Pearl Jam has a decades-long history of sprinkling massive underplays into its increasingly rare and recently postponed tour schedule. Just in New York, the band has visited the Ed Sullivan Theater numerous times (capacity 400) and Irving Plaza (5/5/06, capacity 1200). The group’s most recent small-scale show was at Jack White’s Nashville studio, Third Man Records (6/9/16, capacity 250).

Even still, Saturday night’s intimate Pearl Jam show at the Apollo Theater was a rare bird. The show, originally planned around the 2020 release of the group’s critically acclaimed chart-topping eleventh full-length, Gigaton, aired live nationwide on the band’s exclusive SiriusXM channel, Pearl Jam Radio (Ch. 22). The exclusive concert marked the first time that Pearl Jam has performed at the iconic theater as well as the first U.S. date of the band’s fall tour.

Part of SiriusXM’s Small Stage Series, the roughly 1500 seats in the house were divided between lucky winners, industry insiders, and the persistent PJ faithful who lined up as early as 5:30 am the day prior (only good enough to be #3 in line) for standby tickets. Millions of people got to hear it, but only a few got to be there, and for those who made it into the room—whether by connection, luck, persistence, or a combination thereof—it was hard not to feel like one of the chosen few.

Very few performers have the charisma and showmanship of Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder. There is a raw, animalistic magnetism to his aura that draws you near with intimacy, authenticity, and genuine interest. The pull gets stronger the closer you get. Omnipotent in stadiums and arenas, in a room like the Apollo, it’s simply unavoidable.

The Universe understands energy all too well and saw fit to mark the occasion with a Harvest moon over Harlem as fans filed in. As the lights dimmed and Cat Power’s “The Greatest” aptly came over the PA, Pearl Jam—Vedder (guitar, vocals), Mike McCready (guitar), Stone Gossard (guitar), Jeff Ament (bass), Matt Cameron (drums), Boom Gaspar (keys), and Josh Klinghoffer (multi-instrumentalist)—took the stage and opened the delayed Gigaton album release show with “Footsteps”. A deep cut from the double-disc album of B-sides and unreleased rarities, Lost Dogs (2006), this marked the first of five consecutive tracks from albums not named Gigaton. Notably, Pearl Jam would go on to play songs from nine different albums while also peppering the setlist with seven of the eleven tracks from Gigaton.

“Live from the Apollo, it’s Saturday night,” quipped Vedder before continuing, “I feel energy, the venue and the room. We’re going to contain ourselves for a few songs, though,” before launching into “Pendulum” (Lightning Bolt, 2013), a building track bubbling with latency. “Sleight Of Hand” (Binaural, 2000) and “Parachutes” (Pearl Jam, 2006) followed—each played for the first time since 2016—ahead of a second helping of Lost Dogs, “Hard To Imagine”, a once- or twice-a-year white whale song that had Vedder’s voice filling the small theater with arena-sized sound.

Pearl Jam – “Hard To Imagine” – 9/10/22

Although a sound snafu briefly derailed proceedings and took a little air out of the building, technical difficulties couldn’t slow Vedder, who grabbed an acoustic guitar and serenaded the crowd with a cover of Warren Zevon’s “Keep Me In Your Heart” without the benefit of amplification.

After the unintended production break, Pearl Jam launched into the album release portion of the show with seven of the next nine tracks coming courtesy of Gigaton. “Whoever Said” broke the party open, the band members off their stools and on their feet for the first time as Vedder swung his mic at arm’s length and the crowd got dirty with this contemporary iteration of grunge. A characteristically energetic “Even Flow” (Ten, 1991) put McCready’s best on display before a Gigaton-heavy run of “Dance Of The Clairvoyants”, “Quick Escape”, “Alright”, “Retrograde”, “Never Destination”, and “Long Way” was punctuated only by “Spin The Black Circle” (Vitalogy, 1994). “Whipping” and “Porch” closed the main set in high fashion, energy peaking from all sides into a brief encore break.

Pearl Jam – “Porch” – 9/10/22

A classic encore set followed with sing along favorite “Better Man”, the always rowdy “Do The Evolution” (Yield, 1998), a classic rock cover of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”, and the emotionally stirring “Indifference”, the night’s lone track from Vs. (1993).

SiriusXM’s Small Stages Series provides unmatched memories and there are few fanbases more eager, ravenous, and dare I say more deserving than the Ten Club. Just as energy flows with reciprocity, it demands a host. The PJ Faithfull faithfully band together to provide. They give of themselves fully and without abandon, collaborating with forces of inspiration, unity, and community that they can neither see nor prove nor understand. Though listeners at home may have been briefly frustrated, technical difficulties are not the story of last night’s show, where Pearl Jam and Sirius XM teamed up to offer a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Many thanks to the teams at SiriusXM and the Apollo for being the most gracious of hosts (free drinks … what?!?). Pearl Jam’s show at the Apollo is a memory that will stand up forever.

Next up for Pearl Jam is the band’s long-awaited return to Madison Square Garden on Sunday, September 11th. For a full list of upcoming tour dates, head here.

Check out a gallery of photos from the Pearl Jam SiriusXM Small Stage Series show at the Apollo Theater below via Kevin Mazur/Getty Images.

Setlist: Pearl Jam | The Apollo Theater | New York, NY | 9/10/22

Setlist: Footsteps, Pendulum, Sleight of Hand, Parachutes, Hard To Imagine, Keep Me In Your Heart (Warren Zevon), Who Ever Said, Even Flow, Dance Of The Clairvoyants, Quick Escape, Spin The Black Circle, Alright, Retrograde, Never Destination, Long Way, Whipping, Porch Encore: Better Man, Do The Evolution, Baba O’Riley (The Who), Indifference