It could be argued — say if rock critic and punk purist Greil Marcus were your arts and culture professor — that a gaudy spectacle like last night’s Pearl Jam show at Wells Fargo Center wouldn’t hold much genuine value, for all its pomp, its loathsome corporate sponsorship and overpriced domestic beer, in contrast for example with the intimacy and palpable hunger of a younger band playing a smaller space (which, in Philly, would have a much better tap selection too).
Of course, Pearl Jam were that younger band at one point, sweating all over those smaller rooms through loosely hanging, open-fronted plaid, stomping those stages in scuffed black Doc Marten’s boots. In July of 1991, touring in support of their anthemic debut record Ten, they played to a modest audience at South Street’s JC Dobbs, a local premiere that Eddie Vedder likes to frequently evoke with Philly crowds. And less than a year later, the band played The Trocadero, just a few months before setting a new record for album sales with 1992’s Vs.
The next time Pearl Jam would return to the Philly area would be six years later, following a notable battle with Ticketmaster, waged and lost, that saw their noble-minded boycott of Philly venues in favor of Jones Beach in New York and Meriweather Post Pavilion down by DC. By then, the band was a heavyweight festival headliner, playing almost exclusively at blockbuster concert venues.
Still, despite prime Vitalogy-era Pearl Jam having gone MIA at Philly venues, Vedder noted early on in their nearly three-hour set last night that the band’s played Philly a total of some twenty-two times, at a rate that almost works out to once a year since their inception two-and-a-half decades ago. They seem to have a special affinity for the city, an ongoing mutual love-affair highlighted by four consecutive and largely sold-out marathon shows in October 2009 to close down the Spectrum, in celebration of the building’s 40-year lifetime before it was demolished a year later.
The reception last night at Wells Fargo certainly served as testimony to that relationship. Continue reading →