What If? A Mansfield Experiment For Every Era – Part 3 (2009, 2013, 2022)

By: Joey Goodsir | July 23, 2023

Joey Goodsir Hypothesizes a Pearl Jam “Experiment” for 2009, 2013 and 2022


Previously: The Experiment ’92, ’95, ’98 & The Experiment 2000, 2006

“Good morning. The advice we give to you is the advice we give to ourselves: let’s pace ourselves. It’s gonna be a long one.”

By July 11th, it was evident to Pearl Jam that completing their quest to play every song from the 2003 tour was gonna take some extra effort. What resulted from that realization was probably the most iconic part of the whole 3-night marathon in Mansfield: fans were encouraged in advance to arrive to the Tweeter Center early for a full-band acoustic set preceding opener Sleater-Kinney’s performance. The 12-song preset contained unique takes on several rarities, and the band’s first seated crowd in a “long, long time.”

Even still, the strict curfew had to be more than broken, Ed was sure they’d never be able to play the venue again, and a few songs remained untouched. But the beauty was in the attempt and the dedication to follow through as much as humanly possible.

Fittingly, 20 years later no less, that will be the theme of this finale to this special “WHAT IF?” series. Though the iconic acoustic preset has been honored from the beginning, it is in this final grouping of years that the “extra push” such a set represented will be deployed in various ways. It might seem a little tedious on first glance, but it will ultimately be the most memorable part of this journey. After all, everyone’s been wondering from the beginning what it would look like to see a modern Pearl Jam experiment again!

So, “if you’d like to all sit down in the guise of conserving energy … please feel free to do so.”

As Randy and John covered the real experiment’s final night of 7.11.2003 (where that Eddie Vedder quote came from), I will cover three hypothetical experiments in the modern era: 2009, 2013, and 2022. Apologies up top for breaking the curfew on this article’s intended release, but I don’t expect to be playing this venue for a while anyway…

The 2009 Experiment

Across 34 shows in Europe, North America, and Southeast Asia promoting their ninth studio album Backspacer, Pearl Jam played 154 unique songs and an average of 34 songs per night.

…Yeah. My imagination of Mansfield ‘06 was, albeit a dream, admittedly a song-count stretch already. With the band fully in their mid-40s by this point, this calls for an adjustment to get this job done. Luckily, there is historical precedent from the year’s most iconic run: the closing of the Philadelphia Spectrum on Halloween weekend…

“We talked about trying to get through every song that we knew in these next four days… but, we almost need to play six shows to do that, I don’t know if (we’d) be able to pull it off.”

Let’s put Ed’s doubts to rest and create an “experiment” version of the 4-night run!

Night One

Inside Job makes for an unexpected addition to the opening night’s emotional slow burn, before the first high-energy run is highlighted by Backspacer-opening Gonna See My Friend and Mirror Ball’s Throw Your Hatred Down. Following a jovial Small Town, the band wastes no time continuing to show off their new material with Amongst The Waves. A mid-tempo deep album cut section is anchored with a show-stopping Even Flow, before band favorites Wishlist and Garden usher in fan favorites Alone and Dissident. Upon deciding to get the tempo-changing Evacuation out the way early, the main set closes with a barrage of early rockers climaxing with Present Tense’s ending leading into Blood’s intensity. The encores begin with a Bugs bust-out and Corin Tucker guesting on Ten Club single Golden State, a pairing sure to keep fans on their toes throughout all four nights (not just the final one). Then, the soft trilogy of Parachutes, Footsteps, and Last Kiss lead into a covers party topped with an Indifference singalong.

Night Two

Sometimes and Of The Girl are the slow-burners here, building plenty of intrigue before an opening run climaxed with lead single The Fixer gets the crowd moving. Even though it’s only the second night, Corduroy makes the spotlight feel bigger before another run highlighted by deeper album cuts (Unemployable, Tremor Christ, Force of Nature) hammer home the reality of what is being attempted. After Comatose, Given to Fly, and Deep highlight the next section and further the intensity, Whipping kicks off a home stretch of experimentation (Push Me Pull Me), jams (Nothing As It Seems, Rearviewmirror), and emotion (Black). Neil and Liam Finn make are the guests on this night, and they perform a pair of Crowded House songs after the encore section’s acoustic opening. Then, Wasted Reprise brings the focus back to Pearl Jam for Life Wasted itself, followed by Boom Gaspar bringing the house down on Crazy Mary. The Who’s The Real Me and the return of Temple of the Dog’s Hunger Strike highlights the cover section, before Alive closes for the first time in any of these hypothetical sets.

Night Three

This is where Release gets deployed for the opening slot, paired with Low Light (first starting to retain its modern role in sets) for the third night’s slow burn. Old-school early-tracklisted rockers sandwich Backspacer’s Got Some before the first group of deeper album cuts for this show (Ghost, Marker In The Sand, Glorified G). A second hill of energy crests with the run from Binaural opener Breakerfall to scorcher Insignificance, and then Supersonic makes for the second Backspacer callback of the night. Things get moody (Rival, Red Mosquito, Faithfull, Hold On) before the set ends with intensity (Once, Gone, Parting Ways). No guests for this first encore, just fun: with hits Do The Evolution and Better Man alongside bandmember showcasers Mankind and Smile and the Byrds’ So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star. The second encore continues riding the cover train before Yellow Ledbetter pleases the crowd, anticipating a wild finale.

Night Four

The first seven songs of this acoustic preset are performed by various reduced lineups, with Ed solo for a pair of Uncle Neil and political covers, Ed & Jeff Ament for Bee Girl and the first appearance of Daniel Johnston’s Walking The Cow in these hypothetical shows, and Stone Gossard exciting the crowd with a solo rendition of Johnny Thunders’ You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory. The full band opener, Oceans, drops the crowd’s jaws before a run highlighted by Backspacer’s Just Breathe, Speed of Sound, and The End, as well as the first ever spoken-word-lyric-filled rendition of I’m Open and takes on Come Back and Nothingman confirm the preset as an all-timer.

Why Go and All Night waste no time hammering home the band’s mission to open the main set, then Backspacer cuts Unthought Known and Johnny Guitar head an opening tear that culminates in Spin The Black Circle. Before Daughter’s tags talk smack about school, Cropduster appears as the first deep cut choice of the set — soon followed by much more exemplary counterparts written by Jeff (Pilate, Sweet Lew). Matt Cameron gets some attention for You Are and In My Tree, before things get emotional with the return of Untitled into MFC and Light Years. After pair of Avocado cuts Army Reserve and Severed Hand, the final act of the main set is bookended by Ten classics (Jeremy, Porch) and highlighted by Ten-era rarity Brother and a transcendent version of Immortality. Hard to Imagine and Out of My Mind keep the fans in awe to open the encores, before Mike McCready gets unleashed for a final time on an original with ½ Full. It’s the biggest of cover parties to close out this experiment, with the exception being Leash — which gets the crowd amped one final time. They’ll never forget it.

The 2013 Experiment

If I had to delineate, this is the touring year in which the live presentation of Pearl Jam that we know today took its complete form. Along with that idea and their first new album in six years, the band took the road for 31 shows across the U.S. and South America and played 154 unique songs, averaging 31 per night. The standard of a four-night run set by Ed’s comments at the Spectrum and followed above will continue with Mansfield ‘13.

Night One

After the standard 2013 opener, the message is sent from Wash through Brain of J. (especially with the second Lightning Bolt cut of choice being Getaway) that the band can’t wait to play some rarities. The next run consists of high tempo rockers across different eras, before In My Tree is the first big moment of the night. Then, the middle of the main set has a unique mid-tempo section from Army Reserve to Gone, highlighted with surprise fan-favorite Hold On. After a group of mid-album cuts get the energy back up, the set closes with a bang (Nothing As It Seems, Once). The encores begin with a trilogy of soft 2000s cuts, before Ed gets the back singing with Last Kiss — and everyone on their feet with Unthought Known. After tempo hits a climax, the first encore closes with another pair of instrumental showcases (Crazy Mary, Alive). The second encore is the cover party we’ve come to expect at this point, with RITFW the first closer of this experiment.

Night Two

By 2013, Pearl Jam’s slow burns have reached their most extensive. Night 2’s choices encapsulate this with Oceans through Faithfull, as the tension builds and stays intact for as long as possible before the newest album’s title track bursts through. Following a trio of upbeat rockers (Gods’ Dice a notable deep cut), Rats and Why Go amp up the noise and intensity, as well as the crowd — a perfect opportunity to tag on My Father’s Son from the new album. Then, three fan favorites from Vitalogy (Not For You), Yield (In Hiding), and Riot Act (You Are). The showcases on this night are all deployed to end the main set (Insignificance, 1/2 Full, Present Tense, Porch), along with a fun choice in Satan’s Bed. Encore 1 is a pairing of smaller-group tunes and full-band epics, met in the middle by Bugs. A dramatic Indifference closes this second show after a cover section featuring a couple Who tracks and Van Halen’s Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love — a selection that saw increased play on this tour.

Night Three

No extensive slow burn on this night. After Of The Girl sets a moody tone, Mind Your Manners through Sad rips at warp speed. Mid-tempo go-to choices Dissident, Even Flow, and I Am Mine are grouped with Lightning Bolt’s Swallowed Whole. The middle section of the main set is glued together by straight-ahead rockers from Grievance to World Wide Suicide, before things veer deeper with Habit through All Those Yesterdays. Big Wave and Alone make for the most fun deep-cut pair of the night, before Immortality blows everyone away. Modern slow standards begin the encore, and it is followed by fan-pleasing classics from Untitled through Jeremy. After Better Man gets the crowd singing out of a Wasted Reprise intro and the encore break, the most diverse cover party of Mansfield ‘13 makes up the end of the penultimate night.

Night Four

In honor of Eddie Vedder’s solo project from two years earlier, this experiment’s acoustic preset begins with a trilogy of ukulele tracks. Then, popular 2013 cover in the Velvet Underground’s After Hours and a solo version of Thumbing My Way leads into a pair of ultra-rare Ed and Mike McCready duo performances (in similar fashion to the PJ20 documentary scene in Italy): a quiet version of Let Me Sleep and a Slow/Fast combo of Lukin with a small string section backing them. Notable choices from the full band’s section of the preset: an untagged Daughter, a full 2008-esque WMA, all-time Lost Dogs Other Side and Fatal, Lightning Bolt’s Yellow Moon, and the long-awaited return of acoustic Black.

In an effort to make a big moment out of the transition into electricity, the band opens with Lightning Bolt single Sirens and Vitalogy’s Nothingman to get the crowd singing. Given to Fly rides that transcendent wave before Go, Hail Hail, and Tremor Christ bring the intensity to full speed. After another grouping of rarities (No Way, Breakerfall, Gonna See My Friend), Lightning Bolt gets its next representation in Let The Records Play alongside a pair of true rockers (Down, Amongst the Waves). Finally, moody selections of Merkin Ball single I Got Shit and Backspacer deep cut Speed of Sound lead into the sets relentless end (Breath, Smile, Deep, Rearviewmirror).

Though unique, the main set opener of Sirens was a precedent that the band set at some shows in 2013. The encore opener of Baba O’Riley on the other hand? This unusual placement is instant communication that the crowd is in for a treat. The first encore consists of a diverse mid-tempo section (Red Mosquito, Thin Air, Footsteps), and then Into The Wild opener Setting Forth transitions into an upbeat trilogy of deep cuts (Leatherman, Don’t Gimme No Lip, Push Me Pull Me). Finally, Corduroy and Parting Ways really bring the moment to a large scale. Though simple, the second encore of this night is an all-timer — Release (!) takes the rare departure from show opener, leading into an emotional Crown of Thorns that now features the full Chloe Dancer introduction. Just when you think the climax has passed with the celebratory Yellow Ledbetter, the full band joins Mike for the rare full cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing. A hypothetical experiment finale for the ages!

The 2022 Experiment

The big question to which this whole project has been building: what would it look like if Pearl Jam attempted the Mansfield Experiment today? Unless there’s a severe underestimation of live ambition at play here, this is probably the closest we’ll ever get to the answer! The only touring year that works with all of the band’s material to the present day is last year’s, in which they played 33 shows across the U.S. and Europe. They played 132 unique songs, but notably shortened their sets to an average of 23 songs per night. In the spirit of that thought-filled adjustment in the understanding of the band’s increasing age and road wear-and-tear, this final experiment will take place across five shows to adhere to that average.

Night One

A slow-burn section of Oceans, Pendulum, Low Light, and Small Town open this marathon of a run, and a fast duo of fan-favorite from Lost Dogs, Sad, and Vitalogy single Spin the Black Circle brings things to full blast. Gigaton’s first representation is fittingly from its lead single, and then Faithfull keeps that mid-tempo groove going before they use another Yield track for the next peak of energy. After Evolution ends, a quiet section of rarity Other Side, Binaural deep cut Sleight of Hand, and transitioning I’m Open create a very small-scale feel for the middle of the set. Of course Lightning Bolt, Inside Job, and ½ Full cut right through that — and the next pairing of Pilate and Light Years are a reminder of the special occasion, climaxing with a set-ending Corduroy. A Stone moment in Don’t Gimme No Lip and a few high-energy covers (Public Image, Fuckin’ Up, Baba O’Riley) make up the encore.

Night Two

As was done three times on this tour, Daughter is the opener here. It is paired with Nothingman, before Last Exit, Save You, and In Hiding get everyone singing at full force. Following a brief full-band + ukulele moment on Sleeping By Myself, it’s right back to straight-ahead rocking with Down and Superblood Wolfmoon. The alternation of intensity peaks (Habit, Alone, Mind Your Manners) and valleys (Wishlist, I Got Shit, Yellow Moon, Man of The Hour) continues pretty consistently, before a special cover of Simon Townshend’s I’m The Answer primes you for the main set finale of epics from Binaural (Nothing As It Seems) and Ten (Black). The encore, between the energizing Why Go and trio of guitar-forward covers, is pure rock and roll.

Night Three

This is the one that picks up faster, as early Mirror Ball nod Throw Your Hatred Down joins No Code classic Hail Hail and new Gigaton rocker Never Destination to follow up a Wash opener. Those two albums get paired again at mid-tempo angst with Alright and In My Tree, before Given To Fly and Once groove as surface-level-fan service. After a run of Whipping through Not For You push Ed’s vocals to a thrilling limit (especially with two nights still ahead), there is a substantial quiet section headlined by all-time favorite rarities Fatal and All Those Yesterdays, and an instrumental-driven main set finale of Rearviewmirror. After coming back onstage and building a final push via Hard To Imagine, Ed gets the crowd in full singing mode for the end of the show with Last Kiss. It’s an old-school final three Pearl Jam songs, with the Chloe Dancer intro to Mother Love Bone’s Crown of Thorns providing a slight sheen of modernity.

Night Four

The first four songs on the fourth night are as straightforward as could be for the beginning of a modern set, and there are no complaints to be had. Backspacer turned-live workhorse Unthought Known takes things to another level, before Ed gets lyrically contemplative with I Am Mine and Seven O’Clock. Dissident then allows the guitars to groove, Amongst the Waves allows the crowd to sing, and an Untitled intro-ed MFC allows Ed to improvise to the moment. After yet another pairing of Vs. and Backspacer, the quiet section gets softest with an intimate Bee Girl and Parachutes. Love Boat Captain is the emotional and musical rebuild, before a Lukin intro-ed Porch climaxes the main set. For the encore the band comes out guns blazing with a face-melting rendition of Gigaton single Quick Escape and fan favorite Leash. It’s another classic rock set of covers (excitingly featuring Mike and Matt on vocals for Kiss’ Black Diamond) and Yellow Ledbetter, fittingly, brings that party atmosphere to go with one more night of experimentation remaining.

Night Five

The final acoustic preset of this project is split in half, the first of which being Ed solo performances reflecting of the many preset songs he used on the first leg of the tour. After a classic Long Road open, the full band section features a mix of acoustic mainstays (Thin Air, Footsteps), rarer acoustic takes on electric songs (Garden, I Believe In Miracles), and a handful of new album tracks culminating in the emotional pump-organ led album closer (Buckle Up, Retrograde, River Cross).

Of The Girl and All Night contrast in instrumental flavor to open the main show, communicating to fans that they’re in it for a unique (and long) one. This is followed with the ripping appearance of 2023 rarity Go, and captivating Gigaton opener Who Ever Said. Jeremy is probably the first massive all-time hit of the set, but is not played before they get one more rarity in there with Satan’s Bed! The sequencing of Red Mosquito, Better Man, and Even Flow allow Ed and Mike to go back and forth on their biggest talents — before Boom takes control of the room by storm with Crazy Mary, and Matt proves he might be the most talented musician on the stage with songwritten Gigaton cut Take the Long Way and vocally-led Taylor Hawkins tribute Cold Day In The Sun. Stone gets a moment on the mic too with Mankind, before the Josh Klinghoffer-requested Singles pairing and a stunning Immortality close the main set. Instrument-swapping Smile, a cover of The Rolling Stones’ Street Fighting Man, and Klinghoffer-led Purple Rain (with a Pinkpop ‘92-style vocal reference to The Beatles’ Rain from Ed) makes for a fun first half to the encore. Finally, the last experiment closes with an emotional bang in Indifference and Alive.

Thanks to all who joined my in-depth journey through hypothetical Pearl Jam history! I hope it adequately celebrated the 20th anniversary of the band’s pinnacle of setlist-crafting. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the recent podcasts covering the real Experiment, and most importantly — those original shows themselves. It’s thanks to Pearl Jam actually attempting the concept in 2003 that such a project is possible!

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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