Forever Faithfull: Memories From The Road featuring Kirk Walton

By: Kirk Walton | June 16, 2023

Kirk Walton Retraces Pearl Jam Memories From The Road

Forever Faithfull is a series derived from daily Facebook posts on the Pearl Jam Podcast Community group. These tour stories were shared by Kirk Walton. Kirk reminisces about his first show in his home state of Minnesota, and walks through being in attendance for many of Pearl Jam’s special shows in the mid-west.

6/30/1998 – All Those Yesterdays – Minneapolis, MN

First, just a short backstory – I’m a proud native Minnesotan, a rabid PJ fan since early 1992 when I was a freshman in high school. Like many Minnesotans my age, the 1998 show at Target Center marked the first time I had a chance to see the band live, with their previous 4 MN shows happening between 1991-1992, prior to my concert going (and driving) days. And let’s be honest, as I’ve lamented several times on LO4L, Pearl Jam doesn’t come to Minnesota nearly as often as we’d like them to. So to say this show was a long time coming is a massive understatement.

This was the first time the band had played a true headlining “arena” show in town, with their previous shows happening at the iconic First Avenue club, an opening slot for the Pumpkins and Chili Peppers in a smaller arena, and their “matinee” slot at the 1992 Lollapalooza.
Was the show worth the wait? Dear reader, I tell you that it was. They opened with Sometimes (forever locking that in as my “first ever PJ song” every time I look it up on LiveFootsteps) and then immediately kicked it into overdrive. Last Exit, Brain of J, Hail Hail, Faithfull, Even Flow, Corduroy, I Got Id… to this day I haven’t attended a PJ show with that blistering of a start that early in the set.

Later on, we were treated to a fun “Stone section” as Eddie turned the reins over on Mankind to appease a fan holding a Let Stone Sing sign. This was immediately followed by Stone messing up (or having an equipment malfunction) on the opening of All Those Yesterdays, providing a humorous break (Eddie sang the opening line “Don’t you think you outta rest?” as Stone quit playing… to which Eddie said “apparently, yes.”) Fun to see those two rarities pop up back to back in a show!

After a great encore, the show closed with a phenomenal version of Porch after they teased My Generation. It was nearly two hours of perhaps the fastest-paced, “heaviest” PJ show I’ve been to. Not a bad way to kick off my PJ live experiences. That night, I immediately signed up for the Ten Club and have been a member ever since!

9/4/2011 – Love Boat Captain – PJ20

As much as I lament the relatively few times Pearl Jam has performed in my home state of Minnesota, I have to show gratitude for the incredibly memorable shows they’ve played next door in Wisconsin. By my count, there have been four shows In WI that have been given monikers and elevated to a sort of legendary status – and I was lucky enough to have been at all 4. John, Randy, and I covered the first of those shows, 2000’s Ice Bowl, on LO4L last year. You can check that out here.

Let’s talk PJ20 here. The band was celebrating their 20th year and just a couple months after the Pearl Jam Twenty documentary was released, PJ fans from all over the world descended on Alpine Valley for a memorable weekend. My friend Justin Robinson and I made the 5-hour drive, and joined close to 40,000 Faithfull fans. I’m guessing many of you were fortunate enough to be there as well. These were two Pearl Jam concerts like no other. With the number of guests on stage, not to mention the number of times the guys in the band joined the likes of the Strokes, Queens of the Stone Age, Mudhoney, and more.

There were so many highlights during the weekend, this would turn into a small novel if I listed them all. I think many would tell you the Temple of the Dog sections both nights with Chris Cornell will go down as some of the more memorable Pearl Jam performances ever. For me, my favorite highlight was Love Boat Captain on the second night. It’s my favorite Pearl Jam song, and this was the first time I had ever seen it live. Eddie’s lead-in evoked the memory of Roskilde which was such a defining moment in the band’s history and clearly on everyone’s mind given the recent documentary. The convergence of these moments brought out a ton of emotions, and I’m not afraid to admit I teared up a lot during this song!

They closed the first night with a cover of MC5’s Kick Out The Jams with Mark Arm of Mudhoney, after which Eddie commented about this being the first time they were a “Party Band” which was really a great way to describe the whole weekend. This was the Ultimate Pearl Jam Party. Fans from all over the world assembled to celebrate life, music, and the band we loved to follow. It was a pretty incredible bonding experience. From the exhibit in the Alpine Valley concourse to the various celebrities both rumored to be there (“I heard Bono is here!”) to those who actually showed up (“Hey, it’s Dennis Rodman!”) – this weekend certainly goes down In Pearl Jam lore. We were so fortunate to be a part of it!

7/19/2013 – All The Way – Wrigley Field

Certainly, Pearl Jam had played big venues before. But when the rumors came out in early 2013 that the band *might* play Wrigley Field, it just hit different. Knowing the band’s love of sports, and in particular, Eddie’s childhood love of the Cubs, you knew this was going to be one of the biggest events in the band’s history. Luckily, for us Minnesotans, it also was an easy road trip. So on a steamy July weekend, my friends Adam, Justin, Lori, Nathan, Becky, and Jared all piled into a van for a historic weekend in Chicago.

We knew there was a chance for inclement weather the night of the show; what we didn’t realize is how the weather would end up adding to the historic nature of the show. After opening with Release, which is sort of obligatory for a Chicago show, and a 7-song set featuring some familiar tunes and one rarity in Hold On, the band warned the crowd about the weather, and then let everyone know we would be taking a break.

And then the downpour began…

Those of us on the field were quickly shuffled into the tight Wrigley Field concourses. Adam and I, knowing we had friends in the bleachers with rain parkas, decided we’d rather get poured on than be crammed in, so outside we went. For the better part of two hours, we had no idea if we were going to see the band again or if we were just going to have been witness to the band’s most famous 7-song show. Luckily, after about 200 minutes, everyone was let back onto the field with a mad dash to get back to the rail. After a two-hour, 45-minute delay, around midnight, the show which likely would have been long-finished was going to start once again.

The show restarted with, what was for me, the highlight of the night. Eddie in a Cubs jersey, paraphrasing Chicago Cub legend Ernie Banks’s most famous quote – “Let’s Play Two… although tonight, let’s play ’til 2!”, playing, in center field in the ballpark he grew up attending games in, an anthem for the team he loved: All The Way. And then in the middle of the song, Ernie Banks himself joined Eddie on stage.
You don’t have to be a Cubs fan to love Ernie Banks. I’d argue If you are a baseball fan in general, there are a select group of players that are universally beloved – and Ernie is one of those players. Most of us didn’t realize at the time this was to be one of his final public appearances, but it was one of those moments as a combined fan of this band and the sport of baseball that you’ll never forget.

When Eddie said “Let’s Play Til 2” he wasn’t kidding. The rest of the set, all things considered, was incredible, and the weary crowd never slowed down even for a moment. Other highlights included the live debut of two songs: Lightning Bolt and Future Days. You also had the third-ever performance of Bugs with Eddie on the accordion, some awesome covers such as Mother and Chloe/Crown, and an awesome closer in Rockin’ In The Free World. I’m guessing the band would’ve played for another hour had they not been told “you absolutely MUST be finished by 2 AM.”

Was this the best PJ show I ever attended? A near-three hour rain delay wasn’t exactly enjoyable. But I will say, of the shows I’ve attended, this was easily the most memorable, and I’m sure many of you feel the same way!

10/20/2014 – Faithfull – Milwaukee, WI

Heading into this evening, I figured it would be just another awesome show in the Midwest. I was able to bring one of my closest friends, Dave, to his first Pearl Jam show, but it was just three days after the legendary No Code show in Moline, and I had even just joked with a friend saying “hey, maybe they’ll pull out Yield too!”

The early part of the set was great with a surprise early appearance of both the song Baba O’Riley, and the on-stage guest guitarist Rick Nielsen. Two thoughts – 1) did Rick have somewhere to be and they moved him up in the show much earlier? (Editor’s Note: Yes. That’s exactly what happened. – RS) 2) I LOVE Baba O’Riley… but you’re Rick Nielsen… why not play Surrender? But I digress.

After Rick left the stage, they launched into Brain of J. I think somewhere in the back of my brain, a voice said “hey! They just did No Code start to finish. Brain of J. is the first song off Yield. Mayyyyybe?” So when the band started playing Faithfull, of course I lost It. I looked right at Dave and said “We are getting Yield!!” If you listen to the boot or check out the video, you can hear a definite buzz with the opening chords of the song. But to be certain, we needed to hear No Way next… and sure enough, we heard No Way next.

Yield is unquestionably in my Top 2 Pearl Jam albums, which puts it in my top 3-4 albums of all-time, period. To be in the audience for the show the band decided to play it front to back made for an unforgettable experience. Hearing the opening to Faithfull is likely my single most exciting moment as a Pearl Jam fan, knowing what was coming next.

I always joke that it was my 9th Pearl Jam show, and I was able to check off hearing all of Yield in concert. But it was my buddy Dave’s first PJ show, and he was also able to check off hearing all of Yield In concert.

Note: as a Vikings fan, I’m just going to ignore all the pro-Packers moments this night gave us, but you have to admit, this is a pretty sweet headline.

9/17/2022 – Purple Rain – Louisville, KY

One of the fun aspects of being a Pearl Jam fan is having an excuse to get out and see the band in different locations and as part of different events. While my Pearl Jam travel ledger pales in comparison with many die-hard fans, I’ve now had the chance to see them 14 times in 5 different states, and my last two shows have been a part of two music festivals – 2021’s Ohana Fest, and 2022’s Bourbon and Beyond.

For the most part, the Pearl Jam community is such a great one. I’m blessed to have made many friends by being a fan of this band. What I love about seeing them at a festival is the opportunity to have common ground with so many people, while discovering new acts as well. What I’ve found with most Pearl Jam fans is, while we share a fandom of this band, we’re music fans first and foremost, but tend to have pretty diverse tastes.

Bourbon and Beyond in 2022 was particularly fun. Pearl Jam headlined night 3 and certainly felt like the reason a large majority of people were there, but while there, we had a chance to enjoy so many other awesome acts. Jack White and Jason Isbell are two of my personal favorites, but the weekend was filled with so many awesome acts. I walked away with such a tremendous appreciation for Brandi Carlisle, The Revivalists, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Courtney Barnett, and other acts I had a chance to see for the very first time including the legendary Alanis Morrissette!

Pearl Jam’s set at Bourbon and Beyond was what you’d likely expect from the band – enough “hits” to satisfy the more casual festival-goer, with enough “deep cuts” to make the show an unmistakable Pearl Jam show. The middle of the show featured Quick Escape and In Hiding back-to-back, which was a personal highlight for me. Eddie also gave a shout-out to perhaps Louisville’s most famous person, the late Muhammad Ali, who is referenced in the song Not For You.

My favorite moment was seeing them close with Purple Rain for the first and, so far, only time in their history. As a native of Chanhassen, MN, which is Prince’s hometown, that was a pretty special moment. And as it stands, it’s the last song I’ve seen them perform live until they open their 2023 tour here in St. Paul on August 31st!

Kirk Walton

Horizon Leg Patron

The first time I saw Pearl Jam was the video for Alive. I didn’t know what to think about the band. “What are these guys? They aren’t like Metallica or Guns n Roses. Why is that guy wearing a weird hat?” Over time, their music became the anthems of my formative years. Our friends bonded over their music - and little did I know over the next 25+ years just how many more friends I’d make due to that music. The band has been a big part of my life - I hope that we can enjoy them for another 25+ years!

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