Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

Pearl Jam at United Center (Updated; additional tickets released for Monday) (Updated again: Start time)

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UPDATE: Several readers have emailed to ask about the support and what time Pearl Jam takes the stage. Bad Religion opens at 7:30, celebrating 30 years of punk; Pearl Jam went on Sunday night at 8:50 p.m.

UPDATE: Promoters Jam Productions have announced that additional tickets have been released for Pearl Jam's second Chicago show Monday night. Visit www.ticketmaster.com or call 1-800-745-3000. Bad Religion celebrates its 30th anniversary by opening at 7:30 p.m.

The biggest classic-rock fans of the alternative era, Evanston native Eddie Vedder and his band mates in Seattle's Pearl Jam have now been reliably rocking arenas long enough to claim that appellation themselves.

On Sept. 20, the band will release its ninth studio album, "Backspacer," and a radical stylistic departure is unlikely. The big difference is the band is going without a major label for the first time, instead using its Web site as well as iTunes, indie retailers and the Target chain.

Not since its start in 1990 and perhaps during the tense period a few years later when it waged war with Ticketmaster has the quintet had so much to prove. Perhaps as a result, it was an even more energized Pearl Jam than usual that pulled into the United Center on Sunday for the first of two sold-out nights.

"We've got a lot of emotion to get through tonight," Vedder said at the start. "So let's go through it together."

The group opened with a lovely version of the droning, folksy "Long Road" before tearing into a rollicking "Corduroy" and a ferocious "Why Go," nicely illustrating the contrasting poles of its sound.

"Why go home?" Vedder asked after the latter. " I am home, and it feels f---ing great to be here. Life experiences... even if you don't live in Chicago [anymore], Chicago will always live in you, and it's nice to come back and see so many people come out for this."

"This" was a two-hour jaunt through the Pearl Jam catalog, heavier on the hard-rockers than the ballads this time, but as usual mixing signature hits with deep album tracks and, oddly, only a brief taste of the new tunes---so much for crass commercialism.

The band did lose the plot a few times, notably during a pointlessly jammed-out "Even Flow," which found guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard trading tasty licks worthy of Chickenfoot as Vedder stood aside, smoking a cigarette and swigging from a bottle of wine. (Always the Romantic poet, our boy.)

For the most part, though, this was as focused and propulsive a set as I've seen Pearl Jam play in the last two decades. And like all true classic-rock pros, Vedder & Co. gave every indication that they're ready to keep rolling for 20 years more.

Set list after the jump.

Pearl Jam: Chicago Night 1
Aug 23, 2009 Set List

01. Long Road
02. Corduroy
03. Why Go
04. God's Dice
05. Dissident
06. Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
07. Sad
08. The Fixer
09. Given To Fly
(Happy Birthday To Mike Richter)
10. Come Back
11. Even Flow
12. Save You
13. In Hiding
14. Man Of The Hour
15. Insignificance
16. Got Some
17. Spin The Black Circle
Encore Break 1
18. Love, Reign O'er Me-(Townshend)
19. Life Wasted
20. The Real Me-(Townshend)
21, Alive
Encore Break 2
22. The Needle And The Damage Done
23. Rats
24. Supersonic
25. Smile
26. Rearviewmirror
27. Yellow Ledbetter (Star Spangled Banner)

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5 Comments

A great setlist devoid of the predictable crowd-pleasers like Betterman and Last Kiss. Agree on Evenflow being pointlessly jammed out.

The Even Flow jam is something they do ALL the time, so it's nothing new. But I agree, I'm somewhat tired of it.

Have to comment on night 2 ..... they have boundless stamina and energy. Eddie was lying on the ground, sweaty, exhausted, stumbling, tipsy, giddy, everything. I've never seen a band take it to this physical state truly living in the moment. My Morning Jacket (saw them in Chicago Theatre last year) may be the only younger band that has a chance to live up to this potential of sweaty guitar rock glory. Any serious guitar rock fan has to catch them. Forget any cliched assumptions of 'over-the-hill', Kot and Dero got it right, they are playing with something to prove and with fire in their belly. Un-fricken-believable.

After playing it on night 2, Eddie pointed out a guy out front who was wearing a t-shirt that read "NO EVEN FLOW". Eddie said they always have to play it or else "Mike will kill somebody".

I can't wait to see them live this year here in Canada!

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