2020 Pearl Jam Year In Review
Recap of Pearl Jam's 2020
On January 10th, the monthly Ten Club newsletter sent out an email that wrote “Happy New Year... look for Pearl Jam around the world” with a corresponding map featuring a white flame marker in locations such as Seattle, New York, Mexico City, London, Sydney and others.
Fans near these locations were able to perform an interactive scavenger hunt on their mobile devices which would reveal an image of the Gigaton album cover on a billboard. The official announcement for their 11th studio album and corresponding North American tour would be revealed days later.
On January 10th, the monthly Ten Club newsletter sent out an email that wrote “Happy New Year… look for Pearl Jam around the world” with a corresponding map featuring a white flame marker in locations such as Seattle, New York, Mexico City, London, Sydney and others. Fans near these locations were able to perform an interactive scavenger hunt on their phones which would reveal an image of the Gigaton album cover on a billboard. The official announcement for their 11th studio album and corresponding North American tour would be revealed days later.
The North American tour was originally slated for 17 shows scattered throughout the US and Canada, beginning in Toronto. A special show set for Harlem’s Apollo Theater was planned for the night prior to Gigaton’s release. Tickets for this event could only be acquired by calling in and winning Sirius XM’s Pearl Jam Radio contest held daily for weeks leading up to the show. Other shows scheduled for this tour were originally set to be held at Ottawa, Quebec City, Hamilton, Baltimore, Madison Square Garden, Nashville, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Denver, Phoenix and a return to California (San Diego, Los Angeles and Oakland) for arena shows for the first time since 2013. Shortly after this announcement, the band would be revealed as the headliner of New Jersey’s Sea.Hear.Now Festival and Eddie’s own Ohana Festival.
On March 11th, everything that was expected to happen was put to a sudden halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the world shut down to combat the deadly virus, a year with a total of 33 shows that had been announced (and presumably more that were to come during the fall) was postponed indefinitely.
Despite the pandemic, the Gigaton album was released as scheduled on March 29th. The first single, “Dance Of The Clairvoyants”, was available for streaming in late January. “Superblood Wolfmoon” was the second album song, revealed in February, and came with another fan interactive experience where fans could point their phones at the moon and receive a snippet of an animation featured in the song’s music video.
With the surge of livestream performances happening during quarantine time, we were treated to a limited amount of Pearl Jam related performances. In April, Eddie performed “River Cross” on piano for the One World: Together At Home benefit that raised funds for the World Health Organization. He’d later perform two new solo songs, “A Matter Of Time” and “Say Hi”, at a benefit for EB research.
The band’s first performance of a Gigaton song came not in front of thousands of fans, but filmed separately in their respective homes and broadcast on the AllInWA livestream in June of 2020. Ed counts off “Take 3” and Matt kicks in. The juxtaposition is clear: Matt and Jeff are in their home studios with minimal effects, while Mike is in his garage(?), and we soon see he’s wearing neon glow-in-the-dark paint on his face and arms, with “<-SEATTLE->” painted on his guitar. Ed is in his living room, flanked by a goateed, made up mask on a mic stand (2003 anyone?) and his daughters (who were evidently responsible for the wardrobe and set design at the Vedder house), while Stone, in true Stone fashion, has made some sort of disco in an empty corner of his house, with multicolored strobe lights. Jeff comes in with the synth line, adding some guitar, while Stone lays down the bass line. As the song builds, Ed plays it up more, dancing with the mask, using a candle as a lighting effect, and even giving a little smirk to the camera instead of singing the “dicks” line, perhaps due to his daughters dancing Stevie Nicks-style in the background. Josh Klinghoffer (from scheduled touring opener Pluralone, and former RHCP guitarist) makes an appearance to sing backups. It’s a faithful performance to the album version, it will be interesting to see if this was a one-off, fun experiment, or if there are hints of things to come.
In October, the band would contribute a brand new track written by Matt Cameron entitled “Get It Back” to Good Music To Avert The Collapse of American Democracy Vol. 2. Also featured on this compilation were solo songs from Stone Gossard (“Near”) and Jeff Ament side project Deaf Charlie (“Something Real”)
Another band side project that happened during quarantine was Painted Shield, a band featuring Stone, Mason Jennings, Brittany Davis and former Pearl Jam drummer Matt Chamberlain. They released a self-titled album in 2020, Jeff Ament also released a cover of The Buzzcocks’ “Sitting Around At Home,” and Mike McCready entertained fans on social media with multiple bathroom session performances.