From the Vault: Pearl Jam @ Benaroya Hall 2003

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Photo by Danny Clinch

Eddie Vedder recently performed two sold-out solo concerts at Benaroya Hall during the second solo tour of his career. The concerts were Vedder’s first official solo tour shows in Seattle (he performed a surprise solo set in West Seattle back in 2009) but they did not mark his first time on stage at Benaroya Hall. Pearl Jam performed at the home of the Seattle Symphony back in 2003 and below is the review I wrote of that show for the University of Washington Daily, which was originally published on Oct. 30, 2003.

Benaroya Hall, a venue normally reserved for orchestral concerts, hosted one of the most distinctive musical events of the year Oct. 22. Instead of musicians wearing tuxedos and black dresses and preparing to perform a symphony, the members of one of Seattle’s most successful rock bands, Pearl Jam, took the stage for a sold-out, mostly acoustic benefit concert.

The beneficiary of the concert was Youth Care, an organization that provides shelter for local homeless and at-risk youth and their families. Youth Care has four locations, with its headquarters located in the U-District.

After a short intro by Constance Rice, the chair of Youth Care’s Orion Center campaign, a blonde-haired Eddie Vedder took the stage surrounded by his band-mates in a half circle on the stage. The group remained seated during the set, emphasizing the intimacy of the performance.

The band performed mostly newer songs, along with covers and tracks from its upcoming album of B-Sides titled Lost Dogs.

One performed song, “Man of the Hour,” was written for the closing credits of film director Tim Burton’s upcoming movie Big Fish, and was recorded a few days prior to the show.

After performing “Around the Bend,” Vedder told the crowd that “somebody who thinks they invented bootlegs” served him legal papers before the show. The band released official “bootlegs” of its 2000 North America tour.

“You try and do good things and there are still people who will try to test your will and desecrate your hope,” he said.

His voice soared throughout the concert hall, especially during a cover of The Ramones’ “I Believe in Miracles.” During the following song, in a true rock n’ roll moment, a fan ran onto the orchestral stage only to be escorted to an exit by event staff.

Some of the night’s most enjoyable moments came during the two encores, when Vedder performed solo with a ukulele.

“This is for Elliot,” he said, referring to the late Elliot Smith, as he performed “Can’t Keep” with the ukulele. The song’s concluding lyrics, “I will live forever. You can’t keep me here,” were a fitting homage to Smith.

After Vedder performed “Dead Man” solo, he was joined by guitarit Mike McCready and Stone Gossard for a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War.” The band also covered Johnny Cash’s “25 Minutes to Go” during the encore.

Keyboardist Ken Gespar added depth to “Black,” the only song performed from Ten, and the crowd cheered loudly after his solo during “Crazy Mary.” The first encore ended with a “Daughter,” a song the band typically fuses with other musicians’ songs when it’s performed live. This time The Beatles’ “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” was tacked on to the song’s ending.

The second encore began and ended with “Yellow Ledbetter,” Pearl Jam’s trademark closing number, and a staple of its live sets. During the song, the house lights came on, allowing band and crowd members to see one another more clearly.

This was the second benefit show the band has performed in Seattle within the past year. In December of last year, Pearl Jam played two sold-out benefit concerts at Key Arena.

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Travis Hay

About Travis Hay

Travis Hay is a professional music journalist who has spent the past 13 years documenting and enjoying Seattle's diverse music scene. In 2009 he established Guerrilla Candy and is currently the site's editor and publisher. He has written for various media outlets including MSN Music, the Seattle-Post Intelligencer, Seattle Weekly, Crosscut.com and others and was the founder and former editor of the defunct music site Ear Candy.