The first fans started lining up in St. Paul at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, a full two days before the scheduled start time of the first Pearl Jam of 2023. Just days removed from the 32nd anniversary of the band’s debut album, Ten (1991), and nearly a year after its last performance (Denver, CO, 9/22/22), fans’ Pearl Jam devotion remained as fervent as ever.

Eddie Vedder and company made sure it was worth the wait for all when the time finally came, delivering a 24-song set that included surprises, setlist rarities, and career-spanning hits.

“Indifference” opened the night, the first surprise of the night as the Vs. (1993) selection and usual encore was given show opening duties for the first time since 1994. The band’s first five songs spanned five different albums as the musicians remained seated through a run of “Buckle Up” (Gigaton, 2020), “Sometimes” (No Code, 1996), and “Wishlist” (Yield, 1998), before rising to their feet by “Black” (Ten), one of the night’s definitive highlights and another relative rarity given its early placement in the set.

Pearl Jam – “Indifference” – 8/31/23

Pearl Jam – “Black” – 8/31/23

[Video: themeboudin]

“Given To Fly” brought the crowd energy to a fever pitch ahead of a stirring telling of “Mind Your Manners” (Lightning Bolt, 2013). The set continued cooking with bangers “Why Go”, “Seven O’Clock”, “Even Flow”, and “Dance Of The Clairvoyants”, drummer Matt Cameron driving the beat before things cooled down with “I’m Open”, a deep cut from No Code (1996).

A flawless performance of “Insignificance” followed as the Binaural (2000) track returned to the setlist for the first time in 74 shows, dating back to 2016. “Daughter” was next before “Superblood Wolfmoon” played homage to the recent, rare “Super Blue Moon.”

Given the recent wildfires in Hawaii, Mr. Vedder then got a little teary as he recognized the band’s Hawaiian keyboardist, Boom Gaspar, with whom he co-wrote “Love Boat Captain”, a Riot Act (2002) selection making the setlist for just the second time in five years.

Jeff Ament made his presence known on an 8-string bass on “State Of Love and Trust” before an emphatic version of “Porch” closed the main set and shattered any remaining doubt as to the power and form of modern day Pearl Jam. Sure, sets have been reduced in both song length and duration, and the band rarely plays back-to-back nights anymore to protect Vedder’s vocal register—is anyone else headed to the Minnesota State Fair today???—but Pearl Jam in 2023 is still, well, Pearl Jam and fans continue to be more than justified in flying anywhere in the world and sleeping on local sidewalks just to get close to the action.

Underscoring their legendary and personal connection to fans, Eddie Vedder could be seen passing a Minnesota Twins baseball helmet to a fan celebrating his birthday in the front row, the same gentleman whose sequined jacket he donned earlier during “Dance Of The Clairvoyants”. Later, he would toss a tambourine to a 9-year-old fan rocking out by stage right, an interaction captured in a wholesome video captured by her mother.

Making people feel special is what Vedder does, and he was once again emotional as he dedicated the night’s first cover to all the great musicians recently lost via a solo reading of Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers”, played for just the second time ever (song begins at 8:20).

Pearl Jam – Eddie Vedder Banter, “Wildflowers” (Tom Petty) – 8/31/23

[Video: Mike Dziama]

The band then turned to face the back as 20,000+ belted out the lyrics to the longest title in the Pearl Jam catalog, “Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town”. “Go” followed with quintessentially over-the-top energy from melt-your-face guitarist extraordinaire Mike McCready before Stone Gossard and Vedder ushered in Victoria Williams’ “Crazy Mary” with haunting dual guitars that soon gave way to Gaspar’s swelling organ.

Thirty-two years since its inclusion as the final track on Ten and 819 live performances later, “Alive” is still the single most impactful song in Pearl Jam’s storied catalog. At about the halfway point, the room’s red glow gave way to house lights, the band and fans alike savoring the moment and rejoicing as the fresh afterglow of a live Pearl Jam concert began to wash over them.

As Eddie Vedder crooned the garbled lyrics to “Yellow Ledbetter”, a standard nightcap from 2003’s Lost Dogs collection of B-sides and unreleased rarities—the 9th album to lend a track to this career spanning show–Mike McCready’s fretboard fireworks put the finishing touches on a stellar opening to Pearl Jam’s 2023 calendar.

Pearl Jam returns to the Excel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN this Saturday before their brief fall tour visits Chicago, Indianapolis, Fort Worth, and Austin. Full details can be found here. View the setlist from the first St. Paul show below.

Setlist: Pearl Jam | Excel Energy Center | St. Paul, MN | 8/31/23

Seated: Indifference, Buckle Up, Sometimes, Wishlist, Black

Standing: Given to Fly, Mind Your Manners, Why Go, Seven O’Clock, Even Flow, Dance of the Clairvoyants, I’m Open, Insignificance, Daughter, Superblood Wolfmoon, Love Boat Captain, State of Love and Trust, Porch

Encore: Wildflowers (Tom Petty) [1], Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town, Go, Crazy Mary (Victoria Williams), Alive, Yellow Bedletter

[1] Eddie solo acoustic


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