Eddie Vedder last graced the historic Chicago Theater in 1984, as a 20 year old, to watch Silent Night, Deadly Night in the aging venue. Vedder joked, “I remember this room, it used to be a shithole. I used to be a shithead.” Fast-forward nearly three decades and the vocalist was performing the first of two sold-out shows at the meticulously restored theater.
The curtains raised a little after 9:40 pm to reveal Vedder sitting upon a stool, Ukulele in hand, flanked by a handful of guitars, a couple suitcases, a reel-to-reel deck, and a kick drum concealed by an empty box. He opened with Waving Palms from his most-recent solo project, Ukulele Songs. Unlike the recent and similar Chris Cornell Songbook Tour, Vedder’s sound was strong enough to overpower any discussions amongst the audience (though the crowd also appeared to be more respectful than at Cornell’s shows).
The auditorium was packed and four rows of chairs had been added to the orchestral pit for the most fortunate fans. Most in the audience were hardcore followers of Vedder and Pearl Jam, briefly applauding upon recognition of the next song within a few notes. Vedder was there in support of Ukulele Songs but mixed in a variety of Pearl Jam material and other covers. Opening act, Glen Hansard, joined Vedder for Long Nights, The Everly Brothers Sleepless Nights, Jerry Hannan’s Society, Falling Slowly by The Swell Season, and Indio’s Hard Sun. A stringed quartet joined in on Pearl Jam’s Just Breathe and The End.
Gauging his performance metrics on the crowd’s responses, Vedder could do no wrong regardless of what song he was playing. The Beatles Blackbird had the crowd whistling during the song’s lulls. Vedder enticed the crowd into performing bird calls as he introduced the track when he stated, “Keep whistling, there might be a part for you in the next one.” Vedder’s grin as he looked into the balcony amongst the whistles as Blackbird finished acknowledged his approval.
Vedder’s musings between songs were frequent and random: a fairly long story about an embarrassing hotel experience after a 90′s Alpine Valley performance; thoughts on Chicago and Seattle; his experience with the Chicago Theater when it was a declining movie theater; and how he’s changed over the years. Before Sleepless Nights he noted, “I don’t live in Chicago anymore, but Chicago lives in me.”
The live performances of Ukulele Songs were vastly different than the recorded versions. The recorded tracks have a fidelity whereupon Vedder’s powerful vocals are balanced by the delicate chords emanating from the uke. Vedder’s vocals resonated through the Chicago Theater and the Hawaiian stringed instrument was no match as Vedder strummed heavily in an attempt to match his voice. The result was a somewhat tinny representation of the recorded version. However, the energy and vocal emotion coupled with the audience’s fixation on Vedder’s every sound and move more than compensated for whatever fidelity the ukulele lacked.
1. Waving Palms
2. Can’t Keep (Pearl Jam)
3. Sleeping By Myself
4. Without You
5. You’re True
6. Light Today
7. Longing To Belong
8. Sometimes (Pearl Jam)
9. I Am Mine (Pearl Jam)
10. Long Nights (with Glen Hansard)
11. Far Behind
14. Blackbird (The Beatles cover)
15. Just Breathe (Pearl Jam; with string quartet)
16. The End (Pearl Jam; with string quartet)
17. Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town (Pearl Jam)
18. Unthought Known (Pearl Jam)
19. Arc (Pearl Jam)
20. Parting Ways (Pearl Jam)
21. You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away (The Beatles cover)
22. Sleepless Nights (The Everly Brothers cover; with Glen Hansard, Boudleaux Bryant, Felice Bryant)
23. Society (Jerry Hannan cover; with Glen Hansard)
24. Falling Slowly (The Swell Season cover; with Glen Hansard)
25. Immortality (Pearl Jam)
26. All The Way (for Ron Santo)
27. Porch (Pearl Jam)
28. Hard Sun (Indio cover; with Glen Hansard)
29. Dream a Little Dream