5 Unforgettable Moments of Pearl Jam in San Diego

By: Patrick Boegel | May 3, 2022
All The Memories Going Round: Pearl Jam's Top Moments in San Diego

Patrick Boegel Highlights Some of the Band’s Top Moments in San Diego, CA

Pearl Jam has played 14 times in San Diego proper in their career. Somewhat surprisingly, 10 of those shows occurred during the first decade of the band. One of Ed’s adopted hometowns, most notably San Diego is where a young Ed befriended Jack Irons, and consequently it is where the missing piece of the Pearl Jam puzzle would fall into place via “the tape.”

San Diego is also the hometown of Matt Cameron, drummer for the band’s last 6 performances in the city. Also, Mike McCready’s parents settled there sometime in the early 1990’s, as Mike alludes to at the second of two nights in the Monkeywrench Radio 1995 broadcast.

San Diego has given us fans some monumental shows and big moments over the years; here are 5, among the many, that I think you should take note of as the band gears up to return for the first time in nearly a decade.

11/3/1993 – Civic Theater – Just Letting It Happen

Pearl Jam San Diego 11/3/1993

As a long time tape and CD collector before the era of official bootlegs and instant gratification, it shouldn’t be terribly shocking that I am going to wax a little nostalgic about a couple of moments B.O.B (before official bootlegs).

The band hit the Civic Theater for 2 consecutive evenings in November 1993 during the Vs. tour. While the night 1 recording has the trademark hand-held cassette recorder roughness to it, night 2 is much brighter and dynamic. From this one, nestled between Black and Porch to close the main set is a structured one-off improvisation that became known as “Hold Me.” Improv performances can be touch and go depending on your perspective, but the thing that strikes well about this one is how it works as a bridge between the bookend songs. This particular groove features Stone and Dave, and has the feel of something that was the seed of a song idea. It is an artifact of a bygone era when the band was both risk-tolerant and confident in their work that they could try songs and ideas of songs out in the moment to see where it would take them.

Touring Vs. was arguably the tightest the band was during the Abbruzzese era and “Hold Me” is a reminder of both the spontaneity and musicianship the group had forged at this point. Extra bonus at this show: right after Sonic Reducer, Mike notices a fan getting hassled by security having had their camera taken away, which leads to Eddie noting, “well Mike, I don’t know how I feel about cameras, but a tape recorder is fine…did you know you can bring a tape recorder to a Pearl Jam show? I always bring mine.”

11/7/1995 – Sports Arena – Dueling Slide Guitars

Pearl Jam San Diego 11/7/1995

The November 1995 shows at the Sports Arena that close the Sponsored By No One Tour (which were make ups for the postponed Del Mar Fairgrounds event from the spring) are nothing short of fantastic and legendary. Both nights were broadcast via the lo-fi pirate radio station that Ed and some of the crew cobbled together for a few of the tour dates.

Night two possesses a tiny nugget that both entices the musical sense as well as provides a microcosm of the bands evolution with new drummer Jack Irons, passing the baton from Ten to the yet-to-be-fully-formed No Code. On night 2, the eleventh song of the main set is the mid-tempo guitar stomp Deep, which features a haunting slide guitar from Stone. The Jack-era versions, of which there are only a baker’s dozen, grow with intensity and descend into chaos following the final chorus. Stone delivers a blistering slide guitar to complement Mike’s swirling pedal delay as the song swells and crashes like a wave out of control. It is 1995 Pearl Jam at its best.

As the feedback gently fades, the stage starts to quiet a bit and you can hear Eddie call an audible: “Mosquito. Let’s play Mosquito NOW.” After a bit of recalibrating (and likely guitar tech sprints), the slide guitar goes stage left and Mike lets loose on a mostly unexpecting crowd. Red Mosquito has a bit of the soar and more of a sing-along aspect to it than the dark and throaty Deep, though with it only being debuted earlier in the week it was not ready for that type of audience response yet. The two work nicely together, but in many ways foreshadow a change in the band’s mindset. Deep was being played for the 175th time and Mosquito for just the 3rd. The former would never again be played with Jack behind the kit and not return until 2003. The songs are never played back-to-back again.

10/25/2000 – Sports Arena – This Is How I Feel

Pearl Jam San Diego 10/25/2000

With the band having recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of their first live performance together, Ed had a bit more heart (or perhaps wound) on his sleeve tonight.  After the main set, he comes out to the stage solo, he and his guitar talking about how heavy things can seem at times, and about how friends and music can get you through some things. He asks for the crowd’s indulgence, as he wants to play a song that is helping him get through some things and he had just learned how to play it that day: Yusuf/Cat Stevens’ heart-piercing ode to being true to the natural order of life, Don’t Be Shy. While not the most perfect version of the song, it is the first of several, usually in the pre-set or in encores. It is a perfect vocal melody for Ed, and a grounding point he would use on special occasions over the years.

7/7/2006 – Cox Arena – Understanding The Power Of Mentors

Pearl Jam San Diego 7/7/2000

No list about San Diego would be complete without the song Long Road, and no performance of the song is perhaps more significant than the July 7, 2006 encore opener. Ed takes a moment to tell the crowd the impact one of his teachers had on him and others, explaining that some of those former students worked together to get a theater dedicated in Clayton Liggett’s honor.  From there, he goes on to paint the picture of the song’s origins during the Mirrorball sessions, when he received a call about Clayton’s passing. Trying to describe the moment via words is insufficient and somewhat irreverent. If you have had or been a mentor, or can relate to an important close relationship that impacted you, the story gets you right where music should. It is a must-listen experience in Pearl Jam’s history.

11/21/2013 – Viejas Arena – An Exercise In Trust

Pearl Jam San Diego 11/21/2013

The last time the band was in the city it was the back half of the Lightning Bolt tour. Sprawling sets, slow burn openers, and rare songs seemingly busted out night after night. This show is no exception. There would be 6 tour debuts and 1 live debut on the night, amidst a set of songs that included 8 other tracks played 5 or less times during the tour.

Suffice it to say, it has all the hallmarks of a good evening. But perhaps the moment of all these shows was Ed giving a nod to his mom, who is in attendance, and not nestled in some back stage/side stage perch, but just out in the seated crowd like a fan along the right side of the venue. He proceeds to ask the crowd to pass his wine bottle to his mom, an “exercise in trust” as he calls it. In proper fashion, the crowd obliges, and works in sync to get the bottle over to her, where she proceeds to take a nice, big, long swig prompting Ed to deadpan “it’s genetic.”

Share Your Top Memories of Pearl Jam Concerts in San Diego

Do you have everlasting memories of a Pearl Jam concert in San Diego, CA, that you attended? Share your top San Diego memories in the comments below!

Patrick Boegel

Concertpedia Writer & Horizon Leg Patron

When Pearl Jam first rose to prominence post Unplugged and during Lollapalooza it was their live tapes that indicated something more, something real was happening here. The first "bootleg" I owned was a great sounding board tape from 10.6.1991 at the Hollywood Palladium, I was captivated by the passion in the bookends of the short set, Wash and Porch. Then it was 3.2.1992 from Den Haag which included the incredible jam on I've Got a Feeling. The original bootleg actually edits a big portion out, around 1999 the tape trading community rectified this with a complete patched copy of the show. There were lots of us back in the day, stamps, padded mailers, tape trees, then CDR trees. Ah the good old days. If I had known then what I know now.

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    1. Thank you! There will be perspectives from each city stop coming from a different fan each US stop.

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