It takes a truly gutsy performer to step outside his comfort zone as celebrated rock 'n roll frontman and pull off a one man show. Performing with sturdy back-up from a tight, closely-knit rock band helps to deflect the attention from the guy out in front and allows the focus to be shared. Performing solo strips away these benefits. For those willing to undertake such a daunting and brave a move as delivering a full-length solo performance in front of a large crowd, a solid combination of talent, charisma, personality, presence and chutzpah are required. But for some, it's a welcomed challenge, as is the case with the current solo tour of Eddie Vedder, best known as the powerhouse lead singer of Seattle's favorite rock outfit, Pearl Jam. To raise the stakes of unbelievability, Vedder's one-man shows revolve, for the most part, around his solo output and consist of light instrumentation that revolves around a single ukulele. Now, tell me again who else would have the nerve to pull off something as outlandish as this? Eddie Vedder, that's who. [Text by Gabe, photos by Tracy.]
Taking the stage at 8:45 p.m., Vedder confidently and eagerly emerged from behind the massive stage curtain at Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall on Monday night to an ear-splitting ovation. The first of two consecutive sold-out nights at the venue got off to a spirited start as Vedder treated the voracious capacity crowd of 2,180 to the set-opening cover of a relatively obscure Cat Stevens (now known as Yusuf Islam) cut, "Don't Be Shy." The loose and carefree mood of the night was palpable, and it became obvious that the evening's set list would be quite the mixed bag as Vedder quickly launched into Pearl Jam's "Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town." Perched on a small stool surrounded by a few instruments, speakers and an end table, and with a gorgeous gargantuan backdrop depicting an urban city scene rising up behind him, Vedder did his thing and wowed his boisterous throng of merry followers. Clad in very natural, regular guy attire (faded jeans, work boots, flannel shirt), Vedder looked more like a spectator than the star of the show. Whether he was playfully teasing the crowd with the opening strains of Van Halen's "Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love" or telling more sobering tales of the need for peace and the woes of war, Vedder seemed natural, relaxed and at ease all night.
Though he focused on material from his fine solo releases, the 2007 soundtrack for the film Into The Wild and 2011's Ukulele Songs, Vedder had a wide and varied palette from which to draw. Throwing in a smattering of smart covers along the way helped keep the setlist interesting and the audience guessing. Represented was the music of The Beatles ("You've Got to Hide Your Love Away"), The Who ("I'm One"), Nine Inch Nails ("Hurt") and "I Won't Back Down" by Florida native Tom Petty.
The only drawback of this type of performance is the hush that sometimes falls over the hall and the inability for various members in attendance to preserve the moment. Several times throughout the evening, Vedder's gift of storytelling was diminished by loud-mouths who felt the need to scream out indecipherable commentary while Vedder spoke. And then there were the incessant requests. At every given opportunity, a barrage of song titles rang out through the hall and sounded like horrendous cacophony. One young lady's request was met with a clever retort from Vedder — "We did that one last night! I got this under control up here!" which earned him a massive ovation.
For the first encore, he was aided by the lovely vocal and guitar skills of opening act Glen Hansard for a near-perfect reading of the Everly Brothers nugget, "Sleepless Nights" among other selections. As the clock approached 11, Vedder sheepishly emerged again for his second encore, a gorgeous rendition of the traditional ballad "Tomorrow Night," before wrapping up the evening in fine style.
Pearl Jam diehards and casual fans alike undoubtedly walked away from Monday night's performance with the shared opinion that Eddie Vedder is the consummate showman and one hell of an entertainer. While the promise of another Pearl Jam record and tour is imminent according to the rumor mill, Vedder boldly proved that he'll always have a side gig to rely on when he's not doing the full-on band thing. And he'll always have an anxious audience right there ready and waiting for him.
01. Don’t Be Shy
02. Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
03. Can’t Keep
04. Sleeping By Myself
05. Without You
06. Light Today
07. I’m One
10. Just Breathe
11. You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away
12. Setting Forth
13. No Ceiling
16. Long Nights w/ Glen Hansard
20. Unthought Known
21. Loud Uke
22. I Won’t Back Down
23. Society w/ Glen Hansard
24. Sleepless Nights w/ Glen Hansard
25. This Land Is Your Land w/ Glen Hansard
26. Falling Slowly w/ Glen Hansard
27. The End
29. Hard Sun w/ Glen Hansard
30. Tomorrow Night
Tyler- I can't believe how talented of a writer you are. This article was beautifully…
Great interview! Give the interviewer a full time job! He's great!
The DJ was actually The Castle's very own DJ Tom Gold :)
Fabulous review Gabe! Too bad I missed it.