicking ode to women “Leaving Here” and concluded with two other fantastic covers, “Baba O’Riley” (The Who) and “Rockin’ In The Free World” (Neil Young). About halfway through this encore, the house lights came on, an apparent signal that the concert was about to end. The band ignored the arena’s advice and soldiered on under bright, fluorescent lighting for another half hour. I guess when you’re as big as Pearl Jam, and an intimate show is 12,000 people, no one is gonna be dumb enough to pull the plug on you.
- Concert: Pearl Jam
- Date: November 21
- Venue: Viejas Arena at SDSU
- Seats: Section S/row 26/seats 1+2