Last week, Pearl Jam made the Mile High City their final stop on the North American portion of their 2022 Gigaton tour and gave the sold-out crowd everything they expected and more. Being their first tour since 2018, anticipations for the Ball Arena finale were high and the best of the Northwest sealed the deal with a lengthy single set and a six-song encore, leaving devout Pearl Jam fans smiling, energized, and even more committed to the band and wondering when the next tour would be announced. Selections for the night consisted of classic radio hits, deep cuts, and a multitude of covers, all of which made this closing show worth the price of admission and then some. With nearly two and a half hours of music, the group sounded fresh, well composed, and showed no signs of being road weary, giving it their all from start to finish as the crowd just cried out for more.
As Cat Power’s “The Greatest” played over the PA, the lights finally dropped, and the band took the stage under a unified deafening roar of applause. Wide smiled and beaming, the members took seated positions, waved to the crowd, and got the night started with “The Long Road”, an appropriate opener for the parting night. “Elderly Woman” filled the second slot and encouraged by frontman Eddie Vedder, the audience joined in on this sing-along.
Vedder addressed the audience, stating “We have been waiting more than two years to say this: Nice to see you Colorado!”, eliciting an eruption that dwarfed the welcome the band got at the walk on. This acknowledgement and reaction made everyone in the band smile humbly as they took a moment to look about at the 19,000 faces cheering them on. Vedder continued,” As this city is pretty high, we are going to take it easy and stay seated for a few more to get acclimated”, inciting another rise from listeners, many of whom read a tongue-in-cheek cannabis reference in the word choice from the frontman.
Uber-rarity “Thin Air” was up next. This number played only 5 times since 2016 was short, soft, and checked the song search box for many superfans this night. Continuing to deliver on the specialness of the eve, “Just Breathe” was played next as the only version for 2022. Eddie dedicated this version to a couple in the audience who had become engaged in front of him some six weeks prior. Accompanied only by Boom Gaspar on the keys, this one brought out many a tear and emotional looks from those sharing a night out with their committed.
Tour regular “Present Tense” shook the melancholy off and put the band and audience into overdrive, the two taking to their feet for this powerful selection. Great guitar by Mike McCready accentuated this one and was the jumping off point for a distinctive change in energy for the foreseeable future.
The first cover of the night came from the Pink Floyd catalog in “Interstellar Overdrive” and although it has been a tour regular this year, this fact did not diminish the welcome it got. The edgy instrumental transitioned seamlessly into the band’s standard pairing “Corduroy” and widespread fist pumping, head bobbing, and singing could be seen throughout the whole house during this back-to-back adrenaline filled shredfest.
Raising the energy bar even higher, the fast tempo of “Spin the Black Circle” came next and had most of the band running around the stage and posturing under strobe lights, disorienting feedback, and speed.
Another regular in the rotation, Neil Young’s “Throw Your Hatred Down” was played almost flawlessly. Somewhere mid-song, the crowd in the front few rows drew Eddie’s attention, prompting the singer to stop the show and request EMS to the front, as a fan had collapsed under the proximity constraint and sweat of the front row. As the man got to his feet, Eddie assured the crowd that he just needed some water and would return. Wishing the departed well, Vedder counted off and fired up where the group had departed and finished the song.
Although “Given To Fly” has been played almost every show this year, this one was no less special than the expectation. The joy it brought with its infectious groove, punch power, and another opportunity for the audience contribution kept everyone engaged in the energy high.
As this was the Gigaton tour originally scheduled for 2020 to celebrate the band’s most recent studio creation of the same name, relative newcomer from the album “Who Ever Said” got a shower of applause and most seemed familiar with the gritty number with a good hook and kept everyone dancing as Vedder jumped off various stage platforms, infusing the crowd with even more energy.
Classic PJ form, “Evenflow” had everyone singing and prompted Vedder to point his mic towards the audience throughout. He often muted himself for the various “heys” and “whoas” in the song, giving spotlight to those in the seats. McCready dazzled the audience with an extensive solo performed with his ax behind his head for multiple minutes before continuing to melt faces with distortion, feedback, and just the right amount of insanity, making this one certainly a highlight for everyone.
“Dance of the Clairvoyants”, another track off Gigaton, has a pop feel with a great synth vibe. This great dance number, part new wave, part punk, is like 80’s Kate Bush meets David Byrne meets Pearl Jam and has a three-way love child of creativity. This is certainly one with legs for miles and a mind to match.
As the rest of the band took a breather, impeccable drummer Matt Cameron and Vedder remained. As Vedder took his seat at the band’s touring pump organ, he uttered words about the atrocities of the Ukraine and cried out for everyone to open their eyes and hearts to each other, to realize that war is never the answer. The audience acknowledged the message, reciprocated in emotive agreement, and bathed the arena in cell phone glow as a sign of unification with our fellow humans. With this, the duo pulled another Gigaton track for the night in “River Cross”. This contemplative piece filled the room with volume and power, although deriving it more from the visceral and emotional than the electric and amplified.
Relative rarity “Save You” came off the shelf and got the recognition it deserved. Only played three times this year and only twelve times since 2015, this one came out in perfect juxtaposition to its predecessor and had everyone bouncing again.
Radio hit “Betterman” had everyone joining in on the lyrics and once again instilling pause in the singer’s vocals, letting the fans take over the well-known and beloved number. This one saw extended soloing from Gossard, Vedder, and McCready and ended with a big finish that had everyone in The Ball reeling and high fiving each other, stranger and well-known alike.
The 1962 classic “Last Kiss” by Wayne Cochran followed and had the room singing and clapping along once again. This one has been in the PJ setlist since 1998, but has become more infrequent in recent years, this version being the third of the tour. Short, sweet, and fun, it is clear that the band enjoys performing this one and seemed appropriate for the “last kiss” of the tour.
The rarities continued with “Faithful”. After Being shelved since 2016 and with only three versions this year, its performance re-edified the fact that the band was making their mark on this night as a memorable and historic one, and seemingly once again were using a song to directly remark on the “faithful” audience that keeps showing up wherever they are, no matter where they are, to be a part of the unending revolving tour of this talent.
Cranking up the heat and electricity, “Lukin” turned the crowd back towards the hard edge and although the night was getting closer to its close, everyone showed they still had plenty of steam and time to throw in with the seven headed beast eviscerating their expectations and sharing their souls.
To close the set, “Rearview Mirror” took the audience on its standard winding trek with its soaring highways and meandering backroads. Taking in both thick traffic jams as well as breaking free to quiet horizons, this version was unhurried and when it reached its destination, everyone on the trip knew we had arrived.
Following a short exit, Vedder returned solo and thanked the crowd for helping to create another memory and for their choral contribution. He also took time to address different members of the audience, noting their signs, t-shirts, and internet posts prior to showtime, showing once again that the band after all these years remains quite intertwined and affected by their loyal following and can make an gargantuan arena show feel more like an intimate living room. Continuing to speak to the afflictions of living and the inspirations in light of dying, Vedder appropriately chose Tom Petty’s “ I Won’t Back Down” to inspire the opening of the encore slot.
Played for only the second time of the year and the fifth in six years, Mother Love Bone’s cover “Chloe Dancer / Crown of Thorns” had the room swaying and hanging on Vedder’s voicings. The structure hung strong in space and this exception sounded as fresh as if the band had written it themselves or been performing it night after night for years.
Fan favorite and classic “Alive” brought everyone back on line and noticeably raised the energy and temperature multiple degrees, giving all another last chance at losing their marbles in guitar distortion, strobed tempo, and frenetic movement, a practice everyone listening were ready and willing to engage in.
The final cover of the night took form in The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” and the band welcomed the band Thunderpussy to join them on stage. As the group thanked everyone for a great tour, career, and more memories than one can count, the infectious and familiar form ensnared back into the groove and elevated the spirit surround to dizzying heights and infected the room with a group smile that would not soon be forgotten.
Closing this date on an old familiar note, the evening’s final selection “Yellow Ledbetter” set the room nostalgic and comforted, even in the bittersweet realization that when the beloved band would be seen again was uncertain, a fact iterated earlier in the set by Vedder himself.
Honorable mention goes to the low end for this one. Pearl Jam would not be who they are without the depth that is Jeff Ament. His quaking bass lines and melodic creativity put him as a who is who in the bass field. This man displays as much energy on stage as any front man or lead guitarist and has no reservations about getting up in the grill of his counterparts to egg them on to the edge of ecstasy. With an infectious smile to counterbalance his gruff appearance, the man shows what it means to have the time of your life.
Although there are no Pearl Jam shows on the books for the upcoming year, anyone who has attended their events knows it won’t be too long until something happens. There is truly too much love for the performance from both sides of the stage, too much history for the PJ family, and too much need for their conscious positivity they bring to keep these gentlemen sitting for too long.