Pearl Jam’s 10 best Seattle shows

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Pearl Jam performing at KeyArena in 2013.

Pearl Jam performing at KeyArena in 2013.


Pearl Jam is celebrating 25 years of being a band this year and to mark the occasion the group is hitting the road. The band’s tour kicks off tonight in Florida. Sadly, the group has yet to announced a Seattle show for their Silver Anniversary run. And since Eddie, Mike, Stone, Jeff, Matt have always been a bit unpredictable when it comes to touring, there’s a possibility they could skip the Emerald City entirely this year. Of course, that would be a bit odd considering they are the city’s biggest living musical export and they take a lot of pride in Seattle. But hey, stranger things have happened.

Since it’s a small possibility Seattle will get skipped this time around, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the list I published a few years back and take a look at the band’s 10 most memorable Seattle concerts. Because if this Seattleite can’t have a live Pearl Jam experience this year the next best thing is to revisit the past and keep waiting for the inevitable show announcement whenever it may come.

RELATED: Parting Ways: Has Pearl Jam forgotten about Seattle?

KeyArena Dec. 6, 2013

Why it’s notable: This show marked the first time the group played its hometown in more than four years. That’s the longest gap between home shows in the 52 times they’ve performed in Seattle, so the excitement and energy in the building from the fans alone was enough to make this a memorable night. As for the band, they did more than deliver. Pearl Jam made up for lost time by playing a 37-song set that lasted more than three hours. Highlights included a “Singles” suite so to speak with covers of “Chloe Dancer,” and “Crown of Thorns” followed by “Breath” and “State of Love and Trust.” Eddie told the crowd that it was the first time “Breath” had been played live in Seattle since 1992. And the holiday rarity”Let Me Sleep” was played for the first time since 1994 (and it showed because it was the only sloppy song during the set). The final encore included Mike playing “Eruption” and an all-star “Kick Out the Jams” featuring Mark Arm, Steve Turner and Kim Thayil.

Benaroya Hall Oct. 22, 2003

Why it’s notable: Put Seattle’s biggest band in the city’s best-sounding room and a spectacular show happens. The show was Pearl Jam’s first full “unplugged” concert since taping MTV’s “Unplugged” in the 90s. Of course it wasn’t an all acoustic affair since most of the instruments were plugged in, but it’s the thought that counts. The setlist put the spotlight on several songs off the band’s double-album “Lost Dogs,” which is a record of b-sides and unreleased material so there was quite a bit of fan service happening with rarities getting setlist placements. It also marked the debut of “Man of the Hour,” which was written for Tim Burton’s “Big Fish.” A few years later the concert, which was a benefit for Youth Cares, was released as a live album and the vinyl version of that record, which was limited to a run of 2,000, is a highly coveted Pearl Jam collectible (it fetches up to $1,000 on eBay!).

RELATED: From the vault: Pearl Jam at Benaroya Hall | Pearl Jam in top form at the Gorge

Off Ramp Cafe Oct. 22, 1990

Why it’s notable:
 This is Pearl Jam’s first public performance so it’s notable for that reason alone. At the time the band was known as Mookie Blaylock. Take a listen to the early versions of the band’s classic cuts off “Ten.”

The Gorge Sept. 1, 2005, July 22 & 23, 2006

Why they’re notable: Yes, this is three shows instead of one but it’s tough to separate these shows from one another because all three were equally excellent. The first show featured an actual acoustic set (as opposed to Benaroya’s “unplugged ” offering) and the other two shows were two of Pearl Jam’s best local concerts in more than a decade. The package of all three was released as a box set and it’s well worth checking out if you don’t have any live Pearl Jam in your collection.

RELATED: Pearl Jam delivers sweltering sets at the Gorge

Memorial Stadium July 21 & 22 1998

Why they are notable: Another grouping of shows, these concerts are notable not just for the music but also for the band’s action. Pearl Jam has always given back to Seattle and these two shows from the “Yield” tour were the biggest local fundraisers of the band’s career, raising approximately $500,000 for Seattle Public Schools, the Chicken Soup Brigade and the National Association for American Indian Children and Elders.

The Gorge, Sept. 5, 1993

Why it’s notable: Pearl Jam’s first show at the Gorge didn’t go off as well as their 05-06 shows. According to the Seattle Times, roughly 100 people were injured after the crowd tore down a metal fence and fell down a 25-foot drop when advancing towards the stage. The band didn’t return to the Gorge for 12 years.

Mural Amphitheatre Aug. 23, 1991

Why it’s notable:  Another show early in the band’s career that foreshadowed the band’s meteoric rise, this concert happened right when everything was about to happen.  Plus, it was free.

The Showbox Dec. 5 & 6, 2002

Why they’re notable: Do I need to explain this one? It’s Pearl Jam at the Showbox. Check out the live DVD of the show, simply titled “Live at the Showbox” to see how absolutely great these shows were.

KeyArena Dec. 9, 2002

Why it’s notable: This was the second of two local shows for the “Riot Act” tour. The first night wasn’t so great. It’s not that the band delivered a bad show, it’s more that the setlist was pretty, well, uninspired. Apparently the band realized this and delivered an excellent show the next night with a setlist that started with “Release” and ended with a cover of The Sonics’ “Don’t Believe in Christmas.”

RELATED: A tale of two shows: Pearl Jam at KeyArena

Drop in the Park Sept. 20, 1992

Why it’s notable: This free concert at Magnuson Park was a get out the vote show and it featured Cypress Hill and Shawn Smith as openers. It’s one of the best shows from early in the band’s career and was released on vinyl only as part of the band’s reissue of “Ten” a few years ago.

Travis Hay

About Travis Hay

Travis Hay is a professional music journalist who has spent the past 14 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, and others and was the founder and editor of defunct music site Ear Candy.