top of page

27 Years of Pearl Jam (So Far)

I’m a little banged up as I (re)write this. I saw Pearl Jam at Fenway last night, the first of two shows they’re playing at the iconic ballpark. I’m 47 now, and it takes a lot more energy to do this stuff, these long days and nights of rock and/or roll. The days of go, go, go some more and bounce right back are over. As much as I’m psyched to be seeing both shows, I’m also grateful that there’s a day in between for rest and recovery and preparation for the rest of the week, since my life sadly no longer revolves around said rock and roll.

In the plus column for getting older (and the benefit of years of therapy tbh) is the ability to notice feelings and emotions as they arise. Not necessarily living each of them as they occur, just having an awareness of them, acknowledging them (read Zen Habits for more on this). And this is what I was experiencing last night during what’s gotta be somewhere around Pearl Jam Show #30 for yours truly.

A warm late summer night, the humidity seeming to increase steadily, aided by the body heat of 30,000 super-fans, each believing themselves to be the biggest Pearl Jam fan in the building (and 29,999 mofos really just fighting for 2nd place, thank you very much). Fenway is as beautiful as ever, with the huge stage in centerfield and a palpable energy from a crowd eager to let go for a few hours.

Walking through the concourse below the seating areas before the show, I noticed a lot of dudes that look like me — mid to late 40s, shaved heads, black t-shirts. And then I laughed, realizing that when all this started we were young men with full heads of hair and perhaps a black t-shirt a size or two smaller than the ones we’re currently sporting. Has it really been nearly 30 years since Ten came out? The FUCK?

I start thinking back over the years, on the shows I’ve seen…the old Garden in 1994, even though I passed out for a sizable portion of it; Great Woods in the mid-to-late 90s, still in the full bloom of a post-collegiate youth that fades faster than I could’ve ever anticipated, noticing how the crowds were changing from casual radio fans to a Deadhead-like tribe of super-fans (the Jamily), some of whom were traveling cross-country following the tour. Getting in early because I wanted to see Ben Harper open the shows...

The early 2000s, especially the epic 3-night run at Great Woods (or whatever the fuck that place was called at the time, it’ll always be Great Woods to me) when the band decided to play the entirety of their catalog to date and added a special early acoustic set before the 3rd show to do so. Some amphitheater in Hartford in a chilly rain. The new Garden, including the 2004 Vote for Change Tour…

The epic Garden shows in 2007 with special guest guitarist Theo Epstein, when we could’ve seen Eddie play a post-show set at Toad in Cambridge and then hung out back at Steve Morse’s apartment but I bailed because it was EarthFest week at ‘BOS and I had to be a responsible adult for a few days. Lollapalooza in Chicago in that summer of 2007, 120,000 people in a blazing hot Grant Park, tripping balls on mushrooms while watching the show from the soundboard in the center of the human madness…

Midtown Music Festival in Atlanta in 2012 with the Silvers. The Lightning Bolt Tour in 2013, when Pearl Jam finally played Worcester. Fenway in 2016, a very special memory for me…

That feeling I had last night? It’s the recognition that Pearl Jam has been the primary soundtrack of my adult life. 27 years so far, from an angsty post-adolescence through years fighting through a jumble of insecurity and undiagnosed depression in adulthood to a broken-hearted romantic to an older, wiser, still naively optimistic middle-aged man. It’s been the soundtrack in and out of love, and in love again. Friendships that have endured for a lifetime and highlighted by PJ shows through the years, the shows themselves a vehicle to hang one more time, one more night to block out the noise and mundanity of everyday life.

Thanks, Pearl Jam. Feel free to bust out a Hey Foxymophandlemama tomorrow night if you’re so inclined.


You Might Also Like:
bottom of page