Eddie Vedder at Auditorium Theatre | Concert preview
Back in its angriest, angstiest days, Pearl Jam often came off like a protest band. Singer Eddie Vedder could howl like a shot dog or draw down on a lyrical target—family, society, life—like an Old Testament prophet meting out divine justice. And the singer, much like a certain very famous 1960s folk-poet with a divisive voice, reacted to his celebrity with a shrug, never more than a contrary gesture.
The band used its popularity to take on Ticketmaster and lost, giving up a boycott of the corporate ticket broker after sacrificing untold tour profits on principle. Likewise, it satisfied its fans’ desire for live recordings by putting out 268 (and counting) official bootlegs of its concert dates. Though in our book, the fact that Pearl Jam signed a distribution deal for the recordings with corporate behemoth Verizon—sworn enemy of Net neutrality—docks it a few points.
Still, Vedder’s always been one of the good guys, even if Pearl Jam’s influence has receded from its mid-’90s peak to that of a perpetual cult act. The Evanston-born grunge icon’s solo tour offers us non-PJ devotees a chance to focus on what we always liked best about the band: its passionate, grumpy, sincere singer, with his penchant for covering obscure soul songs and rendering his own material as if bellowing an old sea chantey.
The tour appears to be built around the songs Vedder wrote for Into the Wild, the 2007 film directed by a fellow hard-headed loner (Sean Penn) about yet another hard-headed loner (Christopher McCandless) who leaves humankind behind for the rigors of nature. No doubt, Vedder’s had that fantasy, too, but we’re glad it’s given him occasion to step out of his frontman role and meet the world naked—guitar in hand.