Vedder previews solo album with stellar band at NJPAC (REVIEW, PHOTOS, VIDEOS, SETLIST)

eddie vedder review


From left, Chris Chaney, Chad Smith, Andrew Watt, Eddie Vedder, Glen Hansard and Josh Klinghoffer perform at NJPAC in Newark, Feb. 6.

After the first song of his Feb. 6 concert at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, Eddie Vedder mentioned that he had played there once before. “It left indelible and great, great memories,” he said of that show, which took place in 2008.

He didn’t say anything more about 2008, but he could have mentioned that that tour was a very different animal than his current, three-week tour, which coincides with the Feb. 11 release of his excellent new solo album, Earthling. The 2008 tour was designed to showcase him as a solo singer-songwriter; this one, which featured a full band, was much more in the Pearl Jam vein. Backing him throughout the two-hour, five-minute show was Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, lead guitarist Andrew Watt (who produced Earthling), guitarist-keyboardists Josh Klinghoffer (a touring member of Pearl Jam) and Glen Hansard (who also served as the show’s dynamic opening act), and bassist Chris Chaney (of Jane’s Addiction).

You can probably tell just by looking at these guys’ credits, but this is a group that is just as capable of generating a big and fiery a sound as Pearl Jam itself. And they did just that, at many points in the show, including a joyful set-closing cover of Indio’s “Hard Sun” (watch video below), the furious Pearl Jam song “Porch,” and the punk-flavored Earthling songs “Rose of Jericho” and “Try.” (The band was joined on the latter by rock photographer Danny Clinch, on harmonica.)

Eddie Vedder, left, and Glen Hansard at NJPAC.

Like Pearl Jam, too, this band can tone it down to reflect Vedder’s gentler, more introspective side, as they did on numbers like the pretty, pop-flavored Earthling songs “Mrs. Mills” and “The Haves” and covers of songs like Tom Petty’s rueful “Room at the Top” and George Harrison’s mournful, majestic “Isn’t It a Pity.”

Vedder took advantage of Smith’s presence by resurrecting the rarely played Pearl Jam song “Dirty Frank,” which was directly inspired by the Chili Peppers (it was written when Pearl Jam was touring with the group in 1991) and bears a strong resemblance to the Chili Peppers hit of that time, “Give It Away,” though the gruesome lyrics are about a cannibalistic serial killer. Smith’s drumming was a highlight of this song and many others throughout the night; I particularly enjoyed the touch of Keith Moon-like wildness he added to the Earthling song “The Dark.”

Smith and Vedder, of course, are contemporaries and old friends. Another star of the show, though, was Watt, 31, a Great Neck, N.Y. native whose high school biology teacher — who took him to his first Pearl Jam concert, not that long ago — was in attendance.

Watt “is not just playing the solos and playing the guitars on this record,” Vedder said. “He’s helping me write the record, he’s making it sound good, he’s doing the mix. He made tea and coffee and ordered food. He produced the songs, and he produced lunch and fucking dinner. He does it all with a smile on his face the whole fucking time. And if you can find anybody else to do that, you better grab him and hang on to him for the rest of your life. It’s a rare, rare commodity.”

Prior to performing a hard-rock version of Steven Van Zandt’s “I Am a Patriot” (watch video below), Vedder spoke briefly about Van Zandt and Springsteen; he apparently visited Springsteen at his New Jersey home on a day off from the tour, Feb. 5.

“I spent some real quality time yesterday with one of my best pals from Jersey,” Vedder said, referring to Springsteen. “He interviewed me for a little thing that’ll come out. He liked the record (Earthling) and we got to hang out together and I came in today feeling pretty fucking inspired, because I got to spend a little time with The Boss. And Patti (Scialfa), she’s a Boss too. Love you, Patti.

“And I really spent a lot of time this summer with the words — last summer! — with the words of Mr. Steven Van Zandt. Little Steven, I love ya, I love the tea, and I love this song. We’re gonna do it tonight as fast as fucking possible.” (Vedder was presumably referring to Van Zandt’s memoir, “Unrequited Infatuations,” and one of the teas in Van Zandt’s Wicked Cool Wellness line of products)

Opening the show, Hansard backed himself on guitar and keyboards for a short set of songs from his group The Frames (“Revelate”), his duo The Swell Season (“When Your Mind’s Made Up,” “Falling Slowly”) and his solo career (“Bird of Sorrow,” “This Gift”). He was unbelievably intense. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an opening act play with such riveting, raw emotion from beginning to end.

Chad Smith at NJPAC.

Here is Vedder’s setlist and, under it, some videos. Songs in bold are from the Earthling album.

“Society” (Vedder and Hansard)
“Room at the Top”
“Here Comes the Sun”
“Timeless Melody”
“I’ll Be Waiting”
“The Dark”
“Fallout Today”
“Brother the Cloud”
“Tender Mercies”
“Long Way”
“The Haves”
“Mrs. Mills”
“Try” (with Danny Clinch)
Drum solo
“Rose of Jericho”
“Hard Sun”

“I Am a Patriot”
“Dirty Frank”
“Isn’t It a Pity”

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