Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder brings ‘Ukulele Songs’ to San Diego
On Tuesday night, Pearl Jam front man and former San Diegan Eddie Vedder took the stage of a sold-out Copley Symphony Hall as part of a month-long tour to promote his recently released solo album “Ukulele Songs.”
Two hours, 30 songs and one unbelievable performance later, he had left two things behind: little doubt of his status as one of the greatest vocal and musical legends of his generation, and the fact that the ukulele may never seem as cool again.
His first right move was having Glen Hansard of The Swell Season, who set the acoustic tone of the night perfectly with an excellent performance of his own, open the show. Vedder then strolled out with ukulele in hand, was greeted by a roaring crowd and broke right into it with a version of Pearl Jam’s “Can’t Keep,” pausing only momentarily afterward to address the audience.
“Sorry, I’ll talk to you guys in a minute, but the uke and I have a bit more work we need to do right now,” he said before hammering out three more tunes from the new record.
After divulging a few stories from the past weekend spent in his former hometown, or what he referred to as “the best f—ing geographical location in the world,” the ukulele was replaced by an acoustic guitar and any sort of promotional vibe the show might have had was quickly lost as a slew of Pearl Jam classics ensued.
While the sound was amazing and the show’s atmosphere was intimate and mellow, perhaps it was the long holiday weekend that caused it to feel just a little bit tired early on. Vedder himself even admitted half way through the first set that he was a little “worn out” from a long day of surfing in North County.
“Provide me with one last wave of energy and I’ll ride it to the end,” he told the audience before breaking into a beautiful ukulele rendition of Pearl Jam’s hit song “Betterman.”
Copley Hall went berserk.
Throughout the evening, Vedder would continue to switch up instruments as well as albums much to the crowd’s delight, with songs ranging anywhere from his new album, to some Pearl Jam rarities, to those off of his first solo album, “Into The Wild Soundtrack,” to a Bruce Springsteen cover thrown in for good measure.
Hansard joined in on the act for more than a few of the tracks, and at two different points Vedder even had a four-piece orchestra complete with violins and cellos on stage for accompaniment.
By the middle of a second set that began with an acoustic cover of the Beatles’ “Hide Your Love Away” and Pearl Jam’s “Elderly Woman” and “Unknown Thought,” the energy waves were barreling.
During the ensuing, particularly chilling ukulele duet of Vedder’s own “Sleepless Nights” that featured him and Hansard standing at the front edge of the stage singing without microphones with a single spotlight on each of them, you could feel the collective breath being held, the audience was so silently engrossed in what was taking place.
The moment the song ended, the crowd erupted in a wild ovation.
By the final song of the night, a six minute rendition of “Hard Sun” for which Vedder pulled out the electric guitar, the lights of the auditorium had turned on and he had violently kicked over his microphone to give himself plenty of space to rock out and look the audience in the face. There wasn’t a single person still in their seat.
And that’s the brilliance of Vedder.
He engages and elevates the crowd to that perfect level that he needs to build up to an amazing show.
He mumbles when he talks, he screams when he rocks out with his band, but he tunes his voice to a perfectly soft harmony to match the beautiful pitch of the ukulele strings.
His lyrics are captivating.
Before playing the second to last song of the night, he again addressed the audience for the final time: “Every time I come back to this place, San Diego, I realize how much I miss it . . . you guys are f—ing lucky.”
You’re not doing too bad yourself either, Eddie.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons