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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 15, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 28
Eddie Vedder brilliant on home turf
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Eddie Vedder brilliant on home turf

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

Eddie Vedder
July 15
Benaroya Hall


There's no place like home, there's no place like home.

This may have been going through Eddie Vedder's head during the first of two sold-out concerts at Benaroya Hall last weekend. The frontman of rock outfit Pearl Jam and a reputable solo artist in between band projects, he had the crowd roaring before the lights dimmed. Three men on the symphony hall's top balcony cheered brutishly like Vikings in anticipation of Vedder's appearance, yelling 'Eddieeee!' and muttering other words that only they seemed to understand.

With no introduction, the room went dark and Vedder strode onto the stage, strapping on an electric guitar. He immediately found his comfort zone, opening with 'Walking the Cow' - a Daniel Johnston number, also covered by Pearl Jam - then uncorked his newest effort, Ukulele Songs, by strumming the miniature instrument to four tracks in a row from the album, 'Can't Keep,' 'Sleeping By Myself,' 'Without You,' and 'More Than You Know.'

'I couldn't be happier than to be home,' said Vedder early in the set. He politely asked concertgoers to stop taking flash photos, but posed briefly for them to snap a few before continuing on. Teasingly, he flipped the birdie with one hand, then both as a series of flashes went off throughout Benaroya.

'I'm so anxious to be home, I'm excited to do laundry,' Vedder quipped. He then predicted his wife would reply with something like, 'That fucker, he doesn't do laundry.'

Jokes aside, Vedder's voice was impeccable. He played a mean ukulele and guitar - even a banjo - but his voice was the star of the show. There was so much vigor in those vocals, sometimes a brawny wail and other times an intense whisper.

Two songs from Pearl Jam's arsenal sounded incredible: 'Better Man' from 1994's Vitalogy album and 'Around the Bend' from 1996's No Code. Further along, Vedder invited a four-person string ensemble to back him on three more songs from the group's catalog, including a stunning rendition of 'The End.'

A recent news item about a severed penis created a running joke during the show. Vedder referred to it repeatedly, going as far as pointing to his crotch and asking, 'Is this insured?' followed by an unintentional zinger when he said, 'We should probably get somebody on it.' This provided a hilarious segue to the next song, 'Rise.'

Dressed in jeans and a T-shirt underneath a short-sleeve shirt with outgrown hair, Vedder is still undeniably sexy at the ripe age of 46. A female fan shouted out what most of us already knew: 'You're hot!'

'Arc,' a gritty lyrics-less number written for nine people who died at a music festival in 2000, was looped and played loudly with all the lights turned off for more dramatic effect. It closed out the main set.

A pair of encores featured Vedder covering Cat Stevens' 'If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out,' The Beatles' 'You've Got to Hide Your Love Away,' and X's 'Fourth of July' - incidentally, X will open some dates for Pearl Jam's upcoming South and Central American tour.

Supporting act Glen Hansard, of the Swell Season, joined Vedder for a wonderful, completely unplugged version of 'Sleepless Nights,' only to be followed two songs later with a gorgeous rendition of 'Falling Softly,' which earned Hansard (and Marketa Irglova) an Oscar for Best Original Song in 2008.

You might recall Vedder helming the soundtrack for the film Into the Wild, with the anthemic centerpiece 'Hard Sun.' He used it toward the end of his set, and the crowd sang along with full force. A short and sweet run-through of 'Dream a Little Dream' capped the two-hour concert.

Vedder's friendly, humorous interaction with the audience, a rarity given that he's often reserved and near snobbish, signaled an obvious comfort level of playing to a hometown crowd. His performance, itself a stroke of genius, further proved he was totally in his element.

'I'm so proud to be from this city!' he exclaimed near the finale. And we are happy to claim you.

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