An Evening with Pearl Jam

One thing you should know about Pearl Jam fans … they travel well.

Doesn’t matter where or when, they’ll show. So when news broke of Pearl Jam visiting Cincinnati for the first time since 2006, it wasn’t just residents of southwest Ohio waiting anxiously for tickets to go on sale.

That being the case, the show should have its fair share of out-of-towners taking up real estate at U.S. Bank Arena this Wednesday. It’s the kind of stuff that happens when a band has a massive, incredibly loyal following. It’s also what happens when said band has a well-earned reputation for putting on shows that can bleed into the next day – sometimes stretching set lists beyond the three hour mark.

Most fans will tell you the best Pearl Jam songs are the ones they don’t play on the radio. Modern rock repeats like “Jeremy” or “Better Man” may be the songs everyone knows, but they typically serve as four minute bathroom breaks for the seasoned concertgoer. They’re great songs, but you’re just as likely to hear them in concert as you are to hear them while sitting down for breakfast at Denny’s.

In that sense, it can be seen as a good thing that – from about 1995 through 2005 – Pearl Jam had a bit of a lull as far as the general public was concerned. Sure, they had their boom back in the early 90s when most fans initially took notice. Their first three full-lengths topped the charts and dominated alternative rock radio play. Beginning with the 70s rock throwback Ten, followed by the raw, more visceral-sounding Vs. and culminating with the sonic equivalent of an exposed nerve that is Vitalogy. During this time, Pearl Jam saw most of their singles in strong rotation on every rock radio station in the country. But after those first three albums, popular radio turned its back on them.

And despite the general public’s lack of interest in the band after their initial boom, most fans would contest that the so-called “lull” from ’95 – ‘05 gave birth to some of their best work to date. Full-blown classics like No Code and Yield received critical praise but, after strong showings the initial week of their release, flew mostly under the radar. Oft-forgotten offerings like Binaural and 2002’s criminally underrated Riot Act also came to pass during this period. In a time when most artists caught a sound and ran with it, never really moving past what brought them success, Pearl Jam continued to ride their own wave. Even if it towed them away from the spotlight. And maybe it’s that lack of spotlight that makes most of their songs so great.

People tend to forget Pearl Jam has over two decades worth of material. And at pretty much every show, each song serves as someone in the crowd’s favorite. Someone is waiting to hear “Leash”, someone is waiting to hear “Faithfull”, someone is waiting to hear “Can’t Keep”. And odds are that certain someone’s song will get played that night. But, in the event it doesn’t, they’ll hear about 30 others that might just be their second, third or fourth favorite, and it’ll more than pay for the price of admission.

Truth is, no one ever walks away from a Pearl Jam show talking about the songs they didn’t play. They come away talking about the songs they did.

Pearl Jam will be at U.S. Bank Arena on Wednesday, October 1st. The show starts at 7:30pm and will serve as the tour’s official kick-off. Better get there early, because it just might be a long night.