Written by Samuel Barker
Apr 06, 2003 at 08:00 PM
ImageRiding in on a wave of controversy, Pearl Jam brought their tour to the Woodland’s Pavilion, the first show of the venue’s 2003 season.One could search for a while to find the perfect word or phrase to sum up what Pearl Jam offers those who venture out to their shows. The only way it can really be said is that Pearl Jam gets “it.” The same “it” that made rock music have the impact it did so many years ago on prior generations. The “it” that is lacking from the pre-packaged, watered down “punk” and “rock” we are subjected to today.

Pearl Jam is one of the bands that has defied the odds and kept their following strong despite not catering to MTV and the press. The band also does what few rock bands do, they cater to their core audience. They could come out each night and play a set filled with chart-toppers, but instead they reach down and play those rarities that die-hards love, but would never hear from most bands.

With a set heavily filled with tracks from their new album, Riot Act and most of the rest obscure tracks from their more current albums, Pearl Jam was not taking the stage to appease the radio fan who made their way out to see Jeremy and Alive, this night was for the people who love the band and their music.

Vocalist/guitarist Eddie Vedder, who had been under a week’s worth of scrutiny for exercising his right to free speech, made numerous lyrical changes through the night to keep the theme of peace alive.

The most outspoken Vedder got on this night was before Elderly Woman Behind the Counter In A Small Town, when he stated, “One of the ideas about coming to Houston was to stir up some trouble, but there are a lot of people behaving really irrationally these days. It’s kind of frightening.

“You want to raise your voice but you’re actually frightened for your skin. It’s crazy.

“It doesn’t feel like the United States of America anymore, it just doesn’t.”

Rather than drawing the negative, closed-minded response he got from a handful of Denver fans, Vedder received a small ovation and quite a few heads nodding, agreeing with his sentiment.

This night seemed to be Pearl Jam’s night to relax and enjoy themselves. Mike McCready extended his solos a little longer. Stone Gossard seemed to be rocking a little harder and looser, as did the rest of the band.

These lighter, joyful moments made the set seem more alive than what the average rock concert-goer is accustomed to experiencing. However, it’s what rock music was based in., taking a 3-minute radio song and expanding it to a full out jam, allowing the songs to life in their own right.

ImageAs the band closed with openers Sleater-Kinney on the stage performing two covers, which, despite them being upwards of 30 years old, still make perfect sense today, Rocking in the Free World by Neil Young and Fortunate Son by Creedance Clearwater Revival, you could see that rock was alive in it’s purest form. As long as bands like Pearl Jam exist, rock will live on.

The women of Sleater-Kinney opened the show with their own brand of rock. Those who remember when “grunge” first hit the scene will remember Sleater-Kinney and various other female led bands charging in with their Riot Grrl movement.

A few years wiser and a bit more honed as musicians, Sleater-Kinney’s music is just as insightful and powerful as ever, but more melodic and thought-out. Definitely a good compliment to the headliner.