Why Eddie Vedder delayed the “crown jewel” gig of Chicago in the first place for a good hour, well aware of an encroaching thunderstorm is a bit of a dickhead rockstar move, leading to a field evacuation and 2.5 hour delay as a sold out crowd either went home or got piss drunk on $9 beers. But then again the arena vets’ new record is called Lightning Bolt, and Vedder did promise the breaking of curfews before splitting at seven songs with a dedication to Wrigleyville “hearts and thoughts” on Vs. staple, “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town,” everyone putting their best Vedder impression on for its last breath yearn:
By the time Pearl Jam did make it back on stage, people were surprisingly civil, with most anger directed toward how lonely the empty seats on the field looked. The biggest fear this journalist had was a mad bum-rush to fill said seats, and the potential for some Roskilde nightmare to take place. But again, Vedder and crew did things right, thanking and apologizing to no end, donning a Cubs jersey and easing into the acoustic heartstring tugger everyone knew would come at some point – “All The Way” – weaving the cathartics of baseball’s most lovable losers, his favorite team, and Chicago pride in another sweet singalong, even bringing out Ernie Banks to sing a verse:
With most of the sentimental moments out of the way, Vedder meditating on the beautiful “color” he witnessed walking into the “dank corridor” of left field for the first time as a boy, giving his baseball glove to Banks on stage, the mood rightly got rowdy as a series of classic shredders from “Do the Evolution” to “Corduroy” and brand new punk jam “Mind Your Manners” saw Mike McCready scissor-kicking solos and fans still yelping along to the political relevancies of apeshit choruses of a band 23 years into its game:
McCready did wear out his welcome after a ridiculous Van Halen solo, with Vedder attempting to add a bit of humor with an accordion ballad of Vitalogy‘s “Piggies,” the kooky “Bugs.” But it was packaged around plenty of more setlist favorites from “Evenflow” to “Leatherman” and Backspacer‘s “Unthought Known,” thousands of arms up wide howling its homage to starlight, Vedder’s wine-soaked drawl in perfect pitch throughout:
Sneaking in two more new jams from the new record, its workhorse pop-punk title-track and an organ-led ballad dubbed “Future Days,” team PJ rode well into 2 a.m., thanking Theo Epstein and Rahm Emanuel for their help with some charitable donations for Chicago youth, Vedder lacing metaphors amongst “Life Wasted” and a cover of Pink Floyd‘s “Mother” to wax on his ever-long battle with hope and change, capped with just about the closest thing to his rafter-climbing Ten days of yore on “Porch,” swinging from a low-hanging green-lantern to drive home the fury of its fist for the disenfranchised:
And then, there we were, in a stock “Black” set-closer, storm long passed, when Vedder finally gave into the curfew as Matt Cameron carried out a marching beat with a Cubs joke, Vedder assuring that they’d “like to play every summer until the Cubs win,” which would be at least “like the next three summers,” before busting out the tambourines, jacking up the Friendly Confines lights to maximum white-bright and “Rockin’ in the Free World” until Neil Young could hear it in Canada or wherever he is these days, “An Evening (and now morning)” with the last of a dying arena breed who can still deliver a rock promise.