Pearl Jam Fan Report From The Road: Oakland Night 1 2022

By: John Hamilton | June 30, 2022

“That’s not Matt Cameron’s usual drum kit.” This is the first thing that my buddy Mark says to me as we walk up to take our spot in the GA pit. We quickly assumed that this was the opener’s drum kit. However, once PluralOne‘s set was over, it was clear that something was going on. My friend Mark explained that not only was that not Matt Cameron’s usual set, it wasn’t his usual type of equipment, or even setup. Something was up.

This, tied in with Eddie saying pre-set that tonight was going to be special, led to some intense excitement in the crowd. The energy in the GA pit was palpable and as I walked throughout the arena saying hi to friends between sets, I felt the energy everywhere I went.

On night 2 in Oakland, Ed began the evening referring to the previous night and how the crowd at night 1 set a pretty high bar. I am going to talk about experiencing that high bar in the midst of where that high bar was being set: the GA pit. The energy of the pit can really set the tone for the energy of the entire crowd. The GA energy can certainly be overcome in a good or bad way by the rest of the crowd, but the pit sets the tone..

But I am getting ahead of myself. First, Ed comes out around 7.30pm wearing a CORE hat and long sleeve shirt to play the pre-set openers. Ed introduces an excellent Needle and the Damage Done by saying this area of the country always makes him think of a certain person (this is quite an omen as this is not the only Neil Young reference this evening). Afterwards, he sticks around for a great version of Tom Petty‘s I Won’t Back Down. Before Ed leaves he says something to the effect of tonight being special. And you knew he meant it.

Fast forward to 8:45 pm, and the lights have come down. I give a friend a hug and run to my secured spot about 20 feet from the rail directly in front of Stone, the perfect spot for the evening. Ed is bouncing up and down, he is excited to be here. Before I know what’s going on, the band have launched into a blistering version of Uncle Neil‘s Rockin’ In the Free World and everyone around me goes nuts, then almost at the same time, as we’re screaming and dancing, you hear lots of folks yelling to their friends, “ROCKIN’ AS AN OPENER!!! OMG, THIS HAS NEVER BEEN DONE!” That lasted about 10 seconds collectively and everyone was just dialed in to the band. It was a killer way to start off what was going to be a show full of singalong hits.

Before we have a chance to collect ourselves, the band moves into a rousing version of Elderly Woman Behind a Counter in a Small Town. The entire arena is singing along. It’s worth noting that the stage is still pretty dark at this point (until about 3/4 way through the song) and you can’t really see who is in fact at the drum kit. But, I do believe that it’s somewhere at that point that folks around me started noting that it did not look like Matt Cameron on the drum kit. No matter, in my over 20 years of seeing Pearl Jam across 29 shows, this is one of the biggest Elderly Woman singalongs I’ve been a part of. Wrigley 2018 Night 1 may have technically been more people, but this one felt more connected.

At this point we take a break, Ed opens his bottle of wine and says out loud to himself that this is his reminder to toast Matt Cameron. Ed comments that even Matt’s Superman status has not kept him from testing positive for COVID. A collective “holy shit” comes over the crowd. I’ll take this moment to note the historical issues Ed has had with drummers, and how much Ed loves Matt Cameron as his drummer. A drummer is not just core to a band’s sound, but it’s the central piece that keeps everything together in a live performance. Everyone is able to be better and take chances because they have a drummer they can trust to ground them. Matt Cameron is not the sort of drummer who needs drum solos to show himself off. His central awesomeness is that he enables everyone else to shine around him; this is especially noticed live. I bring this up, because this is what we’re all collectively processing as we’re learning this info.

Ed insists that there was no way they could cancel or even postpone this show. It’s been too long already and we all need this. So, the show must go on. The amazingly super-talented multi-instrumentalist Josh Klinghoffer (how talented? How about the youngest living member of Rock Hall at the time of his induction), who played the opener under his PluralOne moniker, is on the drum kit.

He leads into a killer version of Why Go by stating, “…we’re going to let the shit hit the fan and hope that it’s good shit.” It was such good shit. Such. Good. Shit. As everyone screams, “hey hey hey” I see tons of fellow forty- and fifty-somethings join me in pogoing with our hands in the air like we are in our teens and this is 1991. The energy and intensity is incredible at this point. The band is loose. They are having fun. They are smiling. Everyone around me is dialed into the band.

The opening to Corduroy is ominous and the crowd around me collectively jumps in the air for the opening and we all collectively stop to scream out loud with seemingly everyone in the arena, “The waiting drove me mad, you’re finally here and I’m a mess.” Ed and the band are working the crowd hard, you can see Ed connecting with folks. The mid-song break starts off with Let’s Play Two-era “yeah yeah yeah.” Ed makes special emphasis on “every fucking things changed.” Jeff and Ed play off each other a bit at the end. The band is playing incredibly loose tonight.

A quick break and into Quick Escape. This is such a fun song live. While there is for sure not much singing along going on, lots of movement, lots of dancing. This was probably the perfect time to play a Gigaton song and a great choice of where to go. This maintains the energy and also gives folks a bit of a break from the intensity and a chance for everyone to catch their breath.

Superblood Wolfmoon is next with a new drummer. We’ll get to him in a moment. Josh is now on guitar.. Mike’s brown leather jacket has come off. Ed is dripping with sweat. Everyone is moving around a lot. I and the crowd around me are digging the high energy set list so far. Limited slow stuff going on.

The standup bass is delivered and Ed introduces drummer number two for the evening. Richard Stuverud is a local drum teacher and long-time collaborator with the band, and specifically has been in several of Jeff Ament’s side projects. Apparently, Jeff was working late at night with Richard on a song and demanded Ed drive over in the rain to record the song. It ended up being…Nothingman. And the night of singalongs continues, everyone around me is swaying and singing and pointing and lifting their hands up. You can look around and see the entire audience doing the same.

The band then launches into Even Flow for the second of six of their most popular songs from Ten. This is about the most standard action of the night. I don’t have any notes from this moment other than to say that I sometimes use this song as a pee break and I did not this time. There was no way I was leaving my spot. I’m glad I stayed. Richard is just going nuts on the drums and Mike was outstanding, playing his guitar solo with his teeth at one point. Ed continues to bounce around. The crowd singing is deafening at some points.

Before Given to Fly, Ed talks about someone having a baby at a Metallica show. Early in the song Ed encourages the crowd to keep singing along and replaces “…the ocean” with “…Frisco”. Everyone is exuberant by the time we get to the chorus. Ed is singing to stage left, the floor is jumping up and down in the same beat as Mike is while he jams on his guitar. As the lights came up a bit, I raised my arms and screamed at the top of my lungs “Arms wide open with the sea as his floor. Oh, power, oh.”

Wishlist includes a couple lyrical change-up’s referencing Joe Maddon and Shohei Ohtani. For whatever reason, at the moment, it seemed like the perfect time to play it. It offered a bit of a slow down from all the high energy material while still enabling some significant fan engagement, people singing along to their favorite wish and getting to “raise our hands.” It was nice.

I may be just skimming over Wishlist. That’s because the rest of this show is just insane. There are so many moments that I will talk about from here on out that are distinct memories and Wishlist doesn’t really stick out as much as what happened before it and the string of pure Pearl Jam awesomeness.

To start with…man. To my ears, hearing Stone strum the opening of Black is just beautiful. The music is amazing and there is so much hope and longing built into those strums, in part because of the awesomeness that is about to occur. This was on display on Thursday evening. When Ed kicks in to sing, “Heyyyy,” so does the entire audience. Black was certainly a highlight of the night with everyone singing along to every word with Ed really into it. In the moment, I think this feels early for this song, but livefootsteps tells me otherwise. The crowd and the band are definitely vibing on this song. Mike has a seemingly extended and blistering outro as Eddie drinks wine and totally gets into the moment. The crowd starts the, “da da da da do do do do” and essentially just owns that part of the song. Just great.

The energy gets spiked back up immediately with Do the Evolution. I lost my shit during this song. The energy was insane. I am jumping up and down. I am for some reason tearing up during the song. And then man, during “hallelujah” with the lights up, I looked around and everyone had their hands in the air singing along.  When you watch this video, all those people moving around on the Stone side? That is my section. It was insane. Mike is running around the stage like a madman towards the end of the song. The stamina on this dude is ridiculous.

It might seem like a song that is slower, like Daughter, would have brought down the intensity level. But, it did not. One, because ANOTHER BRIDGE SCHOOL was brought up. The story of the student was great (she just had her first exhibit of her paintings, Amber Jean Young and Pegi’s garden. Ed talked about the darkness of the song. There was just a heaviness over the crowd and a reverence in hearing the song.

Prior to Not For You, Ed asks if anyone in the audience can play drums and asks folks to send a note to Ten Club. Then the crowd points to a dude and Ed says to get him tested for the encore. We’re not sure if anything is actually going to happen. Then Ed kicks into a killer version of the song. Crowd is belting it out. Ed is really into the song throughout. Mike is going in circles. I and the crowd around me go nuts for the chorus. Jumping up and down. Screaming along. The crowd is so digging the Modern Girl tag.  It’s hard to express how intensely Ed is into this whole thing. I need a break after this song.

Before playing a killer version of Seven O’Clock, Ed brings up the lyrics “there’s so much to be done,” and says there’s still so much to be done, pointing out a woman with a pro-choice sign that was standing about 3 feet away from me. I’d say that made her night, but in fact, I think getting a tambourine that Ed specifically sends to her during the closer is likely the highlight. This is a great version of this song and the crowd is intently watching while lightly singing along.

Of course, when they pull out Jeremy, it’s an all-arena singalong. When Ed starts bouncing up and down to “try to forget this,” the crowd joins him. The crowd is deafening on the “woahs” and Ed stops singing, letting the crowd take over. Everyone is having so much fun.

The band goes immediately into the the main set closer as Ed strums and then sings, “what the fuck is this world…” As my friend would later text me: Porch always delivers. Everyone was screaming along at the end. I had tears streaming down my face. It was a great closer.

As we enter the encore break, it’s the first time any of us in the GA pit had a chance to comment on the set. There was a buzz in the air even during the encore that we just experienced Pearl Jam awesomeness and we’re not even done yet.

Before Ed starts into You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away, he thanks the audience for being so fantastic and supporting the band throughout the evening. He gives a speech about allowing people to love who they want to love. People sing along to the words they know and sway back and forth. Their “Hey!” is awesome. Everyone seems to know their part. So much so that Ed gives it to the crowd saying, “it’s yours if you want it.” The crowd delivers. I get tingles up my spine as the singalong continues.

The night of hits continues with crowd favorite Better Man, and Ed is playful with a  great back and forth with the audience. I think it was during part of this song that I captured Mike over at our part of the stage. Dude is so much fun to watch. Ed asks the band if this is the best crowd of the tour tonight and the band agrees. “Just when we needed you.” The highlight though was the tag. Save it For Later was impassioned and awesome and the crowd interaction was just outstanding. I was jumping up and down and screaming. Ed screams so passionately, “…don’t let me down!” I rarely shed tears during this song, but I did during this tag. The best one I’ve ever heard.

Ed introduces the next song by stating, “well if you have a baby now, you’ll have to name it Lukin.”  I didn’t know that so many people knew the words to the chorus. It was another awesome singalong, with people dancing and moving as well.

They immediately go into Animal. Everyone is bouncing around. Ed. Mike. The crowd. On “why would you want to hurt me” Ed just gives it over to the audience to take over. He does this throughout the song. At this point, Ed comes over to my side of the stage and I captured probably the best picture I’ve ever captured at a concert.

The final song of the night from Ten, Alive, is of course a massive singalong and fun. With folks swaying back and forth. Ed gives it over to the crowd numerous times. Everyone around me is so exuberant and full of joy. The house lights come up towards the end.

We move pretty much immediately into Baba. Everyone is dancing and belting it out. Ed is throwing out tambourines. Lots of jumping up and down. There is an extended ending. We’re thinking this is the ending. But no. There is more.

The fan that everyone pointed to comes on stage to play Yellow Ledbetter. Living out what I am sure is a lifelong dream, this dude comes out on stage and does an awesome job of playing in front of 20,000 people. It was great. And people sang along of course. But the thing that I will forever remember from this show above everything else I saw, was this fan coming off stage after taking a bow with the band and his kid (who is probably 10-12) runs over to him and gives him the biggest hug in the world.

Such a great show. What a great crowd. It was so much fun. There were too many highlights for me to just pick a couple. The entire night was a highlight.

John Hamilton

I began my Pearl Jam fandom circa 1991 in high school. I was searching for something and Pearl Jam provided what I needed. I became intensely interested in them, and learned about the band and their live experience through Five Horizons, though I was not able to see them live until after college on the 2000 tour. I have one tattoo, which is of the stick man, and I have been to over 30 live shows, almost all with my Pearl Jam buddy Mark.

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