Tester benefit concert draws 7,000

Explorebigsky.com Editorial Staff

MISSOULA – On Sept. 30, rock legends Pearl Jam took the Adams Center at the University of Montana by storm. The concert, which sold out in 15 minutes, was the band’s only non-festival show in the U.S. this year. Put on by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, the show was an effort to create awareness about the race, encourage voting, and raise funds for the Democratic senator’s campaign. It drew close to 7,000 fans, who poured into the auditorium and heard the band rail for nearly three hours.

Pearl Jam co-founder and legendary bass player Jeff Ament, originally from Big Sandy, was instrumental in bringing the show to his home state. He grew up with Tester in the small town northeast of Great Falls, and together they hope the concert will help propel the incumbent senator to victory.

Tester took office in 2006, winning by a slim margin. The race this year between Tester and challenger U.S. Rep. Dennis Rehberg, a Republican, is one of the most watched in the nation.

The 29-song show featured rare performances of “Ghost” and “Man of the Hour,” as well as commentary by Ament and lead man Eddie Vedder. At one point, Vedder gave shout-outs to Ament’s parents saying, “If not for you, there would be no Pearl Jam.”

After intermission, the band took time to reverse the stage orientation and played to the crowd located behind the stage, leading a sing along to Wayne Cochran’s cover, “Last Kiss.” The concert was concluded in classic fashion with a strong performance of Neil Young’s, “Rockin’ in the Free World,” a song that criticizes former President H.W. Bush’s “thousand points of light” remarks made during some of his speeches.

The crowd showed Pearl Jam its due respect and in return received a strong compliment from Vedder: “Best U.S. crowd of the year, Montana!” he shouted. “You have given me goose bumps!”

The band played until arena staff turned on the house lights, hinting that it was time to leave, interrupting the second encore of the night. But Pearl Jam kept rocking for several more songs.

At times the concert seemed more like a fundraiser for Montana than the senator, as it drew people from around the country to Missoula. The line for merchandise was more than an hour long, and hotels were full. The show was a reprieve from the relentless barrage of campaign ads, and for a brief moment in this election year, citizens were focused on the power of music.