As Pearl Jam rocked through a ferocious, nearly three-hour tour opener, frontman Eddie Vedder paused to lead the 20,000 packed into Ft. Lauderdale, Fla’s BB&T center into a heartfelt singalong on Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” at just about the time that that band was being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame back in New York.
The moment, which followed a round of “Happy Birthday” to guitarist Mike McCready, was just one of the highlights of the 32-song set, which spanned PJ’s 25-year-and-counting career from the 1990 fan favorite “Footsteps” right up through “Lightning Bolt” from their most recent album of the same name.
Vedder and McCready both bounded out into the massive crowd, most notably during classic jams “Black,” “Porch” and “Last Kiss,” while bassist Jeff Ament thrashed around unstoppably. A fan, however, provided the fuel for the night’s funniest moment by throwing a Donald Trump mask on stage. Seconds later, Vedder had put it on and was doing his goofiest dance moves as the band cranked through “Do The Evolution,” a sardonic song about the downsides of human progress. Meanwhile out at the merch stands, there was a “No Clowns in 2016” shirt for sale featuring a Trump-esque clown in an Uncle Sam pose.
But the heart of the show was a pair of unexpected dedications. A fan with a sign requesting Little Steven Van Zandt’s “I Am A Patriot” for his veteran son, got them to call an audible for an acoustic, visibly emotional cover. Earlier, Vedder had been nearly crying as he shared that a longtime former crew member, Tim “Scully” Quinlan had died the day before unexpectedly. The 2000 gem “Light Years” was played in his honor.
The rollercoaster ride of loud singalongs, anthems balanced with muscular rock outs and ballads peaked with an all-out, lights-up cover of the Who’s Baba O’Riley. Have you ever been in an arena singing “It’s only teenage wasteland!” at the top of their lungs? It can make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end.
And with a chill “Indifference,” Pearl Jam called it a night. The tour continues tonight in Miami and rolls through the end of August, with stops headlining Bonnaroo, and playing double-headers at Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field.
Oh, and Pearl Jam are eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s class of 2017. Just sayin’.