Pearl Jam’s Top Moments In Denver, Colorado

By: Joey Goodsir | September 22, 2022

Joey Goodsir Shares the Band’s Best Moments in Denver, Colorado

As Pearl Jam’s 2022 Gigaton tour comes to an end, we are reminded of why All The Memories Going Round has followed the band all year long. This series is all about the unique Pearl Jam identity of every tour stop, thanks to one-of-a-kind stories generated from the band’s forever-varying sets.

Denver, CO, in a Pearl Jam context, fittingly has the identity of uniqueness. From the city’s theaters to the Ball Arena that it returns to on September 22nd — the band has built a reputation for bringing out performances you’ve never seen before.

For one last time in 2022, let’s relive those moments before new ones are made.

3/6-7/1994 – Paramount Theater – Vitalogy Singles Debut

A mere five months after the release of Vs., Pearl Jam chose this historic space in the heart of Denver to get its 1994 off the ground — and no time was wasted to create the year’s identity. Across this two-night stand in the Mile High City, the band debuted its two lead singles for the record that would materialize by year’s end.

These performances are exactly the way you’d want these tracks to first be exposed to listeners’ ears. The world premiere of Spin The Black Circle was an explosion of energy that carried the crowd through night 1’s home stretch. It was a statement that, even as they grappled with their new heights of fame, Pearl Jam just rocked harder and faster.

Speaking of that grappling, Ed’s introduction to the first-ever performance of Not For You the next night explicitly addresses that exact dynamic. He mentions reading a letter from a convicted rapist who enjoyed the band’s music — before picking up a guitar onstage for one of the first times ever and playing that simple but iconic riff. In this pair of instances, it was clear that the people of Denver saw a new era begin.

6/23/1998 – Fiddler’s Green – Special Collector’s Tags

Audio Clip Available Only

Unlike 1994’s pair of premieres, the 173rd performance of one of Pearl Jam’s most bread-and-butter songs is much easier to overlook. But with a look just a little under the surface, it is clear that the crowd that congregated just outside of Denver for the 1998 tour stop at Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre saw something just as unique.

On this night, Ed tossed aside all of the more routine tags at the end of Daughter for the one-of-a-kind combination of the Pixies’ “Monkey Gone to Heaven” and Jane’s Addiction’s “Had a Dad.” This is one of only five all-time uses of the former, and the only such use of the latter.

Ed made quite an up-and-down journey of the combination for the two minutes they were used, and the cheers from the crowd acknowledged that Denver was along for the ride.

4/1/2003 – Pepsi Center – Let the Tour Begin

When Pearl Jam stepped offstage at Seattle’s Key Arena on November 6, 2000, it was far from a stretch to believe that would be the last time. The tragedy at the Roskilde Festival that summer still weighed heavily on the band, and it provoked a deep re-examination of purpose with no clear sign of resolution.

This set the stage for 2003, Pearl Jam’s first major touring year since those tumultuous times. It is one of the most crucial artistic journeys of the band’s career, and where did it start of all places? Denver, of course!

To the tune of new touring member Boom Gaspar’s organ, it all starts with an emotional performance of Love Boat Captain — giving the band that came out the other side of that era its new mission statement.

And in all that followed, a new era was born — with a new album called Riot Act to explore, and George W. Bush masks to “impale.” Nine months later, Pearl Jam would wrap up the year as a band with renewed purpose. This is where that purpose is proclaimed.

7/2/2006 – Pepsi Center – Rock ‘n’ Roll Stars

Denver isn’t just a key destination for Pearl Jam — it is also one for their heroes.

With Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers in town, the band took the opportunity to perform their rare cover of The Byrds’ “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star.” It is the only time Pearl Jam has performed it twice at a single tour stop (it returned to the setlist on night 2), and it has only been performed five other times.

Campbell’s Rickenbacker shines on this version, and the Denver crowd brings the party atmosphere the moment deserves.

10/22/2014 – Pepsi Center – PJ22 Combines Slow and Fast Lukin

Just as Denver closes out Pearl Jam’s 2022 tour, it also served as its finale for 2014. The 22nd anniversary of the band’s first show was bound to bring some moments to the table, but none quite like that night’s use of the band’s shortest song.

By this point, fans had heard Lukin in its traditional form over 200 times. They had also heard it in a slower style, most prominently at Madison Square Garden in 2010. But here, as a 22nd birthday present to the friends (like the song’s namesake) that have been along for the whole ride, both styles merge to exhilarating effect.

With slow strums of the chords and a dramatically improv-ed delivery of a verse from Ed solo, the crowd begins to cheer at his first utterance of the song’s hook. Then, before you know it, the fast rhythmic strums any Pearl Jam fan knows and loves hit, and it’s off to the races.

Joey Goodsir

Concertpedia Writer & Horizon Leg Patron

I may be the youngest PJ superfan you’ve come across, but from my first home directly across the street from the Vic Theatre, discovering “Alive” to begin my high school life, and Gigaton’s release on the day of my college decision – I was built for this.

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  1. I believe they played “Not Jeremy” one of the two nights at Red Rocks in 95; and they opened for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in 06 so of course Mike and Belmont were in town.

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