The Best Moments of Pearl Jam’s 2023 Tour
Counting Down the Pearl Jam 2023 Tour’s 33 Best Moments
Introduction – Randy Sobel
Well, it’s that time of year again! Every time we reach December, there’s only two things people seem to want to do: overspend on holiday presents and look back at the last 11 months and ask what the hell happened. My mantra during these moments is to say whenever everybody zigs, we zag, but it would be impossible not to do a December article featuring the absolute best that we got to witness on the Pearl Jam stage back in September. We’ll zig, it’ll just be more ziggy than everyone else.
Although it was a relatively short year for shows, this tour was filled with many many ups, and one down moment that loomed large again this year. We had known for a while that we’d be getting to hear a new record produced by Earthling producer and superfan, Andrew Watt. It didn’t come to fruition this year, but the knowledge that 2023 was the end of the Gigaton tour was enough to give us hope for 2024.
While the postponement in Indianapolis was a disappointment for many, the eight shows that we were privileged to witness featured moments that will be forever discussed within this community of fans. We’ll discuss all of the big ones here on this list, but if there was an overall takeaway from this tour year, it would be this: They still got it! While some of the boys may be pushing 60 (with Jeff and Matt already there), they still go out there and look to captivate an audience every night by putting all of their heart and soul into every song, and making sure they provide service to every fan by digging into the deepest crevices of this catalog and playing songs that you never thought you’d hear. It might be less songs, but this band still proves that they are the best at what they do every time they take the stage.
Many of you may remember the list from last year. In 33 shows, we had a LOT of ground to cover. That’s why we decided to go big in 2022 with a four-part list of 100 of the best moments that transpired. We don’t quite have that luxury this year, but I think what we put together here perfectly encapsulates how great this tour was. The number that we decided on was 33. Why? Not as a tribute to Patrick Ewing, but as an ode to the band’s 33rd year in existence. 25 originally felt like the right number, but after making those selections it seemed like we had eight more that could’ve been honorable mentions. So fuck it, let’s honor them!
The one song that will kind of get an honorable mention here is the version of Release from night one in Chicago. I felt kind of guilty putting the MSG version in perhaps a lower spot than it deserved last year, and a lot of you let me know that was a rare miss. We had so many songs picked from that show that I didn’t want the top 25 to be completely represented by every song from that night. This year it’s kind of the same situation. That Chicago show will have the most songs represented on this list with six. And those six we thought were the absolute best of the bunch. No matter what, Release is always a moment at every show. Not just for the people who lost a family member or the ones who remember hearing it open their first show, but for everyone looking for a true religious experience at a Pearl Jam show. I was there that night and I bawled my eyes out as I always do. I know when fielding the questions of your favorite moment from 2023 on our Twitter or Facebook pages that many of you had mentioned this. All I can say is that I really tried on this one and it came up just short. Hope it doesn’t ruin the list.
What you’ll see on this list is the high points where the band can elevate a song by adding extra juice to it, the emotional points where the band reacts to something personal to them, the connection points where a member of this community has a moment of acknowledgement, and the “serious collectors” points, when they bust out songs that are rarely played at a Pearl Jam show. These four ingredients make the perfect recipe for an exceptional tour that we are lucky enough to relive over and over again through their bootleg releases. Have fun reliving these moments. Here is the best of 2023:
33. “Pin” The Black Circle – September 15, Ft. Worth, TX
An interesting feature of Dickies Arena is that instead of seats behind the stage, there is a club level, including a bar, high tables, and even outlets. The front of the area has a rail that’s about 20 feet above the stage, with black curtains providing the band’s backdrop. Toward the end of night 2 in Fort Worth, some enterprising fans created a message by dropping letters held by string over the balcony, spelling out S-P-I-N T-H-E B-L-A-C-K C-I-R-C-L-E, visible and prominent over Eddie’s shoulder. As the show moved along, the letters got messed up, some missing and some backwards. It was a large undertaking, after all. Finally, Eddie turned around and saw it with most of the letters intact, except the first S. Perhaps with some time to kill, Eddie tells the crowd they’re going to play a request: “Pin” The Black Circle! The band kicked right into the intro, and right before the first verse, Eddie jumps to the chorus, which is played once, replacing spin with the word pin, and then the adventure is over. And though it never came to fruition, it only took a couple minutes for the club level crew to produce a message for a much easier to spell next request: L-E-A-S-H!
— David Lipman
32. Who You Are – September 19, Austin, TX
Already on a high from the band busting out Habit, once I heard Matt’s precision drumming of that tribal beat, I knew right away what was coming next. Coincidentally or not, it was the A-side of Habit, Who You Are! Hearing it live at the moment held me in a trance. I had not heard it live since 1996 and it hadn’t been played at all in the last 86 shows! The No Code fan in me was in a blissful state of elation. As Ed sang and the song built, the crowd clapped and sang along busting out loudly along with Ed “…take me for a ride, before we leave…” My hands were in the air while I sang at the top of my lungs, paying homage to the masterpiece I was hearing and the joy I was feeling. Ed’s vocals were perfect and toward the end of the song Ed stopped playing his guitar and clapped along with us as the song closed. After hearing that, the show could have ended and I would have been totally satisfied. It was a magical moment in that last show of the tour, and I will never forget hearing those lyrics, “What’s your part? Who you are. You are who, who you are.”
— Heide Marx
31. I’m Open/Insignificance – August 31, St. Paul, MN
This combo might have been our first sign that this tour would be special. I’m Open, here in only its 17th performance ever in its nearly 20 years since being recorded, is a true rarity. Insignificance has had many more plays, but it has not been around recently – this St. Paul version is only the seventh time in the last ten years. The impressive thing about these two songs was not just that they were played, but how well prepared they felt. Both seemed like they had been given their proper due in rehearsal, with no major flubs or errors. Not a small feat for two songs so infrequently played. I’m Open was Ed solo and served as a warm intro into Insignificance. Insignificance was a big, intense performance, a great version of the song in all its staccato glory. Both songs told us two things – this tour would have variety, and that these deep cuts would not just be pulled out of moth balls cold, they would be well rehearsed.
— Curtis Hames
30. Whipping – September 18, Austin, TX
After Smile ends, there’s a pause before the next song. Eddie takes a moment to address the proverbial elephant in the room. Gently, respectfully, and diplomatically, he speaks of the unique state pride Texans have, and specifically towards the women in the audience, he empathizes with how he hopes they will one day be able to make the right choices for themselves once again in their beloved state.
“Hey, before we start this next bunch, I’m gonna say something. I’m sure it comes as no surprise and if it didn’t, I’d be surprised, but your state is very particular. And you know most states people have pride in their states and their towns. None more so perhaps than Texas. Hey, it’s in your history. It’s in your blood, there’s a lot of pride and community and different communities and different types of folks seem to get along under the big banner, that is the red light, blue flag of Texas. The big star. And I have a sister that lives here. Jeff, does your sister live here or she’s just visiting? You know I think about it and I think about the young woman in the front row. Any age. Really I think that you know in a state like this where you’re proud of your state and you’re proud of your community. And you’re connected to your community and you’re connected to the lifestyle and you’re connected to what is living in Texas. That it would be a horrible, horrible thing to have to leave the state and the home that you love in order to make choices about your own body and have the freedom to predict and plan your future. I hope you can fix that soon.”
The band launched into a raucous version of Whipping, a reminder that the lyrics were scribbled on a pro-choice petition form in the liner notes of Vitalogy. The rendition was faithful to the record, and had longtime fans jumping up and down on the beat. Mike McCready took the moment to expend from his endless bounty of energy to jump, kick, and thrash his way around the stage. Eddie’s voice was strong and clear, as was the pro-choice message deep in the heart of Texas.
— Mar Vigil
29. Low Light – September 15, Ft. Worth, TX
“It’s Matt! It’s Matt! It’s fucking Matt!” This was the sentiment heard echoing around the arena as the band took the stage for Ft. Worth night 2. With the band’s engine back in the saddle, and fresh off the heels of a powerful Long Road opener, the energy was palpable if a bit pent up. Still seated, and presumably licking wounds from their flu show 2 nights prior, the betting odds favored Low Light as the second song of the night. This rendition continued to cement the track as a prolific early set slow burner, and provided an early vocal challenge for Ed. It became evident that drinking “more tea than all of India” paid off as he held the final note for 20 seconds! All in all, a perfect puzzle piece in what was one of the strongest 5-song starts of the tour.
— Cam Henderson
28. Marker In The Sand – September 7, Chicago, IL
When the song was new, I caught it at 4 of the 6 shows I saw in 2006. It then reared its head for me one more time in 2008 at MSG (the day I got engaged, I might add). It only made a handful of appearances over the years that followed, and then dropped off setlists entirely in 2016. It became a song I kept hoping to catch again, culminating in 2018 when a few of us ran into Eddie, Jeff, and Matt (not to mention Danny Clinch) at the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona the day before the show at the Palau St. Jordi. Thinking quickly, my buddy Chris grabbed a piece of paper and a pen, and we each wrote down a request: Mine was No Way (my white whale, as everyone who knows me in PJ land is well aware), and Chris picked Marker. Chris patted Matt on the back and handed the piece of paper to him. The next night at the show, Eddie said they were going to be playing a few requests. Our hopes were high, but alas it was not to be!
Fast forward to 2023. My wife and I decided to do the Chicago shows. Both shows had a handful of fairly rare songs, but I have to admit I was most surprised when they kicked into Marker (after a beautiful Immortality). It caught me off guard, and that’s exactly why so many of us go to see them year after year. These are the moments that seem to validate our (some might say) obsessiveness with seeing the band over and over. Marker In The Sand…in 2023? Heck yeah.
— Brian Horwitz, Hallucinogenic Recipe Podcast
27. Lukin – September 13, Ft. Worth, TX
Being a newer Pearl Jam fan, my wish list is long and diverse. Crazy Mary, Animal, Off He Goes, and Lukin, to name a few. Not the normal fast version of Lukin though, but Lukin II aka Slow Lukin, which they’ve done sparingly over the years. I was thrilled to get Crazy Mary night one in Fort Worth. It was made even better because I was with a friend who knew exactly three Pearl Jam songs, and Crazy Mary was one of them. It was a memorable moment that could have only been made better if we could have been on the rail to enjoy some vino with Ed and friends.
Crazy Mary was followed by Wishlist, and then into Do the Evolution, which of course the crowd loved. Next came Lukin, which, according to my friend, was a “little aggressive” for her taste. Lucky for her it’s a short song, and luckier for me, Ed transitioned into a snippet of Slow Lukin for the outro! I was in concert heaven.
Even fighting sickness and having Klinghoffer filling in for Cameron, the band once again delivered with a unique set list. Like all of you, I can’t wait for the next tour and to check off more songs from my wish list.
— Brooke Krause
26. Even Flow – September 2, St. Paul, MN
To me, Minnesota seemed like the perfect start for this mini tour. Some family was there, dear friends from this community were there too, and I could not be more excited to see everyone and start this leg. They haven’t been there in a long time and I had this sense of expectation surrounding what they were going to do to keep it fresh for the fans. Also, since the last run of the tour was limited vocally, I was very curious to hear the band live again. Was it going to be the new “era” of the band fully downtuned or had something changed and Ed got the care he needed? Needless to say, they quickly put down any worries I might have had and they slapped me in the face with one of the best versions of Even Flow I’ve listened to in a while.
The band was completely locked in, and you can tell how comfortable they were playing this song with a revitalized groove and intonation that was so exciting and new to listen to. When they find that, they deliver. And, oh man…when Mike finds…whatever he finds, and he goes wherever he needs to go, you can expect to hear one of those solos that will rip you apart, melt some faces, and make you stand in awe of what these guys can do. My inner kid always gets goosebumps when I can see one of my guitar heroes get so visceral and connected with the instrument in the way he does. Outstanding version of a new found groove classic that has no match for me on this tour.
— Javier Hervas, “The Gear Guru” for Live On 4 Legs Podcast
25. Wildflowers – August 31, St. Paul, MN
With my mind already a bit preoccupied with hosting a first-time Pearl Jam show attendee, the fall tour opening show developed into both a raucous blur and me constantly telling myself to be in the moment. From the wildly unexpected Indifference opener to stark rarity I’m Open, I found myself enjoying the simplest, most elegant moments of this set just as much as I was loving the on-fire songs. The main set had closed strongly, so I was expecting something mellow to lead off the encore; I never would’ve guessed Wildflowers when it seemed that so many folks were certain that some type of homage to Prince was a lock for the Twin Cities shows.
I had been lucky enough to see the lone previous performance of the song, albeit in a pre-set, the year before in LA; being the geeky “song collector” that I am, my mind first jumped to “I’ve seen both times!” but then right back to “enjoy the moment” – and enjoy it I did. What a wonderfully crisp, soulful rendition of one of Petty’s best. Of all of the magnificent song selections that this mini-tour would give us, this stands out as one of my favorite moments for its bare pining and forthright veracity. It’s simply remarkable how Ed continues to elevate so many already top-shelf songs, show after show and tour after tour.
— Aaron Redmond
24. Wishlist – September 5, Chicago, IL
Not knowing what to expect for her first show, I told my daughter Coda we should make her a sign, since we were celebrating her birthday (she had just turned 9 and never been to a concert of any kind). We settled on “9th BDAY 1ST SHOW” and I explained to Coda how they’d surely play one song to the back so maybe they’d at least get to see it and give her a nod as they played, just acknowledging it with a smile or a point, but not to expect anything because these arenas are huge and they’re just doing their thing out there. Little did we know it would become something truly incredible for Coda and dear old dad, the lifelong diehard fan.
Coda was enjoying herself and dancing and singing the whole show, and toward the end I told her she should go one row down in the aisle and just hold her sign up at the glass edge so they could see it. Sure enough, they started to make their move to play to the back of the arena. I watched her dancing and holding it up, and I knew by this point she was so tired, given her usual bedtime, so I went and knelt down behind her to help hold it up as they began to play Wishlist…we were singing together, then all the sudden we heard this ROAR from the crowd.
As I turned to see what was happening, I heard my wife, Lara, screaming and pointing at the video screen as she was running over…we were on it! Everyone around us was celebrating and I got Coda to look up and when she saw herself on screen she just burst into tears amidst all that cheering. It was just so joyous, all of it. I’ll never forget the sound of that crowd. I just remember hugging her because I was so shocked she was in tears of joy which gave me a few tears and we just screamed and laughed until the moment was gone, but I remember looking at Eddie in the midst of it and it looked like they felt the crowd erupt in a strange moment within the song so it just felt like wow somehow they’re going to know something happened there.
Coda’s coda (her words):
“I was so excited I was crying! It felt like the best night of my life. But then, the next day, we randomly met Josh at the Cubs game and he said ‘That was you?!’ So he told me happy birthday and gave me a EdVed Batman pick he said was straight from Eddie, and we told him how my name was inspired by them and how they always add tags onto songs and how Dad’s life would be complete if he knew Eddie knew that story. And I know he must’ve told Eddie because we were blown away on night two when out of nowhere Eddie wished me a happy birthday! So if Eddie ever hears this, I want to be sure to tell him thank you so much and that he is one of the best rock artists ever!”
— Jason and Coda Capps
23. Surrender – September 5, Chicago, IL
When these shows were announced, the obvious highlight for me was Chicago. The Windy City ranks right up there with any in terms of hosting memorable Pearl Jam shows and a special energy that a city can provide. After the band rips through another roaring version of Alive, you get the feeling that the next song may close us out. I remember hearing Ed say that they were sending us home with a Chicago song, but at the time, I didn’t think of Cheap Trick, but that’s on me. I also missed it live, but listening back he added that it isn’t the band Chicago, and that this one is for all the parents.
At the risk of creating a bit of a strawman, I’m guessing this was not the most popular choice by fans for closers. Frankly, I loved it! I love it when the band zigs when everyone expects a zag. I love that they remain fans of bands that inspired them and pay homage to them when they can, especially in that band’s hometown. I also love the way this song has changed for not only members of the band, but for fans, who like me are now those parents who are, without a doubt, going to seem a little weird. Was the performance flawless? Not at all. I sensed some exhaustion from the band, especially Ed, who seemed to struggle to keep up at times. But that’s never the point anyways right? It was a singalong finale that had me feeling absolute joy, elation, and luck to be in the building. We’re all alright.
— Nick Smith
22. Quick Escape – September 18, Austin, TX
Before the band started Quick Escape, Eddie gave a thank you to Josh Klingoffer. My seats were side stage, Mike’s side, and I had a perfect view of Josh and it was awesome to see all that he does and watch him play the entire night. He has been an instrumental part of Gigaton, so perfect timing for a thank you to Josh. Quick Escape seems to be one of the tracks the band loves playing from Gigaton, as they play it pretty frequently, and after seeing it live, I can tell they really enjoy playing it, and I love hearing it live! I already thought the studio version was great but hearing it live adds another dimension. Right as the intro kicked in, I immediately started rocking out. The groove and feel of this song is awesome live. Stone is killing it on his riff and then Ed sings my favorite lines from Gigaton:
“And a Kerouac sense of time
Oh, and we think about the old days
Of green grass, sky and red wine
Should’ve known, so fragile
Avoided this one-way flight”
Four of them at the mic singing the chorus (reminding me of seeing Sirens live!), taking us into the best part of hearing this song live: Mike absolutely shredding the ending. So awesome to hear this one live at the Austin shows and I hope they continue to play it!
— Tanya Kang, Pearl Jam Fan Portraits
21. Corduroy – September 13, Ft. Worth, TX
On this night, Corduroy was the eighth song played, after an extended sit-down session. Earlier in the show, Ed said we were in for something different that night, so I felt like we didn’t know how long the sit-down portion of the concert was going to go. At that point, in my mind, an entire show of sit down/mellow stuff was still in play.
However, the preceding song was Present Tense, with Mike kicking his chair out of the way and moving around pretty good during the outro, so I think we started to get the inkling that things might be about to take off. Ed changes guitars and starts strumming a series of chords. He keeps it up for about 30 seconds, and the band jumps in with some supporting jamming. It served as a good anticipation builder. About halfway through the intro, I felt like it was a lead-in to Corduroy, vaguely reminiscent of Interstellar Overdrive (which was the intro in Dallas 2013).
One of my favorite moments in a PJ show is the opening riff to Corduroy. It immediately takes me back to 1995 at South Park Meadow in Austin, when I first heard the opening tones of Corduroy live, the moment I became hooked on Pearl Jam for life.
When we get to the bridge, I’m thinking, have they finally broken us from going right into singing the bridge? I felt like they kept the energy going better than in recent years, and didn’t feel as much of a letdown. Uncle Ed takes the opportunity to have a little fun with a call and repeat with the crowd.
The most powerful moment for me was after the bridge, going into the outro, Ed yells, “…here we go, Josh, here we go!” It was emblematic of how the band was rallying around JK. This special moment infused a lot of energy and resolve, and told us that Josh, with the help of the crowd, was going to get this show across the finish line in memorable fashion.
— Jeff Lilly
20. Inside Job – September 5, Chicago, IL
One of the big turning points in the evolution of Inside Job came during the last time they played it in Chicago – Wrigley 2016. The band invited Steve Gleason on stage to introduce the song, who has now been battling ALS for way over a decade. He ended his introduction with a message – “how I choose to feel is how I am, and I feel fucking awesome.” Since that moment, people in this community have looked to it as a source of inspiration.
Flash forward seven years, Pearl Jam is making their first visit to the United Center since 2009. Coming out of the encore, Ed tells the story about visiting his grandmother’s former house, and introduces the current residents who were down in the crowd. More on that later in this list. But after that incredible story and a very spirited performance of Throw Your Arms Around Me, there was an emotionally powerful energy filling that arena. So when the rest of the band joined Ed to jump into the encore, they were playing for a crowd that just witnessed a once in a lifetime moment.
This is where this performance gets personal for me. Inside Job was a song that I might not have realized how much I loved until seeing that Steve Gleason moment immortalized in Let’s Play Two. I think I was attached to it because, like many of us, I’ve experienced my fair share of darkness in my life. The way McCready opens up and becomes vulnerable about his past, showing that he can self-reflect and use what he’s been through as a guide to acceptance is a massive part of the struggle that is so commonplace within those who suffer from mental illness. Because of that, this song has been firmly in my top 10 favorite Pearl Jam songs and one of my all-time favorite songs period.
I’ve always been very careful placing the “religious experience” distinction on individual songs. But after seeing it again last year in Camden, I was firm in my decision to put Inside Job in that elusive category. So on this night in Chicago where Ed created a moment that had the crowd on such a high, following up with Inside Job was going to hit in all the right ways, but none of the ways that I was expecting.
The last few years of traveling to see this band have been life-altering. With help from the continuing growth of the podcast, I’ve been able to meet so many amazing people that I now consider close friends. We have raised money for amazing foundations such as the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and have brought so many people together and have created brand new friendships. It feels like what we do here matters to people, and that’s all I was ever trying to achieve.
It all came to a crashing realization with one line. After hearing one of the most cathartic Pearl Jam solos in their entire arsenal, my body began to quiver in preparation for what was about to hit me: “life comes from within your heart and desire.” At that moment, I recognized why this meant so much to me. Heart and desire is what got me here. It’s what made me wake up one day and say I want to spend my time doing a podcast about this band, researching history and sharing moments and memories that feel necessary in order to fully preserve these amazing stories that’ve been passed through this community. Just like Mike, I went through my own hardships with this at times where I thought all of the work I did for this didn’t matter, that it wasn’t important. While over the years I’ve been reassured that that isn’t the case, that shadow still hangs over me at the most insecure of times.
But something about that moment on that night unlocked a door. It was closure. It was a message from the band telling me that what I’m doing does matter. At that moment, I stopped singing and began to cry, but it wasn’t merely a few tears of joy. It was uncontrollable sobbing that felt like I was having a breakthrough during a therapy session. This was my therapy, this is exactly what I needed to hear. Just another sign of how powerful this band is, to make me tap into an emotion that I had been suppressing. After witnessing a show for the ages and having experienced a moment like that, I felt fucking awesome.
— Randy Sobel, Live On 4 Legs Podcast
19. Present Tense – September 7, Chicago, IL
There are certain songs that always feel like an inevitability to be played in Chicago. You can pretty much guarantee that Release will open one of the two nights there. This year, there was added intrigue that the band might play some of their songs that were used on the FX series The Bear, which takes place in Chicago, and they made good on that with Animal, Throw Your Arms Around Me, and Come Back all being added to the sets. But there was another song that felt inevitable due to the connection with the 10-part 30 For 30 documentary The Last Dance, which was about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dominance over the NBA in the 90’s.
Present Tense, which was already a major staple of Chicago shows and was once dedicated to Michael Jordan at the United Center, was used as a part of the ending montage to the series. Unbeknownst to Ed, he thought they were going to use about 10 seconds of the song, but as he referenced it, the song just kept going and going and it was meaningful to him. He even likened watching the series to watching home movies. Ed has always had a fondness for his hometown basketball team, especially his well documented friendship with Dennis Rodman, so of course this was a slam dunk for them to do on this night.
In 2022, Present Tense played a significant role in the setlists once the inclusion of the seated portion became an every night thing. It was usually used as the fourth or fifth song, which would end the mini-set, and the performance would be utilized as a ‘kick down the chairs’ moment before transitioning into the standard, early set hard rock songs. That’s exactly what they do with it here, and kick down the chairs is used in a literal sense. Mike absolutely can’t wait to send his seat to the ground and does so before the rest of the band has a chance to get up. Getting to watch that in the arena fuels the crowd, and with the knowledge of how cathartic that bridge can be, the entire song elevates and creates an energy that draws you in to become part of the moment. The reference to The Last Dance made this song an absolute necessity to play this night, but the way that Chicago has always seemed to have an attachment to it means you’ll always get a fired up performance.
— Randy Sobel, Live On 4 Legs Podcast
18. Untitled – September 13, Ft. Worth, TX
Sadly I was only able to make one show this tour, but what a show that turned out to be! Not quite the full Milwaukee treatment, but I consider Ft. Worth Night 1 to be a mini-Yield show since we got 6 songs from that album. Untitled is always such a special experience – and not (only) because you know you’re gonna get MFC right after it. It’s just such a tender lyric that really gets to the heart of what it means to be human – we don’t want to be alone. We long for connection. The Fort Worth show was my 3rd time hearing this one live, and to me it’s always a similar experience to hearing “It’s O.K.” tagged onto Daughter – meaning that I’m likely to tear up. But really if you haven’t cried at a Pearl Jam show, are you even doing it right? For this particular show I was already super emotional because just a few songs before, Ed had called me out by name in the audience and dedicated Given to Fly to me. He even changed the lyrics of the song!
I mean – what?!! I was definitely still reeling from THAT experience, which I had no idea was going to happen. I was stunned and elated and filled with absolute joy – like so many of us, I’ve been listening to Pearl Jam since I was a teenager. To have my life and work acknowledged in that way by these guys was truly a highlight of my life. Getting Untitled a few songs later was a fantastic cherry on top – it’s such a great song. What a show – definitely the most memorable of my life!
— Dr. Amber Straughn
17. Pendulum – September 2, St. Paul, MN
“To and fro, the pendulum throws…” St. Paul night 1 was a great start to this mini 2023 tour. So of course, that left us eagerly anticipating what was in store for night 2. I was especially excited because on this night I had GA, and I was just a few rows back from the rail, Mike side.
As soon as the first few keyboard notes started before the boys came on stage, I realized it was going to be Pendulum. Just shy of the 10-year anniversary of Lightning Bolt’s release and the first time it was played live. While this had been a staple opener throughout much of 2013 and into 2014, it has only been played 47 times, and it’s tapered off significantly in recent years, as has most of Lightning Bolt. It only made one appearance in 2022. I personally had only seen it once in person before, as the opener for one of my top five favorite shows, the Milwaukee Yield show in ‘14. So I was definitely excited to catch this again. In fact, it’s the only song of this show that I recorded all the way through, but I digress.
While a slower-moving song in general, this is the first time the guys have opened with it all seated on stage. I felt this brought a little different intensity to the song, especially for Eddie. It seemed like he wanted to get out of the chair so bad, but he stayed put. Sitting or standing however, this is such a great understated opener, and a perfect one for Eddie’s vocals to get warmed up with.
Speaking of, Eddie’s vocals were strong and intense, and he pointed to the sky a few times. As I said, it seemed like he wanted to get up, but stayed seated and used his hands to release some of that energy instead. It was fun to catch his subtle-ish hand gesture for his guitar as the song wrapped. Mike, Jeff, and Stone, while more subdued because of the sitting, were crisp & captured the haunting vibe of the song as good as ever. Matt was standard MFC. As for the crowd, since this hasn’t been in opener rotation for several years, it runs the risk of being less engaged than some of the more frequent openers, but the front GA crew was singing along loud and strong. In fact, everyone exuberantly picked up, joining Eddie on vocals mid-song as he crescendoed with “…easy come, easy go…easy left me a long time ago!” In the end, we really want the gems we don’t get all the time, so I feel the crowd was quite happy to get this one that night.
Overall it set the perfect tone for another great night in St. Paul. Hopefully this will make it back in the opener rotation sooner than 5 years, like in 2024 perhaps?
— Lori Jernberg
16. Chloe Dancer/Crown Of Thorns – September 19, Austin, TX
The last night of the tour always carries big expectations with it. This mini-tour of 8 shows had big surprises every night, with the band digging deep each show, going beyond what we could’ve expected. I found my way to 3 of these 8 shows (Chicago 2, Austin 1, and Austin 2). For Austin 2, I was convinced that we would get Wash as an opener and that they would do Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns. Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns had been my white whale, which I finally caught at MSG last year. It was completely unexpected for me and a euphoric moment that was my favorite of the 2022 tour and probably of all of the shows I’ve attended. There aren’t too many shows where you can reasonably expect to get this, though there are certain places or occasions where you might have a better chance of it. However, this being the tour closer, I definitely felt like it was on the table.
Austin 2 was a phenomenal show, with just one blemish…they played Last Kiss in the encore. I typically tense up when Ed tells us they’re going to play one for the back out of fear that it’s going to be Last Kiss. I’ve been fortunate…until now. This was an odd juxtaposition, but I can’t think of a better way to wipe out a blemish than busting out Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns! Once Last Kiss ended, Ed told the crowd that it was the birthday of someone very close to Mike. In fact, so close that they have 3 kids together. He proceeded to dedicate the next song to Mike’s wife Ashley for her birthday, and the magical opening notes of Chloe Dancer caused an eruption and the Austin crowd seemed fully appreciative of the moment. At the MSG show, there were a few seconds before they went into the song where you probably knew what was coming from Ed singing a snippet of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”, but changing the words to Chloe Dancer. He had first done this at the Toronto show a few nights prior, but it was just a tease and they didn’t play the song. But in Austin, Ed just went right into it, which made the opening notes all the more surprising.
This was only the 35th performance of Crown of Thorns and Chloe Dancer has only been performed with it 18 times (thank you LiveFootsteps), so this performance finally made it so that Chloe has now rightfully been played with Crown more often than it hasn’t. This was a fantastic moment serving as the pinnacle of a special night and arguably of the 2023 tour. It was majestic as always, intense, and completely mesmerizing. Given the song’s history, I remember distinctly taking note of and being moved by Stone walking over to Jeff and the two having a brief moment together just before Mike took over toward the end.
Whether you were one of the many who fully appreciated the moment and were singing every word to the song, or were a more casual fan who didn’t know the song at all, there was simply no mistaking that you were witnessing a powerful and special moment of a top-notch show.
— Jason Weiss
15. Retrograde – September 19, Austin, TX
After a scorching version of Black, Eddie greets the crowd for the second show in Austin. After teasing 2024 plans and a new album, he asks for the crowd’s help. Retrograde starts and the blue lights flood the stage. The band is tight and they play the song well. The highlight comes at the end of the second chorus, when Mike uses this as the kick down the chairs moment. The distortion kicks on and Mike kicks the absolute shit out of his chair. Eddie spins on his stool as he sings “Hear the sound!” We all heard it, that’s for sure.
— Eddie Quintana
14. Severed Hand – September 15, Ft. Worth, TX
Back in 2012, I met up with my friend Jay in Pensacola, FL for the DeLuna Festival. We got there very early and got right up on the rail. It was an amazing experience, and I even got to finish Eddie’s Gatorade after the show. I’ve always joked with Jay about wishing we wore either an Aqua Man or Ronald Reagan mask to see if we’d get noticed, but it’s something that I never followed through on.
When the dates came out for this year and I saw that the tour was in the middle portion of the country, I did not think I had any shot of making it there. After getting the approval from my wife, it was off to Ft. Worth with Jay and my friends Robley, Kinger, and Hammertime. We all scored excellent Ten Club seats for both nights, but I ended up securing a GA ticket for night 1.
In the time leading up to the show, I thought more and more about the missed opportunity with the Aqua Man mask. I wanted to do something crazy on this trip to Texas, a place where I’ve never been. Then it came to me: a severed hand would be the perfect mascot for the trip! I ran it by Jay and he laughed at me, and asked me how it was going to get through the airport. I ordered it on Amazon and bought a gold wedding band to go with it. It sat on my microwave for two months, and when people would come to the house, they would ask “What the heck is that? You’re bringing that where?”
My kids would consistently ask me if I had the guts to get it to Eddie. At the time, I felt like it was a long shot. When we got to Texas, I took the mascot out of the checked bag. There was no way that I was carrying that through TSA. After getting a few laughs, it passed the first test and got through security. Now it was on to Ft. Worth! On the day of the first show, we had to bring it around with us, so I took it to The Stockyards and a bunch of bars. It was certainly a talking point at the bars, people took pictures with it and had a genuinely fun time with it.
Somehow, I smuggled it into GA! Jay and I decided earlier in the day that we wanted to enjoy our time together and not spend 10 hours standing in line for the rail like we’ve done in the past. This, however, posed a problem. We were about 15- 20 yards away from the rail. Yikes! I looked at Jay and said, “I am not throwing this that far”. I didn’t want to hit anyone and piss Eddie off.
During the wait for the band, two girls were in front of us in the pit. One turned around and asked what was up with the hand. I explained the story and stated that I wasn’t going to attempt a toss. She quickly and confidently said she would help me. Perfect! I told her to wait for my signal. At the tail end of Corduroy, I tapped her on the shoulder and said “go, I got your back” and she headed through the pit as I followed right behind her. We made it to the rail quickly and I grabbed the hand from her. If it wasn’t for Pam, I don’t think it ever gets on stage. Eddie was walking back to his stool, and I tossed it just to his right and yelled “Eddie!” He gave it a look, got up and grabbed it.
Two nights later, he came out with it and spoke to Matt about someone throwing it at him. He talked for a little bit and then said “…well, here’s your song!” He starts the beginning of Severed Hand, and then he would pick up my hand and start wailing on the strings with it. He ends up whipping it deep into the crowd! I couldn’t believe what had happened! I will never have an experience like that again.
Ft. Worth will always be the “Severed Hand” trip where I experienced so many amazing memories with my beloved friends! However, sometimes you must dig deep and take chances. Life is short so make the most of it!
— Matt Stauffer
13. Purple Rain – September 2, St. Paul, MN
Since Pearl Jam had not visited the Twin Cities since 2014, it was the band’s first visit since the passing of our native son, Prince, on April 21st, 2016. They teased and tagged Purple Rain at the show that night, but it finally started showing up in full in 2022. It wasn’t a stretch to think they would play the song in their Twin Cities return.
As a guy who grew up just blocks away from Prince’s recording studio, Paisley Park, it was the one song I was really hoping to hear during the two shows. The sentiment was only fueled by our day-between-shows visit to Paisley Park (where another Minnesotan, Dave, and I got to give a tour of the area to our out-of-town friends, Terri, Erin, and Andy).
I had figured all along it was going to be the closer on the second night. But what if it was “too big” of a task even for Pearl Jam to play Prince’s biggest song in front of a crowd of Minnesotans? Others also felt this sentiment.
Indeed, as a way of paying tribute to not only Prince, but also the club he made famous – First Avenue, where Pearl Jam made its first two visits to the Twin Cities – the band closed night 2 with Purple Rain.
For me, it was incredibly emotional. Being a native of Chanhassen, MN, Prince has been an ever-present part of my life. Everyone from my town has multiple Prince stories, from the times we randomly saw him around town, to the late-night shows we attended at Paisley Park. His presence is still felt around our part of town every day. For my lifelong favorite band to pay him such a tribute in his home state…needless to say, it was definitely one of the most memorable moments I’ve ever had at a concert.
— Kirk Walton
12. Out Of My Mind – September 18, Austin, TX
Avid boot collectors will recall, back in the day, that the two times that Out of My Mind was played on the spring 1994 tour both managed to find their way onto illicit CDs. The April 2nd version also found its way, with some studio vocal tweaking, onto the b-side of Not For You the following spring. But 1994 would be where the song remained for another 15 years until the closing of the Spectrum in 2009. At that point it felt safe to say you’ve had your chance. But nearly a decade later, it popped up at night 1 of Fenway in 2018. Of course, I had tickets to night 2.
What spurs this to even find its way back onto a setlist? I haven’t a clue. But when Ed says he’s guessing they have played it maybe less than 5 times, 3 times, your Pearl Jam brain begins to take you into rarified air, assuming Ed is not misremembering, as he can from time to time. Immediately recognizable from Stone’s opening chord progression, despite it only being the 5th time played, bootlegs sear things in your brain.
It is amazing that such an infrequently-played song could sound so together, but here we were, in Austin, perhaps for the last time bopping to the shuffle groove of Out of My Mind. I can only imagine the people in my general vicinity wondering why the tall weirdo knew all the words to this song. Having been at the show in 2006 where Ed called us “freaks” in the nicest way, I knew this was for us. For the freaks, the serious collectors. Raises hand.
— Patrick Boegel, Hallucinogenic Recipe Podcast
11. Brain Damage/I Am Mine – September 2, St. Paul, MN
Another perfect wave. Slow beginning, rising to total excitement and then we hear these notes that some of us begin to recognize. He says “I’m losing my mind,” just as we realize it’s Pink Floyd’s Lunatic (okay, Brain Damage). By the time he got to “there’s someone in my head and it’s not me,” I swear the entire crowd was singing just as loudly as for any PJ standard. I was on rail with my tour buddy Mar, just in front of Mike and his amp, and I distinctly remember feeling the entire arena behind us rising into those final words. So much love emanated from the crowd that night. I think Ed was just plinking on the strings getting ready for I Am Mine when he realized his notes sounded like Brain Damage. What a perfect lead in to I Am Mine. We were so primed to envelop the arena with our voices when he began, it had the feel of a drinking song with our close buddies. Swaying with our new rail-mate friends. Gorgeously gorgeous. Yes, it was a night for friends.
— Amy Wynn
10. Given To Fly – September 7, Chicago, IL
I have been a Chicago Blackhawks fan longer than I have been a Pearl Jam fan. Growing up, the Blackhawks and Pearl Jam were my two obsessions. Schoolmates and various coworkers that didn’t know me very well always referred to me as either “the Pearl Jam guy” or “the Blackhawks guy.” I have two tattoos. Not surprisingly, one is for Pearl Jam and one is for the Blackhawks.
Imagine my delight when the two overlapped on this night in September.
I have long known that Chris Chelios is a close personal friend of Eddie. I even saw Chelios in the crowd of one of Eddie’s solo shows back in 2008. When Eddie asked him to come on stage to pay tribute to the owner of the team that had recently passed away, it was a very touching moment.
In a bit of a surprise, there was one more announcement. Pearl Jam and Eddie were asked by the team to use their platform in the home of the Blackhawks to announce to “Cheli” and the rest of the community that his number 7 would be joining other legends of the game in the rafters. It was an incredibly emotional experience for me. Chelios was the captain of the team the first time I ever saw a game in person. To be in attendance when the news broke is something I will never forget, and I already have my tickets for the game and ceremony in February.
To really bring things full circle, the band dedicated the next song to Chelios and his family. It happened to be one of my personal favorites and the song I walked down the aisle to at my wedding several years ago.
I have been able to see Given To Fly 28 times so far in all the shows I’ve been to but I can honestly say, this was the most special performance I have witnessed and easily my favorite.
— Bradley Piasecki
9. Indifference – August 31, St. Paul, MN
To move forward sometimes we need to go in reverse. Just when you think that maybe you have Pearl Jam figured out, they throw a ghost pitch in the top of the first to the very first batter. Indifference was the least likely opener for a show, let alone a tour, just doing the math. Of the 171 times it had been played going into August 31, 2023, it closed 108 shows and opened just 2, the last of which happened on March 6, 1994 at the Paramount Theater in Denver, Colorado, about 4 months after Vs. was released.
The song has an aura of candlelight shining on gray darkness on the surface, but deep down it is a meditation on perseverance set to a quasi-jazzy blues timing. In its earlier years, it was often the ideal closer to the tone of an evening, but as Pearl Jam has moved forward, the tenor of the song has seemingly been difficult to hit its sweet spot.
As such, getting this song as the opener breathed a bit of the magic back into it. I would dare say it is the perfect way for it to be played at this point of their career, as a tone setter. Ed was more on point and less focused on saying goodbye. Stone gets to shine right from the get go with his solos, which, while sparse, give the emotional counterpoint to Jeff’s heartbeat bass pulse woven through the song. This version is nearly flawless and even provides a nice little B3 flourish by Boom prior to the final verse. Hopefully there is more of this to come in 2024, because it really is a perfect invitation to what may unfold over the course of the following couple of hours. How much difference does it make? Maybe a lot.
— Patrick Boegel, Hallucinogenic Recipe Podcast
8. Better Man – September 19, Austin, TX
As the story here is about a journal, why not do this the old fashioned way and read what Monika wrote IN the journal instead of reading this in Arial font?
7. Light Years – September 5, Chicago, IL
We all know Chicago Pearl Jam shows are a homecoming for Ed. The band has etched some of its most important moments and put on some of its most historic shows in the city he once called home. This trip to Chicago also did not disappoint. Night 1 was full of memorable high points – an emotional Release opener, the dusting off of Gods’ Dice for the first time since 2018, and a raucous rendition of Animal to name a few – but it was a somber note that provided the most meaningful moment of the night.
At the conclusion of Animal, Ed offers an emotional introduction into Light Years which he dedicates to his aunt Sandy who had recently passed away:
“One of the biggest hurdles that we all have to face the longer we live is that the people around us, some of them, are not as fortunate to be able to continue to live next to us and with us, and in front of us, and behind us… but then they just kind of become inside us and above us… We’ve just had a loss in our family that had great impact and it was my mom’s sister. My aunt. Her name was Sandy.”
During the off day between shows Ed’s family held a memorial service for Sandy on the beach north of the city. He goes on to acknowledge his family members who in attendance saying: “It takes strength to be here and I hope it can be part of the healing… This one tonight is for Sandy and anybody that you may need it to be for as well.”
— Chris Everett
6. Rearviewmirror – September 5, Chicago, IL
We did all we could. We wrote to the band by the dozen, we emailed them hundreds of times, we engaged on a social media spree a presidential campaign would have been proud of, all with the dedication tag “RVM for Frans.” Now we just had to wait and see if it landed.
As the show got underway, we immediately knew Eddie was taking us down memory lane with some stories of his old neighborhood and the passing of one of his relatives. This said to me that maybe tonight wasn’t going to be it, but maybe night 2 for a dedication to him.
It was a thunderous show and my gig buddy Brandon and I were just rocking out to a great set. Near the end of the main set, I see Eddie swap guitars to his Who-inspired Fender, the one he plays THAT song with. I nudged Brandon and said “this could be it.” “Fuck yes,” he said, and we watched and waited.
Eddie starts talking about how he got a letter from some people who travel around the world using Pearl Jam as an excuse to meet up and have a good time. Sounds like us, I say to Brandon…then Eddie says “they told me about a friend, this friend hails from the Netherlands…”
Oh my god! They’re fucking gonna do it! And they did, and it was beautiful, heartfelt, and done with such humility that it made me fall in love with the band all over again. “This is what he wanted to hear” were Ed’s final words as he paused beautifully before striking the opening chords to RVM. I started crying, joy to start with then sorrow as our friend Frans would have loved to have seen this, would have loved to have been here.
During the song, Eddie raises his arm, points to the sky, and exclaims “…this is for you, Frans!”
I’m writing this now with goosebumps.
It’s impossible for me to truly describe how I felt at that moment. If I could have run around and given the 26,000 people in that arena a hug, I would have. It now stands as my favorite Pearl Jam moment, period. Afterwards I bumped into so many people I knew and we hugged and danced and all agreed it was a beautiful dedication to Frans AND we love this band even more.
— Martin Higgins
5. Black – September 13, Ft. Worth, TX
It has been discussed at length that Mike and Stone really stepped up their game at this show to make up for Matt Cameron being absent on drums and Eddie recovering from the flu. If there was one song in which Mike McCready made his statement to say “I’m going to make tonight extremely special,” it was Black. Granted, Black is usually about Mike McCready and his extended solo to close out the song, but to prove I’m not taking the easy way out in making this declaration, here is what Eddie himself said at the end of the song,
“How about a toast to Mike McCready right there…I don’t want to make him blush but that was the best solo of the tour, if not ever.”
The Texas crowd wholeheartedly agreed. Eddie then continued: “…it bodes well for the evening when he gives that look and says ‘oh, I’m just warming up’.” It was all uphill from there.
What followed was what I believe to be the dark horse show of the tour. A 27-song set that did not contain a single Pearl Jam song released after the ‘90s. Incredible focus from band members, as they guided Josh through drumming duties. And perhaps most importantly, a crowd that was eternally grateful that the show went on.
— Sheehan Perera
4. Undone – September 15, Ft. Worth, TX
Originally, I expected to attend the St. Paul and Chicago shows and not Texas. In addition, going into this tour, my two “white whales” that I’ve never heard in my nearly 40 shows going into ’23 were Marker In The Sand and Undone. But, life happened, and instead I’m booked for four shows in Texas.
First I heard they played Marker in Chicago, and then that there was also a request, turned down emphatically by Ed, for Undone. I thought my change of venue might cost me both songs – I was, as usual, wrong. That same guy who made the request in Chicago – and God bless that guy – was there in GA at Fort Worth night 2, and Ed made a point of finding the guy, cracking a few jokes about it, and then breaking into Undone for the first time in 13 years.
I’ve always compared Undone to Down: both debuted on versions of the I Am Mine single, but while Down (a McCready favorite) has been played nearly 100 times, Undone had only been played 5 times prior to Fort Worth.
The version we got in Fort Worth was more Lost Dogs than b-side version (the guitar solos are different – personally I prefer the fuzzy b-side original) but it was clearly evident the band had rehearsed the hell out of it, because for a song barely played it felt like a catalog staple. There’s a point towards the end where Ed is singing the “building…building…” piece, and the band makes it a quiet/loud dynamic with quiet for the “building” and kicking in full-volume for “before it breaks.”
Besides getting something I’d hoped for, the version played was incredibly tight, well-layered, and in perfect sync. Hopefully, this tune will make some sort of a comeback, at least as an occasional bit of the playlist so that others also get a chance to hear it.
— Mike Cribier
3. Throw Your Arms Around Me – September 5, Chicago, IL
The first night in Chicago is a perfect example of Ed’s knack for spectacular storytelling. A lot of those stories have been shared here on this list. From time to time, his stories can seem to be long-winded, but every time he spoke on this night, it felt like he had fresh material to captivate the crowd with. As he had on most nights this tour, he came out on stage alone after the encore break to set the mood with a mellower track.
When he began his speech by saying that this story is about “when people give you a look, you’re not quite sure what it is…and it could have different meanings, and maybe sometimes it could be best to think the best,” I did not have high hopes that this would be one of his best. It sounded as if we were in for some rambling, so my mind kind of wandered for a second. But then he tied in the emotional story that he told earlier that night about attending his aunt’s funeral, and right away I was back in. This was gonna be a story about family, and therefore, a good one.
When Ed said his grandmother’s home was the core, comparing it to planets revolving around the sun, that clicked with me instantly. I spent a lot of time at my grandmother’s house growing up. We spent every Thanksgiving there, and I used to spend many Friday nights there while my parents would go out to dinner. We’d usually rent a movie at Blockbuster and I’d watch it in her room with her, but that all ended one day when I decided to rent a South Park tape with an episode called “Cartman’s Mom Is A Dirty Slut.” I never ended up renting the follow-up episode revealing who Cartman’s dad was (spoiler, it was his mom). Needless to say, I adored my grandma and countless of my favorite childhood memories centered around her home.
Ed was feeling nostalgic when a friend was driving around the city, and he had them make a pit stop to where his grandma, and her Dennis Rodman back tattoo, used to live. When he describes the faces that he saw of the “cool looking guys” sitting at a table by the window staring at him, I can see how that would make him want to drive away. But the human element can be a funny thing at times. What seemed like a story that was about to go south actually blossomed into something beautiful. His instinct was incorrect, and instead came out of it meeting a wonderful family who was fulfilling the same types of traditions that he had grown up with in that apartment.
I just remember seeing the photos up on the screen and thinking, how incredible is this? Not just for Ed, but for the family that had lived there and heard rumors of him frequenting their home as a child to finally get some closure on the story. They seemed so inviting and welcoming too. Of course, there is some excitement that a celebrity spent time at the home you currently inhabit, but as the story developed, it turned into a connection on more of a personal level. Ed genuinely wanted to know what life was like there, and was pleasantly surprised that there was a “lot of love and power” in the place where they had raised six kids. The father and the youngest child, who was a day away from attending Medical school, were invited to the show that night. Seeing the father in tears when being shown on the screen was a special moment that everyone in the arena celebrated together.
As for the song, when Ed referenced the “Chicago summer sky,” I had a feeling that something was up. Throw Your Arms Around Me was one of my top songs that I wanted to hear on this tour that I’d never heard before, and it met and exceeded all of my expectations. I was so captivated and drawn in by the moment that I think my emotions led me to do something I hadn’t done at a concert in ages. I was thinking about my wife at that moment. Although they had played our wedding song earlier in the night, Just Breathe, this song came extremely close to being the first dance at our wedding. We’ve always had a strong connection over it because of the sweet sentiment it shares. So I picked up the phone and called her to have her listen to the song. Talking about family at that moment made me miss her and my son. The power of music can take you in crazy directions, but it will always find its way back home. As of this month, we currently inhabit a home where we will share love and power with our family for years to come.
— Randy Sobel, Live On 4 Legs Podcast
2. Alive – September 15, Ft. Worth, TX
I wasn’t even supposed to be at either of the Pearl Jam Fort Worth shows. So when my agent informed me at the last minute that the student organization I was going to be working with in California had an unfortunate uptick in COVID-19 and that my day working with students there would have to be in the spring, I thought to myself…I’m going to the Friday night Fort Worth show! I even posted it on social media that I was so stoked to see the band that saved my life with their music…Pearl Jam. The night before the show, someone reached out to me on social media and told me they shared my post with their dear friend, who is Eddie Vedder’s mom, and that she hoped that her son would get a chance to meet me.
I smiled at that thought and then realized, wait…I have an indirect line to Eddie Vedder. So I wrote a prose poem about how much the music of Pearl Jam meant/means to me. How it saved my life in every way a person can be saved. How it reminded me that I was still…alive.
I sent it to my friend, who sent it to Eddie’s mom, who then sent it to Eddie. The day of the show, just hours before they took the stage, I got a call from the band’s management team stating that Eddie got my note and that he shared it with the band and they would like me to be their guest that night. They would leave me tickets placing me mere feet from the stage and a backstage pass at will call. But beyond that, there would be a handwritten note from Eddie including the set list and when I should walk to the side stage.
During the encore sequence I was invited to the side stage. Eddie read my prose poem to the 13,000 people in attendance. What was so striking to me was how silent the audience was as Eddie read my words to them. They were with him. They were with me. As he read the last word, the band exploded into Alive and Eddie invited me onstage where we shared a hug and a few words whispered to each other. Those words remain just for me, but that moment and those words we shared will stay with me always.
During the penultimate song, their cover of Rockin’ in the Free World. Eddie invited members of Deep Sea Diver and me to join them on stage and dance and sing with them.
I’m standing on a stage.
Holding a tambourine tossed to me by the greatest lead singer on the planet.
He calls me over to the mic.
My face just inches from his as we sing the chorus to Rockin’ in the Free World together on his mic.
Outside of the births of my two daughters, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so…alive.
— Joaquín Zihuatanejo, Poet Laureate, City of Dallas, TX
1. Love Boat Captain – August 31, St. Paul, MN
The organ chords started playing, and everyone who was just slightly more than a casual Pearl Jam fan instantly recognized the familiar, if not oft-played, opening notes of Riot Act’s third song. But it was clear right away this would not be a typical performance of Love Boat Captain.
Just three weeks before Pearl Jam’s tour opener in St. Paul, the Hawaiian island of Maui was devastated by sudden wildfires. The town of Lahaina, a town our family had personally visited just months before, lost many homes, businesses, and, sadly, lives, due to the fire.
While Hawaiian native Boom Gaspar played the chords of the song he co-wrote, Eddie, in an emotional speech, shared his own connection with the island of Maui. “It gave me songs, it gave me isolation, it gave me inspiration, it gave me waves…gave us waves…and also gave us a B3 player in Mr. Boom Gaspar…”
The intro to Love Boat Captain would become one of the most emotional moments of the entire tour. The band was clearly so thrilled to be on the road again, and have a release from all that is going wrong with the world. The performance of the song, as it always is, was thrilling. Eddie changed one of the lyrics to “let the healing begin,” again in tribute to those in Maui. It really makes you wonder why this song isn’t more of a setlist staple as it’s ALWAYS a highlight of any show in which it’s played.
Love Boat Captain is, by a fairly wide margin, my favorite Pearl Jam song. To hear it live in my home state along with my wife, and to be a part of such an emotional tribute to the state of Hawaii, was a really special moment. I absolutely agree with those that have said it may have been the single best performance of the 2023 tour.
— Kirk Walton
Postscript – John Farrar
So there you have it. 33 more moments that became part of Pearl Jam’s history and their legacy. What we saw this year was, I believe, unprecedented in rock and roll history: a band 33 years into their career (I don’t want to gloss over that, take a minute and think about it. Thirty-three years!) that’s connected to their fans this deeply and meaningfully.
We saw a different opener each night, we saw more and more tour debuts each night, digging deep into the more seldom-played albums. That tells me that they see you. They know you were traveling, and they went out of their way to make each show special. They’re connected to us, the fans, in a way that I don’t think any band has ever been before. Aside from these moments, there were countless more where Ed dedicated a song to someone, maybe it was just a name and we don’t know the whole story, but that’s for that person.
Now we turn our attention to a new year, a new album, and hopefully many more shows to come. Whatever 2024 brings us Pearl Jam-wise, one thing is certain. When you see them take the stage (and I hope all of you do), you’ll experience a moment like the ones you read here, and that’s what we’re really chasing. You may have songs that you want to hear, you may need that one song to complete Vs. or Binaural or Lightning Bolt, but it’s the moments that keep us coming back, the connection, the feeling that all the time we’ve all spent with this band will be repaid when they walk out on that stage. You can hear it in the stories above, from Joaquin and Martin and Jason and Randy and everyone else. I can’t wait.
Our sincere gratitude to everyone who volunteered to share their great stories with you all. We also want to thank everyone who came through and shared their photos from the tour! The idea was that we’d find the best photo and use it for the artwork, but since there were so many incredible shots, we decided to put them all together in a mosaic so everyone could have their photos featured. Thank you to our graphics designer, Charles Khem, for doing a wonderful job on this, and a big thank you to Jay Therrien for providing the great photo that we based the artwork around.
A big thank you to everyone else who shared: Lisa McNay, Mike Cribier, Jason Brown, Ned Lally, Jason Corbin, Janna Gitlin, Debbie Strozier, Brooke Krause, David Rhoads, Eduardo Galvan Torres, Jared Schaefer, Eddie Quintana, Nitzan Cohen, Mar Vigil, Stephanie Morris Devine, Larry Fleisher, Todd Luttinen, Jill O’Brien, Brendan McNulty, Erin Hubich, Lori Tone, Valerie Lucas, Chris Palumbo, Andrew Young, Mike Weber, Monika Sanczo, Hayley S Kolar, Heide Marx, Alison Marie, Pete Fonias, Matt Schollenberger, Will Day, Scott McQueen, @33scott33, @seansassaman, @ponytd, @cvohara, @zarpropertyny, @joaoameno, @givntwofly, @lgooseff40567, @pj4ever77, @davidclayre, @tenvsrhys, @saintgrey26, @oumarauder, @erik_hinds, @nlow78, @lzachw, @nucrxdgf, @robby985
One last thing. Thank you all for taking the time to read this. What we do for this website and podcast is completely a labor of love project. We are in no way affiliated with the band, and anything we do to create content comes from the help of donations. Please consider making a contribution to our Patreon on a monthly or yearly plan to help grow our platform. In exchange, there are countless of exclusive episode content available for you guys, including all of the instant reaction recaps from this year’s past shows. Our hope is for 2024 to be at as many shows as we can be to continue building more content on the nights it matters most. The donations help out that cause. We are committed to being a Pearl Jam news source that the community can rely on for updates on the tours and wall to wall coverage of every show played. If you’d like to support that, please consider subscribing!
With festivals in Lisbon and Madrid already on the books for 2024, I guess all we can say to close is… see you next year!