Eddie Vedder didn’t speak to the crowd until Pearl Jam was a few songs into its end-of-tour show at KeyArena Friday, but once he started, he kept up a conversation all night.
“We don’t have to travel anywhere, so we can give it all we got,” he said.
Seattle has seen plenty of memorable Pearl Jam shows over the decades, but Friday’s was epic: a 37-song, three-hour-plus set. Near the end of the encores Vedder even brought out Mark Arm and Steve Turner of opener Mudhoney, plus Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil, and the Seattle supergroup ripped through “Search and Destroy.”
Vedder was animated throughout the night. He joked about Macklemore doing three shows at the Key this coming week, when Pearl Jam was only doing one, but urged his fans to donate more than Macklemore’s to Seattle nonprofit YouthCare and its meal service provider Orion Center.
Vedder’s stage banter worked best when he added background to songs. “Garden” was written in Seward Park, he said, and “Even Flow” was partially about a Pioneer Square homeless man.
Songs from the band’s latest album, “Lightning Bolt,” had the most energy. The group burned through the title track and “Mind Your Manners.” The night’s highlight was “Getaway,” as Matt Cameron’s drums perfectly contrasted with the guitar wall of Mike McCready and Stone Gossard. Vedder seemed to completely inhabit his Who-roots, with perfectly executed PeteTownshend guitar windmills and bassist Jeff Ament channeling John Entwistle.
Before “Lukin,” written about Mudhoney’s original bass player Matt Lukin, Vedder said the band rarely plays the track, but hardly ever with Lukin “in the house.” That was one of many “only in Seattle moments” that made this concert special.
In the encore, Vedder spoke at length about how marijuana and same sex marriage legalization put Washington “on the right side of history” while admitting that his digressions often led to “four hour shows.”
Pearl Jam didn’t quite hit that mark, but came close. The two encore sets stretched over 16 songs, including Van Halen’s “Eruption,” which was fun.
The band capped the night with McCready’s guitar magic on “Yellow Ledbetter,” one of the first songs Pearl Jam wrote together as a band, nearly 23 years ago. They play it most nights, but like everything Friday, it sounded better in Seattle.