By EJ Daws EBS STAFF
MISSOULA – Rock and Roll Hall of Famers’ Pearl Jam returned to Missoula on Aug. 13, for one of their four U.S. stops this summer, and to promote their “Rock2Vote” initiative. In front of 25,000 fans at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, the band blistered through a three-hour set that spanned its 28-year career of chart-topping hits and intimate ballads.
This show marked the seventh time that Pearl Jam played the Garden City, and their second time in the outdoor venue.
The buzz around the show was palpable, with concertgoers arriving in western Montana from all over the world to enjoy a night with the band. Thousands of fans lined up early to buy merchandise, tailgate and to enjoy the “Rock2Vote” pre-show festival, which aimed its messaging at the upcoming mid-term elections in Montana, and that served as the central theme of the night’s performance.
Democratic Sen. Jon Tester faces a tough reelection battle against Republican challenger Matt Rosendale in November, and Democrat Kathleen Williams hopes to unseat incumbent Rep. Greg Gianforte—both were on hand for the event. The band has a personal connection to Tester, since bassist Jeff Ament grew up in the senator’s home town of Big Sandy.
Pearl Jam’s setlist weaved its way through their extensive library, showcasing work dating back to their chart-topping album “Ten,” up to their current single, “Can’t Deny Me,” with a few covers mixed in, including a rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine” set to the twinkling lights of thousands of cellphones.
An aggressive mid-set rendition of the band’s in-your-face song “Porch” put the stadium into a frenzy, including a long instrumental break that included lead guitarist Mike McCready’s ear-bending guitar solo. This included McCready playing his trademark 1959 Fender Stratocaster behind his head and jamming against the on-stage amplifier stack for reverb that filled the smoky air, much to the delight of the bouncing and cheering fans.
Following a brief encore break, they returned to round out the second half of the show, with more beloved hits including “Given to Fly,” “Better Man” and “Jeremy,” as well as some rarities including “Bee Girl,” and a cover of Neil Young’s “Throw Your Hatred Down.” Young’s influence on the band was prevalent, with them also covering the classic “Rockin’ in the Free World” near the end of the show.
This show followed their two-night run in Seattle that raised more than $11 million to address homelessness in the city.
Pearl Jam concludes their brief U.S. tour with multiple-night stops at Chicago’s Wrigley Field and Boston’s Fenway Park, to round out a summer tour that included South American and European concerts.