Concert Reviews

Pearl Jam Celebrated its 24th Birthday With a Rousing Denver Show and All the Wine

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Musically, Pearl Jam is as strong as ever, though it has never, in my opinion, found a drummer as dynamic (and fitting) as the creative Dave Abbruzzese, who was kicked out of the band in 1994, reportedly because Vedder found his drumming and his drumkit "too metal." Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron -- who deservedly received profuse tributes from Vedder and the crowd last night -- has brought hard, precise beats to Pearl Jam since 1998 but is at times too predictable.

Regardless, lead guitarist Mike McCready (who, like Vedder, jumps around a lot) was the MVP last night, and really the MVP of Pearl Jam (which most people don't notice unless they see a concert film or attend a Pearl Jam show). McCready is a vastly underrated soloist who suffers from Crohn's disease and has come through health scares and substance-abuse problems to really define the term "late-career peak," running laps around the big Pepsi Center stage as he strummed during "Rearview Mirror"; wowing the Denver crowd with a version of the Eddie Van Halen classic "Eruption" before Pearl Jam dusted off "Of the Earth"; and generally providing the kind of singular lead-guitar voice that can make a rock band a classic rock band.

Rarities and covers (notably a solo version of John Lennon's "Imagine" by Vedder during a short acoustic set) abound, but no matter the song selection, Pearl Jam's clear purpose is to keep its inspirational energy level sky-high...and swing giant light bulbs over the crowd until one shatters and the stage crew freaks out. The Seattle favorites succeeded at both last night.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: My older brother, a longtime Pearl Jam fanatic who incessantly played a cassette version of Ten in his beat-up Honda Civic when the album came out and he'd just learned to drive, texted me throughout the show, my first Pearl Jam concert, letting me know how exciting it was setlist-wise. I'm pretty sure the cassette fell through the holes in the Civic's floor and was lost at one point.

Random Detail: Vedder, who also cracked numerous legal-pot jokes, correctly, and hilariously, pointed out that the Canadian flag hung in the Pepsi Center is slightly larger than the American flag next to it.

By The Way: According to Performance Environment Design Group, Pearl Jam's "garbage bird" set piece is "made out of mostly steel tubing with mixed media accents like wood and rope [and] inspired by a bird sketch from the band. The trick was to make the giant piece look heavy and raw while keeping it light and transportable."

SETLIST

Pearl Jam 10/22/14 - Pepsi Center Denver, Colorado

Release Low Light Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town Last Exit Why Go Lightning Bolt Mind Your Manners Setting Forth Leatherman My Father's Son Even Flow Ghost Present Tense Do the Evolution Eruption Of the Earth Given to Fly Sirens Don't Gimme No Lip Lukin Porch

Encore: Future Days Sleight of Hand Imagine Mother Last Kiss Breath Leash Rearviewmirror

Encore II: Once Black State of Love and Trust Better Man Wasted Reprise Life Wasted Alive Baba O'Riley Yellow Ledbetter

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Pittsburgh native Adam Perry is a cyclist, drummer and University of Pittsburgh and Naropa University alum. He lives in Boulder and has written for Westword since 2008.
Contact: Adam Perry

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