Eddie Vedder pearl-jammed with the best in the business on Friday at the brand new state-of-the-art YouTube Theater, a 6,000 capacity venue under the canopy of the Super Bowl’s SoFi Stadium canopy. The Los Angeles date of Vedder’s Earthlings Tour is the rockstar’s first solo tour in a decade (stopping only two nights in New York and Chicago, other dates in New Jersey and San Diego and three nights in the Seattle native’s hometown). A world-class supergroup of musicians joined the rock icon in the studio in 2021 for solo album Earthling (released February 11), his first solo album since 2011’s Ukulele Songs which is the current #1 on the Billboard Albums Sales, Top Rock Albums and Top Current Albums Sales Charts, achieving the highest solo album chart debut around the world. It’s an album that also includes features from Elton John, Stevie Wonder (on harmonica), Ringo Starr and conductor/arranger David Campbell.
The lineup included the album’s studio musicians which he named The Earthlings: Irish singer/guitarist wunderkind Glen Hansard (who also opened the show with his signature, Oscar-winning ballad “Falling Slowly”), Red Hot Chili Peppers’ dynamic drummer Chad Smith, Jane’s Addiction bassist Chris Chaney, 2021 Grammy Award-winning superstar producer/guitarist Andrew Watt and multi-instrumentalist Josh Klinghoffer. There were special appearances from original member of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Benmont Tench on the Hammond B3 organ, The Police drummer Stewart Copeland joining in on two encore covers and finally Eddie Vedder’s daughter Olivia (Vedder) for the poignant “My Father’s Daughter”. The supergroup played numerous tracks from the new album, four Pearl Jam songs and brilliant covers of songs by George Harrison, Marvin Gaye, Neil Young, The Who, Tom Petty, The Police and R.E.M.
Vedder launched into R.E.M. song “Drive” with purple and red lights flickering during the “Hey kids, where are you? Nobody tells you what do do, baby” lyric. The bluesy, swampy song set the tone with mysterious guitars, Eddie Vedder swung around the mic stand and checked out his spectacular band while the crowd cheered following the final high note.
“We knew this was one of the best-sounding rooms in the state, if not in the country”, boasted Vedder. “I’m predicting that we’re going to have the best night of the tour. And we have someone very special tonight joining us, someone who I have deep admiration for. He’s a legend on the B3, Mr. Benmont Tench. It’s a deep honor to have him on the stage tonight”. The crowd cheered and the seven musicians continued with the Tom Petty cover “Room at the Top” with one of The Heartbreakers’ best, Benmont. The classic tune starts off as a ballad and turns into an inspiring rock song, with sensational B3, coupled with the three guitarists harmonizing beautifully with Vedder.
The first Earthling track was next, with Vedder mentioning Benmont played in the studio on the the uplifting record “Long Way”, which has the bright 90s guitar rock element of songs by The Wallflowers and Collective Soul. 31-year-old producer Andrew Watt delivered a standout guitar solo with his bleach blond hair and sparkly silver jacket and Vedder jumped in the air with his guitar for Smith’s final drum smash.
Vedder took off his army green jacket, switched guitars and continued with the cathartic “Invincible”, earning “la-la-la-las” and fierce clapping in unison from a cheering crowd singing along as the YouTube theater was covered in beams of blue and white light. It was a stunning and spirited rock moment for the frontman, perfecting new song after new song after decades in the business.
Eddie Vedder mentioned that his new album was #1 and he thanked his fans for their devotion before going into the lively drum opening of “The Dark”, with the band sounding stellar on the background vocals, guitars and drums. Vedder grabbed the mic off the stand so he could inch closer to fans on each side of the stage and finally gave a shout out to Chad Smith after a rousing thrashing in his silver sleeveless shirt.
Rock song “Brother the Cloud” hit an emotional chord, with Vedder’s arms out during the intense vocal. Following, the frontman mentioned songs he did for the film Flag Day with Glen Hansard, introducing it by saying, “Sean Penn is in Ukraine now, hope he’s in a safe spot. I’d like him to bring the news, not be the news. Sean, be careful”. The moving intro preceded one of the emotional highlights of the night, the duet “Tender Mercies”, with Hansard far right on piano with a daring vocal and a cry in his voice, beautifully joining Vedder on the duet.
“We came maybe April, maybe May, maybe June, ’cause like you, I can’t remember a fucking thing”, said Vedder. He mentioned playing the star-studded VAX LIVE at SoFi Stadium last spring and later journeyed through hooking up with a musician named Andrew Watt and they did a bunch of songs, joining Josh Klinghoffer. “It was a great way to feel connected to humans and to know that writing a song wasn’t impossible”, said Vedder on recording his album. He then described the next one as a full-on love song, “partly to my wife, partly to Andrew”.
Hansard joined on guitar center stage for the beautiful and timeless ballad “The Haves” and Vedder impressed with powerful notes by the song’s end.
“Over 30 years ago, Pearl Jam was invited to open for Red Hot Chili Peppers”, said Vedder. “We remained friends for years but we never got to play in this capacity and it’s been a real joy everywhere we have gone. This one’s for Judd Apatow”. The band solidified their sound on a cover of The Who’s “The One”, Smith tossing his stick up, catching it and continuing halfway through the song.
Eddie Vedder introduced “Mrs. Mills” as a song about a piano in the basement somewhere on Abbey Road, with the recording version accompanied by an orchestra and Ringo Starr on percussion. Vedder held out a spectacular note at the end of the timeless tune, with a cherry on top from Klinghoffer, playing the Beatles-tinged outro on keyboard. It was quite simply a perfect love letter to the Fab Four.
Pearl Jam’s “Wishlist” was next with another excellent guitar instrumental from Watt, now in a yellow jacket. “My Father’s Daughter” was another special moment, with Olivia Vedder taking the spotlight, receiving lots of cheers from fans as the beautiful piano and guitar instrumental floated on alongside her pretty falsetto while Hansard harmonized.
“I got the Covid five or six days right before tour started and I saw my life flash before my eyes”, said Vedder. “But it felt pretty serious, and to get through that and be in a room like this with all of you facing this way is really truly a gift and an honor, we’re so grateful”.
Oliva Vedder entered the stage again for her very important duty of yelling “1-2-3-4” at the start of the punk-rock-leaning “Try” and then Chad Smith was granted his own solo moment in the spotlight, banging away. Eddie called it the “most exciting instrument on stage” and Smith hit every damn drum, including his gong for nearly two minutes under cotton candy pink and blue lighting and the energy remained high for another new rock song “Rose of Jericho”.
Benmont joined the musicians again for “Fallout Today”, with his organ shining once again, and yet another standout guitar moment from Andrew Watt. Within the first two notes of “Better Man” the place erupted and a collective “oooh” took over the theater before the second verse of the anthemic song. Red glowing beams lit the stage and crowd, and the “whoa-oh-oh-oh-yeahs” led to an exhilarating call-and-response. The extended version of the song showcased just how fantastic this set of musicians is, individually and as a collective. Eddie Vedder jumped three times with his guitar and threw picks out to his fans.
Eddie Vedder’s first encore kicked off with a story about the band playing at his house in Seattle until 5 a.m. for the whole neighborhood to hear. He introduced a horn section with James King on saxophone, Vikram Devasthali on trombone, Sean Billings and Nate Walcott on trumpet for the Marvin Gaye cover “Baby Don’t You Do It”. They were joined by Benmont on the organ, vocals from Hansard and Vedder and a killer guitar solo on the bluesy Motown classic.
“One of the memories in the wooden box of my memories is when we played somewhere in the Midwest, I think Milwaukee —Summerfest and we played with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers”, reminisced Vedder. “Tom grabbed my hand and we did this thing to take a bow and I looked up into the stars and the sky blended with the horizon and it just seemed infinite. I said, ‘Tom, that’s pretty fuckin’ cool’. He said, ‘rock and roll heaven’,” followed by an applause. “Getting to play this next song with you Ben, that’s been rock and roll heaven for us tonight”, and the band played Tom Petty’s “The Waiting”, while the crowd joined in. Benmont and his organ had another shining moment, the guitar solo drove with a piercing melody and it was the perfect feel-good moment nearing the end of the show. Vedder bowed to his organist hero at the end.
The covers were not over from there. Benmont concluded his time with a George Harrison cover of “Isn’t It A Pity”, while Smith whipped out the tambourine and the guitars made an impact once again. Vedder grabbed numerous tambourines, throwing about eight into the crowd for the extended version of the bluesy song. Pearl Jam song “Dirty Frank” made the set list as did “Porch”, which included a fiery jam session with the musicians, fueled by Smith’s drum abilities and the blaze of the fiery guitars taking over.
A second encore took the show to over two hours (Vedder even mentioned he’d pay the overtime fines) and The Police’s drummer Stewart Copeland took a seat for a special version of “Message In A Bottle” that seemed off-the-cuff and completely unexpected, and surprisingly in Vedder’s wheelhouse. They concluded the Earthlings Tour with Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World”, having a blast on the stage. Eddie Vedder smashed two tambourines together and jumped frantically with joy during the wild instrumental, Stewart knocked everyone away with his drum skills and Watt smashed his guitar to actual pieces. Vedder waved to his fans for some time and held his hand to his heart in appreciation.
All photos by Victoria Smith