Last Night: Pearl Jam at Cruzan Amphitheater

Pearl Jam

Wednesday, June 11

Cruzan Ampitheatre, West Palm Beach

Better Than: Waiting another five years for the guys to come to town.

Flashing lights, smuggled cameras, and lots of hoopla inside of the Cruzan Amphitheatre signaled that something big was going on. Last night, Pearl Jam opened up their American tour in West Palm Beach to a packed house, but unfortunately, most of the typical South Floridians seemed more interested in complaining about the humidity and the questionable track list the band was playing.

I’m sending props to the band for opening up with the grunge classic “Oceans,” which stirred fans with anticipation that the show might be filled with old favorites for the diehards. But soon-after the smashing drum presence on “Save Me,” Vedder belted Do you want some more? Then he jumped into the psychotropic nasty “Severed Hand,” and I wasn’t so sure my answer was Yeaaaah! I wasn’t the only one with thoughts of mediocrity as the track order initially seemed to dull the sea of hipsters who quickly went from hope to mope, seeking pleasure that was still a half hour away.

Don’t get me wrong, the self-proclaimed fan club president from California to my right – who has clearly seen more than 30 shows to date – was on his feet the whole two hours, and I must say, during the not-so-glorious tracks, the news that he had just pissed in my empty beer cup on the floor was sadly far more entertaining than a slew of sluggish tracks Vedder and co. cranked out mid-set.

Finally, the intro of “Evenflow” pumped through the speakers, and the old school mayhem I was waiting for began. Alas, I was thrilled to experience head banging madness and my friend Jessi rocked out like an air-Guitar Hero. Mike McCready satisfied the crowd with the treat of the night--a scrumptious three-minute guitar solo that had everybody appreciative, so I thank him for that. For a lot of jamband enthusiast’s, it was possibly the highlight of the night.

The band continued on a semi-positive path as they roared into “Do the Evolution,” a hardcore anthem that prompted aisle-filled dancing and intense fist pumping, and the synthesized “Why Go” which had fans chanting with Vedder.

Newish ’06 track “Inside Job” was a catch for the stoners, followed by “Better Man” which brought the expected ovation with plenty of crooners swaying and bobbing as the set filled with a deep red-lit tapestry effect. It was hard to think that any part of the show could top that moment, and the hip-shaking, riff-heavy “Rearviewmirror” was the last track to hit the spot for me. There’s definitely something to be said for Pearl Jam’s live show, but there’s no better feeling than a fan-favorite at a show like this, and there certainly weren’t enough to go around.

After a brief bathroom break, we decided to ride out the show sans crowd upon the lower asphalt for the wrap-up. As we passed the split between the seats and the lawn crowd, I noted the zombie-like state on the hill, assuming either the full effects of the chronic abuse had set in, or that the shitty, unamplified sound quality had jaded them all.

The venue slowly lost interest as the encore approached, a seldom scene for a legendary Seattle staple band like Pearl Jam. Vedder lead into a one-man, acoustic croonfest for a few minutes and finally McCready taunted with the “Alive” intro, which was a welcomed end to the two-hour show. I was hoping for a double whammy, perhaps a coupling with “Daughter,” “Jeremy,” “Corduroy,” “Last Kiss” or “Black,” but my wishlist was not granted. I didn’t feel the ‘90s rock rush spill through my veins, but the comfort of the mob’s lyrical unison and head-nodding confirmed that despite what seemed an average track list choosing on the band’s behalf, Vedder and the crew still have reason to rock out...but they better bust out with some sickness at Bonnaroo this weekend though.

--Tracy Block

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Jonathan Cunningham

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