15 Thoughts, Questions and Predictions for Pearl Jam’s 2023 Tour
15 Thoughts, Questions and Predictions For Pearl Jam’s 2023 Tour
Another tour? Again? I thought we did this last year? When has Pearl Jam ever toured two years in a row?
If you’re looking at the last six years, it definitely feels like the touring schedule has been a bit sporadic. 2017 and 2019 were off years, with the former’s only performance being the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame ceremony and the latter being the first year in the band’s history where there were no performances at all. We obviously don’t need to get into that cursed 2020 year that set everything back, but now that we have 33 shows from last year under our belt, it feels like time we can get back into a rhythm again.
It seems as though when we were writing about this last May that there were a lot more unknown factors in play. We got a taste for the possibilities when they played four festival shows in 2021, but this was the album tour that we were finally getting after an exhausting two years of isolation. There were a number of theories and projections being passed around; some of the ideas ended up being true and others far from it. But now that we have a good feel for what this era is, there’s a pretty good indication that we know a little bit more of what we’re in for.
But there are always questions. When you expand upon a question, it becomes a thought. When you express that thought aloud, it becomes a comment. And if you state your comment with conviction, it’s actually a prediction. What we’re going to do here in this column is take all of the questions that we were asked and predictions that were shared over social media to try and come up with a logistical reason as to why things may or may not happen. I’ll look into a little recent history, as well as some ancient history, to see what kind of trends that the band has relied on, and how those might come into play in these nine shows we’re about to witness.
Just a quick note, these questions are primarily about what the band does on the stage. I was asked questions about dynamic ticket pricing, luxury suites, and some other side topics that I’m just not going to get into here. If it ain’t about the music, then I ain’t about it. I was also asked a bunch of questions about merch and posters, and while that’s not really my forte either, I will make a few predictions based on some of what we’ve seen lately at the booths.
I know all of you have one important, pressing question that takes priority over everything else featured in this writing, which is why I’m saving the best for last. Until then, here’s 15 things worth discussing before you’re gonna see your friends.
1. Will PJ continue starting the shows with 3, 4, 5 acoustic type tunes, sitting on stools, etc? – Tim Maier (@dishrag13 on… yuck, “X”)
This became a staple of the September leg last year, mainly due in part to Ed’s vocal situation that stemmed from the Paris show. It was a cool feature. People obviously remember when it was done in bigger spotlights – Red Rocks 1995, Mansfield Night III 2003, and The Gorge 2005 are the best examples, but they have never consistently made it a regular part of the show until recently. In 2013, the opening section extended from one typical slower start song to three, but the band never sat on stools or addressed the crowd during this time.
It was a unique situation that made for some unforgettable moments. That version of Garden from Ottawa is one of the clear standouts, but we also got to see songs like Other Side, All Those Yesterdays, Hard To Imagine, and Sleight Of Hand get some love that they otherwise may not have had. However, I think this was all circumstantial to the time and something that I don’t see being repeated in the same vein.
They have planned only nine shows with multiple off days in between, which means there’s plenty of time for Ed to rest his voice. My guess is that they will take the opportunity to go back into a more traditional structure. I can see a lot of Release-into-Corduroy-type moments, a plan that has never failed to get a crowd fired up, and then balance out some of the top five opening songs that were used last year. John’s idea from the Barrie 1998 episode would be a perfect way to implement those songs in a similar fashion. Instead of opening with stools, why not try a Storytellers-esque mini-set after the Even Flow spot where you can feature these songs more prominently? They could use something like a Present Tense or Retrograde as the “kick down the chairs” moment to segue into the big celebrational songs, leading to the end of the set.
I’d like to think that this tour would be less about playing things safe, but in some aspects, this is kind of the transformation that this band has made as they push into their 60’s. Whatever they decide, I’m here for it.
2. How much shorter will these shows be compared to last year? – Greg (@audiopanacea on the dead bird app)
I think we’re looking at around the same length time-wise and song-wise. Touring with an opener again certainly takes away the possibility of 3-hour shows, but I think we’ll average out to around 2:15 – 2:30 per night, with sets totaling about 23-24 songs. It may not be what we’re used to, it may not be what we want to hear, but I think they have definitively set that standard from here on out.
I’ve seen a lot of complaints over the past year that Pearl Jam’s elders, such as Bruce Springsteen and even the Pixies, have been playing longer sets than they have. I can’t stress this enough, all bands and personnel are different and make their decisions for the benefit of their situation and not anyone else’s. Nobody in Pearl Jam is saying Bruce played x amount of songs and he’s 16 years older than our eldest band member, so we should be playing more than them. That’s not really how it works.
Having an understanding for this band, they pride themselves on giving it 100% every night and are always challenging themselves to raise the bar. I’m sure the last thing that they’d want is to not have the capability to do that in ten years. So if the goal for the “geriatric” era of Pearl Jam is to go for as long as they can and do it at the highest level, then concessions need to be made somewhere. They’ve proven that these shows can still be excellent without having to play 30+ songs, so perhaps reverting back to that isn’t necessary at all.
3. Will It Still Be One Encore? – Brandon Rose (@stonewire95 I think you get the idea…)
I believe it will be, for very similar reasons as I stated above. Multiple encore shows just aren’t necessary in this format much anymore. If anything, I think what may end up happening is that the band would close out encore 1 with Alive and Yellow Ledbetter, and if they still have time to spare before hitting curfew, they may come back out to do Rockin’ In The Free World or Baba O’Riley. Outside of that, I don’t think we’ll see an expansive five-song set like we used to get for encore 2.
4. What will be the fate of the Gigaton songs? – Lots of people, but I think Mark Kirby really wants to know.
This is probably one of the more difficult questions to answer. It definitely felt like the Gigaton tour barely had much of the record played to show for it. The premise may have derailed a little bit once they arrived in Oakland without Matt Cameron and needed to adjust the sets to incorporate more familiar songs for Josh Klinghoffer and Richard Stuverud as the stand-ins. From that point forward, we were getting around 2-3 songs on average per show with a few exceptions here and there. It was pretty clear that they had favorites that they wanted to give exposure to while the others were left on the back burner.
The core of Gigaton live to me is this – Quick Escape, Who Ever Said, Dance Of The Clairvoyants, Retrograde and River Cross. By the end of the tour last year, these seemed to be the ones cycled around the most. I’d also throw Seven O’Clock into that category, and while I’m a big fan of this one, it seems like it would be one of the easier cuts to make. All of the other six, including Superblood Wolfmoon, which they nearly dropped by the end of September, don’t seem like they’d have a consistent place within the 2023 setlist.
The one thing that I’ll counterpoint with is that it does seem like they are treating this like an extended 2022 tour, given the fact that most of the promotional art is still the same. Considering how a large portion of the midwest and basically all of the south missed out on last year, they may feel obligated to bring some of these to the table again. Outside of the five I spotlighted, there may be an instance where they break out Alright or Buckle Up for a show, but I don’t foresee a consistent presence for those.
I’d buy stock in Quick Escape, Who Ever Said, and Retrograde right now, which in my opinion are the elite live songs of this era. I’d sell on Dance Of The Clairvoyants just because it’s a little more challenging to find a good spot to place it in the set. And for River Cross, I think it’ll average around the same type of play it got last year when it was saved for special moments.
5. What will Josh K’s role be on this tour? Will he still tour with them? – Joseph Rice
Yes. Without a doubt we will get to see Josh this year, and for the foreseeable future. He has solidified himself as the second touring member of Pearl Jam. I don’t believe his role will be all that different, he’s there to fill in pieces where the other members of the band can’t. He’ll provide backing vocals, percussive beats that Cameron is too busy to do himself, extra synthesizer sounds that Boom won’t necessarily provide from the B3, and every now and then we’ll get to hear him riff on a solo for Rockin’ or Alive.
After leaning heavily into the Purple Rain cover from last year, kicking off the run in St. Paul without having him in attendance would be a little bit of a slap in the face. But his role was never in doubt.
6. Are we going to see those 2000 albums come alive and become more represented? Only 8 plays from Riot Act in 2022 seems downright criminal. – James Penna
I agree, it’s certainly a bit of a disappointment for those of us who cherish the entire discography. In 2018, they seemed to catch fire on a few Riot Act songs such as Green Disease, 1/2 Full, and even a few excellent versions of Help Help with some help from Help! But as mentioned before, the sets have evolved so much during that four year gap. Going from 28 to 23 is a pretty massive drop off, which means the rare songs kind of get pushed to near extinction.
It seems to me that as time goes on, the fans grow more of an attachment to some of the undervalued material in their catalog, which is an extreme opposite from the band, who have historically fixated on newer songs more than old, Gigaton notwithstanding. A song such as Get Right is a perfect example of that. It has the longest drought of any studio album track, and trails only Just A Girl as the overall leader. After 2003, the band left it in the rearview while the fans have pined over its absence. This led to an acknowledgement during the Detroit 2014 show, and an acceptable explanation as to why it hasn’t returned. There has been a push from our good friend Jason Brown to bring it back this year, so maybe we’ll finally get our wish!
You could also trace back to the Los Angeles show from last year where Ed had the folks on the rail create a list of requests for them to play that night. With rarities such as Brother and Tremor Christ requested, the band went with the biggest layup and chose the most commonly played song on the list in Unthought Known. Can’t blame the band for not dusting off everything in the rolodex, but they used to make attempts on songs like Mankind and Satan’s Bed in order to keep the crowd appeased.
I don’t think there will be an album that won’t get any representation at all. But it’s hard for me to say that we’ll get more than 2 or 3 songs from Pearl Jam or Backspacer played. And I’m rooting for the underdogs! There are multiple songs off of Binaural and Riot Act that I’d do anything to hear. But I don’t think they are in much of a position to get into a groove or consistency with anything from those records due to being limited to nine shows.
7. With its usage on the Last Dance and having two shows in Chicago, will we see Present Tense get played? – Mookie Blaylock (not that one)
A resounding yes. Present Tense has been a staple for Chicago ever since the 2006 version where, coincidentally, Ed suggested that he’d take Jordan’s jersey retirement flag back home in his suitcase. Chicago is gonna sing the shit out of it no matter where it’s placed in the set, however, I think I know the perfect spot for it. Open the show with Present Tense for night 2. It’s pretty much a guarantee that we’ll get to hear Release open one of the two Chicago shows due to its own rich history there, but if you want a Chicago show to go from great to legendary, this is exactly what needs to be done. It’s one of my boldest predictions for this tour, but there’s no reason not to do it.
8. What song will catch lightning in a bottle just like Garden did last year? – Randy Sobel, the literal author of this column
Great question, Randy. It’s difficult to predict this because not even the band has an idea of what that song is going to be right now. Everything has to align perfectly – it has to be a special performance that gives the band some confidence, needs a big response from the crowd, and whatever other ingredient that makes this magic work so well. Garden had the perfect ascension. It was highlighted as part of the set full of Ten songs in Fresno that featured Dave Krusen. Once they started utilizing it in the slow burn spot, it took off. The band thought so highly of it that it ended up opening a show for the first time ever in Oklahoma City.
Garden certainly benefits from being on Ten, which is easy for hardcore and casual fans alike to attach to live. But I think there are some other less common songs that would excel in the same fashion.
My first thought here is Immortality. It kind of fits in this category where it’s not quite a rare song, yet they don’t play it enough for it to be common either. It’s always been a song that allows for an open canvas. Mike always treats us to something electrifying on the solo in every performance, and the ending can be extended and improvised, creating that controlled chaos reminiscent of the Jack Irons versions from the Vitalogy tour. Recent renditions of Immortality have been great, but it doesn’t feel like they’ve allowed the song to gain the momentum that it deserves in order to make it a featured moment of the set. Hoping that can change soon.
Other ideas here range anywhere from Faithfull to In My Tree, or perhaps they can get on a good run with Love Boat Captain again, Severed Hand would be a welcome addition, as would a true Lost Dog such as Fatal or U. Whichever song makes an impact will be recognized, but yet again, with nine shows to work with and four separate two-night ventures, it may be difficult to build upon the same kind of momentum for a song like they did last year.
9. Not so bold prediction: we’ll get a different opener for every night on this tour. Middle of the road bold prediction: no song will be played at all nine shows. Bold bold prediction: for all of the two-night stays, there will be no more than 3 repeated songs per night. – Dakota Duvall
Three bold-ish predictions? That’s a bold strategy, Dakota. Let’s see how this plays out. Let’s start with the least bold. I think that a new opener for every show can be easily attainable. For a portion of last year, they were working on a streak of about 15 or so unique songs that were consecutive openers. They have multiple options to work with that can fulfill this task. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll give some bold predictions a go here and try and guess all nine:
St. Paul 1: Small Town
St. Paul 2: Wash
Chicago 1: Release
Chicago 2: Present Tense
Indianapolis: Long Road
Ft. Worth 1: Retrograde
Ft. Worth 2: Of The Girl
Austin 1: Alright
Austin 2: Hard To Imagine
If I go nine for nine, I’m throwing a pizza party for every show in 2024.
Medium-sized bold now. We’ll get into Metallica for the boldest bold prediction in a minute, but the idea of what they’ve been doing kind of connects to this question as well. I think it’s going to be immensely difficult to leave some of these songs off for one or two nights. While Even Flow has been known to take a night off every now and again, I don’t think they’ll skip it in nine shows. Same goes for Alive. Everything else, from Porch to Do The Evolution, will probably be held out once or twice. But I think Alive and Even Flow are gonna be the same guaranteed staples that they’ve been utilizing in sets for almost 23 years.
So now I have a bit of a bold prediction about the boldest prediction. I think that this one is more likely to happen than the medium-sized one. Lets now reference what Metallica has been doing this year. Two nights in one city with completely different setlists for both shows, no repeated songs at all. While this sounds like a dream to Pearl Jam fans, I have heard that some of the hardcore Metallica fans have taken issue with this. Unlike us, it seems like they enjoy having consistency in their setlists and getting the same songs every night. It’s a totally upside down idea from the world we know, but if Pearl Jam were to adapt what Metallica did, we would go bananas for it.
Perhaps they set the tour up this way so they could do something similar to that? While Pearl Jam wouldn’t market it in the same way as Metallica has, I’ll go back to the Hyde Park shows from last year where Porch and Alive were the only two repeats out of 44 songs. This tells me that it’s on their minds to do something like this, and while I don’t think we’ll fully get two completely different sets, I’m on board with the idea of only 2-3 repeats happening.
And in actuality, nearly most of their two-night stays throughout the course of history are set up like this anyway. I’m very interested to see how far they take this.
10. Will the tone of concerts reflect what’s happening these days in the country as far as politics go? In their history, certain tours have been more political than others, though I suppose it could be argued they’ve ALL been political. – Kirk Walton
The political angle is one they’ll never shy away from, and right now, there are a lot of issues they could focus on if they choose to. Knowing Ed? I’m sure he can’t wait to get to Texas to rip Greg Abbott a new one. Whether it’s focusing on a woman’s right to choose or the inhumane treatment of immigrants down at the border, he and Ted Cruz will be put on full blast.
Obviously with the Republican primaries starting to heat up, he could take a jab at Ron DeSantis at some point, but I think the one person who will be left alone is Trump. His name wasn’t mentioned all that much last year, perhaps there was an extra emphasis on him during Quick Escape or Seven O’Clock, but I don’t think there will be any reason to bring him up in conversation. And that’s as far as I’ll go with that before a war is started in the comment section! (just a friendly reminder that political chatter has been an important part of the band’s history since the very beginning. Disagreeing with it is one thing, but Ed will always speak his mind when the opportunity presents itself.)
11. What local “shout outs” will each city get? – This is Kirk Walton too, but I know someone else asked this and I just can’t find who it was. Kirk’s gonna be helping out the podcast in St. Paul though, so he deserves two.
I mentioned a few above. Prince tributes aplenty in St. Paul. I’d actually be very interested to see them do a cover of I Would Die 4 U. But there’s always a good chance that The Replacements will get some recognition as well.
As far as moments go, I think we should all prepare ourselves for the return of Dr. Jakub Tolar! He was a wonderful guest back when they played there in 2014. He’s a doctor from the University of Minnesota who specializes in bone marrow treatment, and has been an important figure behind the research for EB. Considering all of the progress that’s been made from nine years ago, it feels appropriate that he gets another standing ovation from the hometown crowd.
Chicago is pretty easy to predict. There are always a handful of songs that are shoo-ins to get played, like the aforementioned Release and Present Tense, but Ed also has a tendency to get nostalgic about his hometown, which means we may get to see many of his early influences get tributes here. I’m not buying into the idea of Black, Red, Yellow being played again, but I think the odds are pretty good that we will see Dennis Rodman at some point.
Indy will probably be filled with car songs such as MFC and Rearviewmirror to pay homage to the home of the biggest racing event in the country. Ft. Worth sure as hell needs to have Brain of J. in the set there, or else I’m getting my money back! And for Austin, my off the wall hope is that maybe we get to see Walking the Cow in some capacity. And going back to the whole political storylines for Texas, we’ll absolutely see Whipping and River Cross at least once in the four Texas shows.
12. What should the over/under be for the total number of lead/co-lead vocalists for PJ sets this tour? Keeping in mind the strong possibility of Josh and Stone singing a lead tune and that Matt has been fronting a band recently and did the Foo Fighters song for Taylor last year. And Jeff is always lurking for a long shot Sweet Lew. Also, could we see a co-lead with one of the opener singers? I would put it at 4.5, with a guarantee of Ed, Stone, Josh appearing and maybe one or two from the Matt/Jeff/opening band singer grouping. – Tom Gregory
I guess this all kind of depends on how Ed’s voice is feeling. If we get another situation similar to Fresno or Amsterdam, they may be able to make good on the “let Stone sing” chants that would be inevitable. I’d consider both Sweet Lew and Black Diamond to have very low odds of getting played. They’ll probably break out Purple Rain at least 3 times or so, and I’ll give a nod to at least one appearance of either Mankind or Don’t Gimme No Lip. Keep in mind that we can’t forget about Mike, who recently sang a touching tribute to Chris Cornell before a recent Rockfords show.
As for joining the opening acts, I’m convinced that there will be at least one or two moments where Ed coerces Bono’s son, the lead singer for Inhaler, to play something by U2 either in the opening set or their own. That’s yet to be seen though, and also something I personally wouldn’t be looking forward to all that much.
I’m gonna take the under at 4.5. If Ed’s voice is healthy, there’s no need for anyone else to step in.
13. With Maui and the ongoing climate issues, I think Of The Earth gets played more than once. Hopefully, Chicago. – Glenn Bobe
You’re preaching to the choir here, Glenn. Before getting into Of The Earth, I think it’s important to address what’s going on in Lahaina. We all know how special Ed’s ties to Hawaii are, and of course this has to be affecting Boom as well. There’s no question that we’ll probably get to see heartfelt tributes to the island, a few stories and perhaps a ukulele song or two. The climate issues that were addressed all throughout Gigaton will continue to be a theme on this tour, as wildfires from Canadian regions have been affecting the air quality all over North America. There has also been a recent wildfire up north of Seattle in British Columbia that I’m sure will be on their minds.
While Of The Earth to me seems like a perfect choice in order to spread awareness, it hasn’t been played since Wrigley Field in 2016. It feels like we’re due to see this again, but we aren’t sure how the band feels about it. It would be a massive moment if it comes to fruition, but I see a song like Retrograde being used in that role for this instance. Not counting it out at all, this would absolutely be the time for it.
14. So I’m not really much of a merch enthusiast, I’m just a collector of what I enjoy. But I’ve received multiple requests for merch predictions. I’m just going to make this quick and run down a few things that may be possible for all of you who plan to wait in line at the crack of dawn. Here it goes.
It’ll be very similar to last year. Maybe a few new shirts thrown in the mix, but they probably won’t have too much fresh merchandise on the t-shirt side until a new album tour next year. I expect some people may be disappointed by that, but we’ve seen it happen before.
I have no inside knowledge as to who the poster artists might be, but here’s a few generic predictions poster-wise here for you. One of the St. Paul posters will have twins on it representing the Twin Cities, the other will be purple for obvious reasons. Gonna guess there will be a Mumford print for Chicago, so a red sky armageddon scene again. Fuck it, the other one should be a twinkie. Indy? Easy, skulls on fire driving race cars. Between Ft. Worth and Austin, I believe there will be at least one poster that stirs up some controversy that would be pro-choice or represent the hardships that immigrants have to endure in Texas. More specifically for Austin, they need to do a version of the Daniel Johnston “Hi, how are you?” alien art that has a mural in the city.
Stickers? Will probably be very similar ideas that the posters have. One of the Texas ones will have a star, perhaps a longhorn too. There will be other sports references like a bull for Chicago and a viking for St. Paul. Doesn’t matter what they are, I’ll need all of these!
Would be very interesting to see if they continue their band logo theme for buttons that they did last year. If so, give me a Hüsker Dü button with the umlauts on the A’s in Peärl Jäm. No other predictions necessary.
Chicago will likely have the extra locational merch that they did last year in Los Angeles and New York. We can certainly guarantee an Illinois license plate, and one of the basketball themed hats with the EKG logo in red and white and a #23 on the side.
15. Will Pearl Jam be playing brand new songs on this tour? – Everyone. Literally. Count all of the Pearl Jam fans you know and multiply it by 50k. It’s probably more than that.
And here it is. If you’ve read through this whole blog, then you’ve finally reached the main event. The billion dollar question. The one that will break the Pearl Jam portion of the internet if true…
Alright, let’s take it step by step here and cover all the bases. Let’s start with what they’ve done historically. Immediately when you think of songs played live prior to the album release, you go back to 1994 and how the Vitalogy songs were a major part of that tour while they were still promoting Vs. That was during a time when hearing new songs was hard to come by. You had to know somebody within the tape and trader community in order to acquire a recording, and even by then it may have been difficult to get your hands on prior to the album release. Those tapes were in high demand. There was obviously no YouTube at the time, so the best that the general audience was going to get if they didn’t attend one of the shows was the Not For You performance on Saturday Night Live, and of course the Atlanta show as well. Back then, it was a really big deal for one of the world’s most popular bands to showcase something brand new.
As times changed, the band had to make a decision of whether they wanted to give crowds a taste of new material, or hold it tight to the vest. They ended up doing a little of both. For Binaural, Nothing As It Seems was performed at one of the 1999 Bridge School shows shows about eight months before the record was released. They did the same thing with I Am Mine during Bridge School in 2001, nearly a full year prior to Riot Act. In 2005, an early rendition of Comatose (which at the time was titled Crapshoot Rapture) was played at the 25th anniversary party for Stone’s high school as well as the Easy Street Records in-store performance.
Backspacer was really the first album released within the time of YouTube’s height of popularity. You can see the trend start to change, but only slightly. The band had revealed the plans for the album in the summer of 2009 with the release of The Fixer as the first single. In June of that year, Eddie was doing a solo tour where he broke out The End a couple of times. As far as I can tell, there was no leak of this being a song off the record. After the record release announcement however, Pearl Jam went on this weird sort of mini-world tour a month before the album dropped, stopping in places like Calgary, Rotterdam, Berlin, and San Francisco in the span of only a few weeks. For the most part, they held off on playing a lot of new material. The Fixer had come out, and Got Some shortly followed. The only unreleased song that was played in this span was Supersonic, but even by then the quality of iPhone videos wasn’t anything to write home about in 2009. So while it was out there, it was a really small taste of what Backspacer would become.
Lightning Bolt is a bit more interesting, and has a possible connection to this tour that we can try and link together. In similar fashion to Backspacer, Eddie had released his Ukulele Songs record where Sleeping By Myself was part of the tracklisting. So while people knew the song prior to 2013, it wasn’t known to be repurposed as a Lightning Bolt track until after the album announcement. The interesting thing about Lightning Bolt is that the album reveal was announced exactly five days before they hit the road for London, Ontario and Wrigley Field. This is where this gets interesting. In London, Mind Your Manners was released on the day of the announcement, and it debuted live that night. Three nights later at Wrigley Field, they took it a step further. We had no other knowledge of the songs that would be featured aside for MYM, which meant the performances of both Lightning Bolt and Future Days were completely new to the audience. To tie that in with what’s happening in two weeks, they will be back in Chicago where they could potentially take the same route as they did ten years ago. The band always loves to make those connections, but we’ll have to wait and see what cards they play in their deck.
Before getting to Gigaton, I think we have to touch up on the little precursor to the record that happened in 2018. Shortly before venturing on tour for a short stint in South America, the band released the song Can’t Deny Me as downloadable content. In the email, you can clearly see where the text reads “from the forthcoming album” underneath the artwork. Now of course, the band never delivered upon that promise in immediate fashion, but it was the first time in five years that we had heard anything new from them. While the song is considered by many to be a dud, at the very least it gave the fans something fresh and hyped anticipation for the new record… which we didn’t hear until exactly two years later.
So obviously there isn’t a whole lot on Gigaton because it took them two years before anything was played live. However, let’s delve back into our Eddie Vedder solo show storyline we’ve told here. In 2017, Eddie did something kind of unprecedented and started to lug a pump organ around to all of his solo shows. It gave Ed an opportunity to cover songs like George Harrison’s Isn’t It A Pity and I’m So Tired by Fugazi, but along with those, he was testing out a brand new original song. Titled “Cross River” at the time, similar to The End in 2009, there was no indication of this evolving into a full-fledged Pearl Jam song. A few years later and a flip-flop of the title, River Cross was the closing piece to Gigaton. And that would be as close as we’d get to a sneak preview of the record. It should be noted that there was likely a plan in 2020 to cycle in most of the songs on the Canadian side of the tour, due to the record release taking place on the night of the Apollo Theater show. Even then, we would’ve already had a taste for a third of the record. Dance Of The Clairvoyants and Superblood Wolfmoon had been released, River Cross was featured on a Super Bowl commercial and would eventually have an early release as well, and Quick Escape had an early push right before the album came out, but it’s possible that it might’ve been earlier had they been touring.
That was a lot to take in right there, so I’m going to take this paragraph off to let you breathe for a second and process this. Everything good? How’s the family? Have you drank enough water today? Did you know that an elephant has a proboscis? OK, one more deep breath before reading further…in…and out…
Alright, welcome back. With all of that being mentioned above, we now have to develop our hypothesis based on the information we’ve gathered. We should address the proboscis in the room and that’s the recent comments from band members. This past weekend, on Sirius XM radio with David Fricke, Stone was quoted saying “we are almost finished with the record. It’s not quite finished yet. But it’s almost there and we had a great time.” Now when it comes to any insider information from the Pearl Jam team, they’re usually pretty tight-lipped. This is honestly the most that I remember them talking about an album whilst in the recording and mixing stages. What they’ve said reveals almost nothing, but it feels like we have a better sense of a timeline here than we did for Gigaton and the previous records.
Does saying something two weeks before going on tour mean anything? It’s certainly a little suspect. This band is clever like a fox. While they don’t necessarily tease you with information, they’ll say something completely vague that’ll bait us into dozens of conspiracy theories, enough to make Pepe Silvia’s non-existent head spin! However, in this case, it feels like Stone is being a little bit more direct. Again, not revealing anything of substance, but talking about it this close to the tour is enough to make you a believer.
On the other hand, perhaps this isn’t clever enough? Maybe Stone’s ability to be direct and honest about it means that there’s nothing he has to hide? If we took this at face value, what we’d know is it’s not done yet, which would make you believe that they have nothing to show for it. But just because an album isn’t finished yet doesn’t mean there aren’t finished songs in the can. Right? It’s a bit of a predicament that we need to solve here.
OK, so let’s take it from this angle now. If they were to introduce a new song, with where we stand less than a week and a half away from St. Paul, how would they do it? Would they create a buzz midway through the show and reveal it right on the spot like back in the 90s? My intuition is telling me that this is the least likely of scenarios based on recent-ish trends. Would they make an official album announcement just days before the tour like they did with Lightning Bolt? Again, unlikely if Stone is to be believed.
The most logical process to me would be to do exactly what they did with Can’t Deny Me, and to a lesser extent, Mind Your Manners. As mentioned, no album announcement, but Mind Your Manners rallied some hype and anticipation for the two stand alone shows. The Can’t Deny Me treatment is exactly how this could happen. In the March 2018 Ten Club Newsletter, Can’t Deny Me was available for download for the first time. Three days later, Pearl Jam played their first of what was originally set to be five South American shows (one was canceled due to weather conditions) in Santiago, Chile. Can’t Deny Me was on the setlist that night, as well as the remaining 3 shows of the run.
We’re well past the opportunity of a Ten Club Newsletter coming out, but as we’re privy to know, not everything important from this band comes on the 10th of the month. In a ridiculous twist of fate, it was actually the 11th of July in 2013 that we heard Mind Your Manners for the first time. Is it out of the equation that the band could sneak into our inbox on this Friday the 25th? I don’t think it would be.
Okay, so it looks like we are finally at the point where we can create an educated guess as to what may go down. Here goes nothing…
Will Pearl Jam play one or more brand new songs on their nine-show run from August 31st to September 19th? If you asked me two weeks ago, I would’ve said no. As a matter of fact, when I was asked that question two weeks ago, I said no. I kind of figured that this would be a small extension of Gigaton, reminiscent of the short 2008 run that didn’t put focus on new music, but instead went and dug deep into the catalog to bring back some old songs. The more and more I think about it and the more angles I dig into and dissect, my official answer is…
Yes. One new song. It will be played once in each of the five locations. And it will hopefully be “from the forthcoming record.”
Well that was a lot of fun, I hope you all enjoyed it. Whether you agree with me or disagree, it really doesn’t make a difference because the band is going to do something completely off our radar, making all of our predictions feel futile.
If you want all of the day-to-day updates of the tour, keep an eye out on our website for Concertpedia entries with show information, as well as some potential blogs that may pop up. On our Patreon, we will be releasing instant reaction episodes after every show featuring live reports from fans who just witnessed everything go down. Please feel free to subscribe and donate for as low as $1 a month to help keep our podcast and website afloat. And for setlist updates as the show happens live, give us a follow on The Artist Formerly Known As Twitter @liveon4legs, or come and join the Pearl Jam Podcast Community group on Facebook and get involved in our awesome neighborhood over there.
It’s the best time of the year. Embrace it and enjoy it.