November 18, 2013

Pearl Jam puts on timeless show in OKC, addresses controversy

James Bright, Managing Editor,
The Express-Star


This is a story about Eddie Vedder and his wine. 

The Pearl Jam frontman downed three bottles during his band's almost three hour, riveting performance Saturday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.  

The ensemble spanned two decades with their set list, playing tracks from the recently released Lightening Bolt album, serenading the audience with "Just Breathe" and bringing the crowd to a deafening uproar with a trifecta of hits from their debut album, "Ten." 

Yes, Pearl Jam was in top form Saturday night, but their music was overshadowed by controversy, which is nothing really new for this Grunge era band. 

Photos surfaced of bass player Jeff Ament sporting a t-shirt, which read "F**k the Thunder," and video of Vedder speaking about Oklahoma City in a similar fashion, gained Internet notoriety this weekend after posted the media to their site. 

True to their form, Vedder and company didn't stay away from addressing the controversy. 

The baritone singer began with some levity, looking back at Ament saying, "See Jeff, we should play here more often." The crowd responded to Vedder's jest with laughter and cheers. It's been 10 years since Pearl Jam played a show in Oklahoma City, and the band commented on their commitment to cram a lot of music in their set while also dealing with the elephant in the room. 

Shortly after the initial joke, a fan tossed a Seattle Supersonics jersey with Kevin Durant's name and number onto the stage. Ament smiled, put on the shirt and played the majority of the concert in it. 

Shortly after the first encore, which opened with "Just Breathe," Vedder addressed the crowd and put the band's anger over losing the Supersonics into perspective. 

"It's like when you see a girlfriend you still love with her new husband," he said. "You still love her, but you hate him." 

Most seemed pleased by this response as it was met with a rousing applause. The band continued through a set list, which included classic Pearl Jam tracks such as "MFC," and "Porch." The first encore concluded with the 48-year-old Vedder swinging through the audience on a giant, electrically lit ball while he sang the final verse of "Porch." Those who know the song know this was no easy feat. 

The band returned for their final encore and ran through a slew of their most popular tracks including "Jeremy," "Black" and "Alive." 

They turned the house lights on to bring the concert to a close. Vedder addressed the crowd one last time after a cover of The Who's hit, "Baba O'riley." He told the crowd Oklahoma is Ok with him, before guitarist Mike McCready strummed the opening chords of "Yellow Ledbetter," the quintessential Pearl Jam closer. 

McCready played through the song effortlessly, proving age has in no way diminished his ability to bend strings and shred in a manner that would rival those half his age. 

Saturday night's concert was a testament to Pearl Jam's longevity. The arena was packed and many times the fan's voices would drown Vedder's out with a 30,000-strong rendition of Pearl Jam's set list.

They say in wine there is truth, and the truth here is that Pearl Jam is a band that has stood the test of time and sits on hallowed musical ground with the likes of U2 and KISS.