Pearl Jam | Golden 1 Center | 5/13/2024

Article Contributed by Alan Sheckter | Published on Monday, May 20, 2024

“Easy come, easy go / Easy left me a long time ago,” Eddie Vedder sang, shrouded in shadows on a dark stage during Pearl Jam’s opening selection of “Pendulum.” The Dark Matter World Tour touched down in Sacramento on May 13 and Vedder and the band displayed the musical muscle that has kept them at or near the top of the rock world for more than 30 years. Lovingly absorbing a preponderance of Pearl Jam’s most beloved songs mixed with a whole bunch of material from the month-old “Dark Matter” project (the band’s 12th studio album), the massive audience at the Golden 1 Center soaked up every vocal, story, and/or guitar passage thrown at them during the evening.

Pearl Jam | Golden 1 Center | Sacramento, CA

For those keeping score, Pearl Jam leaned on their 1991 seminal album, “Ten,” six times, for such crowd pleasers as “Garden,” “Even Flow,” “Jeremy,” “Black,” “Alive,” and “Porch” (the latter four appeared during the seven-song encore). Also, regarding the old stuff, they performed a passionate version of the lo-fi classic, “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” from the 1993 record, “Vs.”; “Better Man” and “Corduroy” from their 1994 release, “Vitalogy”; and “Lukin” from their 1996 project, “No Code.” The encore on this night began with a breakout of Tom Waits’ “Picture in a Frame,” Vedder performing the song solo, its first set-list appearance in eight years.

Pearl Jam | Sacramento, CA

Jeff Ament | Pearl Jam

The band, with its commanding but non-self-indulgent stage presence, and all dressed in black, featured the core, co-founding foursome of Vedder (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, tambourine), Mike McCready (lead guitar), Jeff Ament (bass), and Stone Gossard (rhythm/lead guitars), as well as Matt Cameron (drums/percussion), and Boom Gaspar (keyboards). Multi-instrumentialst Josh Klinghoffer (drums, guitar, piano) was also onstage for selected songs. Often during song performances, Vedder and the other guitarists would crisscross across the stage, coming together in pairs or triads, to jam toward each other.  

Mike McCready & Eddie Vedder | Golden 1 Center

Clearly the coolest guy in the room, Vedder’s impassioned, expressive voice was in fine form all night; he alternated between strapping on a guitar and playing, or concentrating 100% on vocals. McCready’s nasty, fiery lead guitar riffs synchronized with Vedder’s vocals or climbed into astral dimensions during solos, including one of the show’s high points, when he took an extended solo, quickly picking and shredding with his axe behind his head. Gossard’s hard rhythm-guitar style was in-step throughout as was Ament’s tremendous, distinct yet simultaneously unobtrusive bass-playing style, Cameron’s hard-driving drum beats and rhythm patterns, and Gaspar’s keyboard contributions, together sealing the deal on the tight cohesiveness of the band.

Matt Cameron and Eddie Vedder | Pearl Jam

During the evening, Pearl Jam also performed eight “Dark Matter” selections, most of which have hit the Billboard Top Hard Rock chart in April and May, such as “Wreckage,” “Scared of Fear,” “Running,” “Setting Dun,” “Waiting for Stevie,” and “Won’t Tell.” Though the new songs were only being played for the fourth or fifth time, a good portion of the crowd had already embraced and showed exuberance for each one. The large-arena crowd, especially those in the general admission area up front, were visibly thrilled throughout the show.

Pearl Jam | Golden 1 Center

It was just the fourth time the band played Sacramento since it made its mark in the early ‘90s, when it helped define “grunge,” aka the Seattle sound, along with Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Mudhoney. Vedder reminisced back to the first time Pearl Jam appeared in Sacramento, on Feb. 16, 1991 – “33 1/3 years ago, if you get the significance of that number,” he said. He went on to recall the venue where that show took place. “It was called the Cattle Club,” Vedder said, which generated a big hometown round of applause. “And we were a little band with a shitty name, called Mookie Blaylock. We love Mookie, and the name fit him better than the group. The band we opened for – Mike McCreedy has always wanted to play this song – the band we opened for, was the great Layne Staley, Jerry Cantrell, Sean <Kinney>, Alice in Chains.” As McCready began to shred a bit on the guitar, Vedder looked to him and asked, “How does that one go?” and McCready offered a quick snippet of Alice in Chains’ “It Ain’t Like That” before the band launched into “Garden.”

Pearl Jam | Golden 1 Center

Regarding that puzzling original band name, Mookie Blaylock, a video from 1993 during which Jeff Ament meets Blaylock when the Atlanta Hawks visited the Seattle Center Coliseum, home of the old Supersonics, sheds some light. There, Ament tells Blaylock, “A couple of us were kind of collecting basketball cards, and we were actually making our first <video> demo, and we’d only been a band for probably about a week, I guess, and your card ended up in our demo. And some friends of ours were going on tour, and they wanted us to go on tour with them. They said we need a name, and we hadn’t even thought of a name at that point. Actually, Kelly, our manager, said, ‘Why don’t you just call the band ‘Mookie Blaylock’?”  

Eddie Vedder | Golden 1 Center

Pearl Jam | Golden 1 Center

Vedder, who wore a “Moms Demand Action: For Gun Sense in America” T-shirt, also touched on the news, midway through the main set, but in a surprising way. “The daily news is so dicturbing on every level with some complex issues but this was basic insanity. Did you hear Steve Buscemi, f***ing Steve Bushemi the actor, was just punched randomly while walking in his hometown of New York City. Who the f*** does that to Steve Bushemi? You know who I’m talking about? That’s Mr Pink <from ‘Reservoir Dogs’>. … I mean not only is he a great actor, he’s a great person, he’s a great dad, he has a great son named Lucian, and at 9/11 ‘cause he was a firefigher, he put on his fire equipment and was down there at Ground Zero. This is this guy. I mean, hit me, don’t hit him.”

Deep Sea Diver | Golden 1 Center

Deep Sea Diver | Sacramento, CA

Opening the show was rock/power-pop outfit Deep Sea Diver, who delivered a well-received set. Led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Jessica Dobson, who has had tours of duty over the years with The Shins, Beck, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, appeared with a five-piece band – Dobson plus two keyboardists, a bassist, and a drummer.

Pearl Jam | Golden 1 Center

Pearl Jam: Pendulum, I'm Open, Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town, Faithfull, Scared of Fear, React Respond, Wreckage, Dark Matter, Garden, Lukin, Corduroy, Dance of the Clairvoyants, Even Flow, Upper Hand, Waiting for Stevie, Running, Light Years, Better Man. Encore: Picture in a Frame, Jeremy, Black, Do the Evolution, Alive, Porch, Setting Sun.