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Pearl Jam toasts to 24 years

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By Jason Moore Explore Big Sky Contributor

DENVER – Oct. 22 marked the 24th anniversary of Pearl Jam’s first official live show, at the Off Ramp Café in Seattle, Wash. For those who have been on the artistic journey with this band over the previous decades you’ll know they didn’t disappoint at the Pepsi Arena in Denver, Colo.

While the set lists and experience continue to vary – even after all this time – it seems that every fan walks away from a Pearl Jam performance feeling a little more soulful and appreciative than when they entered the show. It was this communal sense of emotional enhancement and intimacy that struck me as I walked out of the arena and into Denver’s crisp night air.

It seems that no matter how many times one experiences a Pearl Jam show, fans walk out of the venue feeling the same emotional high, as well as near exhaustion. What is it that allows so many people to simultaneously feel the same level of emotional drain and joy?

It’s truly a tribute to the band. And it may also be a commentary on the oneness of us as human beings in the experience of enjoying art.

Buddhism discusses the fact that humans all share similar wants and desires in this lifetime. Although there are differences between us, these differences are not as dramatic as we like to think. There is a consistency, a oneness, a togetherness in simply being human.

This idea is not so dissimilar to the experience of seeing Pearl Jam.

For 24 years the band has maintained the ability to bring us on an emotional ride through their sets night after night, city after city, album after album.

guitaristFans can all relate to heartbreak during “Rearview Mirror;” we know what it feels like to belt out “Alive” at the top of our lungs; we are touched by the meditative thoughts inspired by newer albums such as Lightning Bolt; we cheer the euphoria brought on by classic covers like Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.”

The true magic of Pearl Jam is a testament to their endurance. The band members can still wrench the emotions from the souls of the fans and make every person in the arena feel like they’re part of something collective, and yet bigger. We all wait for Vedder’s moments of brilliance when he takes a familiar verse and makes it so vivid that we need to close our eyes to be fully present.

The artistic camaraderie and synergism between guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament is always a marvel. It not only forms the foundation of the band’s sound, but has also been the glue for the endurance of the past 24 years.

The quiet power of Matt Cameron on the drums is a testament to his adaptability, fluidity and raw power.

And as always, the brilliant lunacy of lead guitarist Mike McCready was a crowd pleaser. “He’s got something inside of him that just needs to get out,” said Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, during the filming of the rockumentary “Pearl Jam Twenty.”

Pearl Jam not only entertains but also consistently offers its fans a shared, communal experience, and one that spans decades.

I hope we continue to revel in the gift of human connectedness for a while longer through the art of this very special band.

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