(DTE Energy Theatre, Clarkston, MI – June 25th, 2003)
The first thing that strikes you about the 2003 incarnation of Pearl Jam is that they look, sound and act like Incubus’ parents! Sure they can sell out two nights at DTE Energy Theatre, and sure their fans are some of the most loyal this side of an hallucinate haze, but from the moment Eddie strides onto stage – bottle of red wine in his right hand – it’s his hair cut that takes the most getting used to! A cross between conformity and homogenization, the non-descript cut has to be the most boring aspect that has encompassed Pearl Jam for many a year!
All that aside though, each and every band member is greeted with a huge bout of audience appreciation and as Vs’ powerhaus song ’Animal’ is brought rockin’ forth, even though the bright sunshine still cascaded down at this outside venue, it was time to pogo aimlessly, air guitar relentlessly, and basically rock out grunge style for close to two hours! Following with Binaural’s ’God’s Dice,’ and ‘Rival,’ from the new album Riot Act, ‘Save You’ and then a completely beloved ’Glorified G’ - where Pearl Jam took it upon themselves to bring the early ‘90s Seattle grunge to Motown – came out of the barrel next.
Just prior to ’Love Boat Captain’, Vedder makes the comment that ”We wrote this song a long way from Detroit” before cranking through it into the highly-appreciated, ’Evenflow’. Eddie’s voice is surely as powerful, as buoyant as ever before, but it does lack a certain edge. Perhaps its an older, less gritty rasp to his words, or perhaps it’s just a more relaxed attitude in general to the system that they find themselves governed by these days. Whatever it is, Eddie just doesn’t sound as angry as he used to!
But then, just when you think it’s all water under the bridge for the guys with regard prior speed bumps in the musical road, he turns the spotlight – literally - on the advertising boards surrounding the stage and he’s off. ”Okay, let’s see who we’re being promoted by on this tour. The Detroit Free Press. Ahh, but is it?! Big Boy (restaurant). What is that? A big dildo? The WB20. Ahh yes, the network with the racist frog! And Fifth Third Bank. I wouldn’t trust them if I was you!” Then, speaking about the fact that Miller Lite sponsors all the gig here at the DTE Energy Theatre, Eddie let’s out one final poignant rant. ”Miller Lite beer. Well, there’s a guy here in the front row that would like my piss in his cup better than Miller Lite!”
Introducing guitarist Mike McCready to the audience, Eddie then tells them that the next song ’Nothing As It Seems’ is ”… from a few years ago” and hopes we still like it. Wailing, screeching guitars ensue which lead perfectly into both ’Given To Fly’ and ’Lukin’. As we head to the encore, the beloved songs ’Corduroy’ (from Vitalogy) and ’Daughter’ come to the fore, before ’Evacuation’ and Vs’ ’Rearviewmirror’ finally wrap up the festivities prior to the encore.
Encores with Pearl Jam are never dull, short events though and so a full thirty minutes later and we are still movin’ and a groovin’ to the sounds of the Seattle five! Coming back to the stage amidst rapturous applause, the boys spew forth ’Crazy Mary,’ ‘I Believe In Miracles,’ ‘Small Town,’ new track ‘Bushleaguer’ and ’Do The Evolution’ from Yield which comes close to pushing the fans over the edge of ecstasy. A second encore break is then followed by ’Soon Forget,’ The Who’s ’Baba O’Riley’ and the rousing finale song, ’Yellow Ledbetter.’
Review and Photos by Russell A. Trunk