Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field turns into late-night jam
Stormy weather affected a number of outdoor shows Friday night, with forecasts of lightning and winds up to 60mph cutting short Björk's set at Pitchfork and causing the first of three Phish shows at Northerly Island to end early. The thunderstorms passing through took a toll on Pearl Jam's sold-out one-night stand at Wrigley Field as well, but the band, and most of the show's attendees, determined to wait it out—resulting in an epic late-night set that went on until 2am (and probably, as the Sun-Times' Marcus Gilmer suggested on Twitter, left Ald. Tom Tunney with a full voicemail box).
Though the advertised showtime was 7:30pm and there was no opening act, the band didn't take the stage until around 8:15pm, which had me worrying about the storms at that point forecast to hit in the nine o'clock hour. But singer Eddie Vedder—perhaps the most prominent Cubs fan in pop music, and clearly giddy to be performing in the Friendly Confines—addressed the potential "weather challenges" early after taking the stage, saying "we will get through them together."
And indeed, just six songs into Pearl Jam's set, Vedder gave us some new information: Wrigley operations, in close coordination with Accuweather, thought the storm was going to hit in about 30 minutes but would move on within another 30. And so after the band's next song, they were going to take a break, and the fans on the field were going to be evacuated into the concourses, but Vedder assured the crowd they'd be back to deliver a full show, adding that "the curfew's been extended for tonight." And after PJ played "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town," from 1993's Vs., the band left the stage, the stadium lights were brought up, and the onfield fans exited in a fairly orderly fashion.
That was just after 9pm, and the storm indeed hit about half an hour later and included some impressive lightning, which my ponchoed-up friend and I watched from our perch in the field box seats along the first-base line. It also passed about as quickly as promised, and the ticketholders with onfield seats started filing back out of the concourses, expecting the show to go on as quickly as Vedder had suggested.
Yet the Wrigley team wasn't reopening the field, resulting in bottlenecks in the stands and, as time wore on with no announcements coming over the P.A. or on the stage's video screens—and with beer continuing to flow from the concession stands this entire time—some fans were beginning to get testy. Most seemed to hold faith that the show would resume, including the couple seated next to my friend and me, who'd traveled from Austin, Texas, and another man I talked to, who'd come from New Jersey.
At 10:49pm, Pearl Jam's Twitter account relayed a message:
We have been advised to wait until a second weather cell passes. We intend to provide you w/ a full show tonight. #PJWrigley
— Pearl Jam (@PearlJam) July 20, 2013
But that news took its time to disseminate among those in the ballpark; a boisterous superfan near me came back from a beer run fuming that "the rumor" in the sweaty, packed concourses was that the show was going to be called off. He predicted riots.
Finally, around 11:30pm, crew members appeared onstage and started uncovering the band's tarped-up equipment and mopping the stage. Gates to the onfield seating were opened shortly after.
At ten minutes till midnight, Vedder returned to the stage, donned a pullover Cubs jersey, and quoted "Mr. Cub," Ernie Banks: "Let's play two." The Evanston native restarted the show by playing "All the Way," the Cubs anthem Vedder noted Banks had asked him to write. And right around midnight, 82-year-old Banks joined Vedder onstage to sing a chorus.
The full band returned after that to play a satisfying witching-hour set that included tracks from its 1992 debut album, Ten ("Even Flow") all the way to its tenth studio album, Lightning Bolt, forthcoming in October: The band performed the first single, "Mind Your Manners," which was released last week, and debuted two more songs including the title track.
After an encore break, Vedder returned to the stage at 1:10am, saying, "We're gonna play till they make us stop." That turned out to be at 2am, when the band closed with "Rockin' in the Free World."
"We should do this every summer until the Cubs win it all," Vedder told the crowd. "And that's at least three more years from now."