After a long wait during which most fans held onto their tickets for over two years, Pearl Jam played the second show of their 2022 Gigaton Tour Wednesday night at Kia Forum in Inglewood, CA.
For the many who consider Eddie Vedder and company the ultimate arena band, Pearl Jam’s return to this live music mecca for the first time since 2006 simply could not have come soon enough, especially as this show was rescheduled from April 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Friday’s show marked Pearl Jam’s fifth since 2018, four of which had been festival sets at Sea.Hear.Now. and Ohana in addition to Tuesday’s tour opener in San Diego.
Pearl Jam’s return to arena play has been long-awaited, and where better than—in Eddie Vedder’s words—“The Fabulous F–king Forum!” Not since 2016 has the band played an arena tour, so while it was nearly impossible to recall the power and raw energy that is a Pearl Jam arena show after a six-year hiatus, muscle memory alone was enough to fill the seats, even for the late-arriving California crowd. Eddie Vedder treated early concertgoers to a solo performance of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” before introducing opening act Pluralone.
The six-song set from former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Josh Klinghoffer‘s solo project put the talents of Pearl Jam’s newest touring member on display, endearing him to those who arrived early just days after Pearl Jam released the first band portrait with him included. Playing an avant garde blend of hard rock and modern jazz, Klinghoffer was joined by both guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament at different points during the set. A faithful interpretation of Alice In Chain’s “Nutshell” highlighted the one man band’s many talents while exposing the true meaning behind the name Pluralone.
A short while later, the lights dimmed and Pearl Jam took the stage as Eddie Vedder, the very picture of cool in a black leather jacket, serenaded fans with “Of The Girl”. This rare and highly sought opener from the band’s sixth studio effort, Binaural, was indicative that Pearl Jam might dig a little deeper into the catalog on the tour’s second night, and indeed they did just that, playing songs from each of their first six albums over the course of the 22-song set.
As Stone Gossard has said in numerous interviews, there’s nothing like the longest title in the Pearl Jam catalog to help a room settle in, and “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” did just that in the two-hole, the crowd screaming, “Hello!” as the room was bathed in yellow light.
Hard rocker “Superblood Wolfmoon” ushered in Mr. Vedder’s first sips of Barolo along with the first of six tracks from Gigaton—Pearl Jam’s 11th studio album and namesake of the tour. As is always the case, setlist staple “Corduroy” blew some minds before Eddie Vedder made his first remarks of the night, reminding the crowd, “We’re not just anywhere, we’re in the fabulous Forum!”
No one holds a crowd quite like Vedder. The band retreated to the shadows as story time began, Vedder recounting how he missed a performance of The Wall in this building because his friend forgot the tickets as Mike McCready punctuated the tale with a quick lick from “Wish You Were Here”.
The David Byrne-esque “Dance Of The Clairvoyants” followed, led by Jeff Ament’s punchy synth bass before the hard hitting “Quick Escape”. “Faithful” was next, one of Yield’s rarer cuts, played for the first time since 2016. As Vedder turned political for the first time and said with passion, “If the guy you are with isn’t pro-choice, then he shouldn’t be allowed to f–k you,” the band launched into “Not For You”, equally forceful with its “my body, my choice” message as it was in its original diatribe against the Ticketmaster monopoly in the ’90s.
After the Gossard-penned “Buckle Up”, Vedder next shouted out original drummer Dave Krusen who was believed to be in the building before a searing “Even Flow” in which guitarist Mike McCready melted faces as he poured out years worth of pent up aggression from the band’s forced hiatus. As it usually does, a quick story on author Howard Zinn preceded Lost Dogs’ “Down”.
There’s nothing like crying tears of joy at a concert, and “Nothingman” and “Present Tense” literally reduced the audience to tears before the band returned to Gigaton with “Who Ever Said”. Relevant as the day it was written, “Porch” closed the main set in hard core rock and roll fashion.
After a brief encore break, the band ripped into “State of Love and Trust” before facing the back and evoking more tears during “Wishlist”. “Do The Evolution” was rowdy as ever before my wife’s all time favorite, “Black”, a song she’s never seen live but that the band is guaranteed to play whenever I’m there alone. Sorry, babe, but this one’s for you.
As is usually the case, “Alive” was played under the full glow of the house lights as the PJ faithful reveled in the song that set this train in motion 31 years ago. More than anything, “Alive” reminds me life is a gift and every live Pearl Jam performance is a blessing, inspiring me to treat my neighbor as I’d like to be treated and to make the most of every moment. “Yellow Ledbetter” punctuated the evening, McCready giving a highly intimate solo from his knees at the end of the stage as Vedder wailed the time-honored and ne’er-understood lyrics.
Many reviewers maintain a semblance of clinical detachment, writing from the act-like-you’ve-been-there-before point-of-view. But not all of us. Emotion and feeling are both the what and the why I flew across the country on Mother’s Day weekend and went straight from the airport to the GA line. As a result, I took this beauty in from the second row in the pit and was reminded for the umpteenth time why attending a live Pearl Jam concert is quite simply the greatest feeling in the world. The setlist tells a partial story, as do these words, but the complete picture can only be felt in the flesh. Power. Energy. Mysticism. It’s something that everyone should experience for themselves at least once, and then again and again and again—and again.
Check out a gallery of photos from Pearl Jam’s first of two nights at the Forum below courtesy of Matthew Rea.
Pearl Jam will play the backend of this two-night stand at Kia Forum tonight, Saturday May, 7th. Tour details and ticketing information are available here.
Pearl Jam – “Black” – 5/6/22
[Video: Marc Komito]
Setlist: Pluralone | Kia Forum | Inglewood, CA | 5/6/2022
Set: Offend, Save, Buttercup (Brad) , Nutshell (Alice in Chains), Scape , The Night Won’t Scare Me 
 With Stone Gossard
 With Jeff Ament
 Live debut
Setlist: Pearl Jam | Kia Forum | Inglewood, CA | 5/6/2022
Set: Of the Girl, Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town, Superblood Wolfmoon, Corduroy, Dance of the Clairvoyants, Quick Escape, Faithful, Not for You, Buckle Up, Even Flow, Never Destination, Down, Nothingman, Present Tense, Who Ever Said, Porch
Encore: State of Love and Trust, Wishlist, Do the Evolution, Black, Alive, Yellow Ledbetter
Notes: Eddie Veder performed “I Won’t Back Down” (Tom Petty) solo before introducing Pluralone.