Chicago Native, Eddie Vedder, Returns to Wrigley Field to be “Blessed and Healed” by the Friendly Confines
By Chuck Cox
I’ve believed for quite some time that if I absolutely had to choose between music and sports, I would probably go insane trying to pick one. I love them both with all of my heart. I can’t imagine my life without either of them. And when those two worlds come together in just the right way, I’m pretty much over the moon with happiness.
Such was the case when I found out Pearl Jam, which is at or near the top of my list of all-time favorite bands, would be playing Chicago’s Wrigley Field for the first time. It was almost like God tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Here you go. Go forth to Chicago. Enjoy.”
I knew I had to be there. And while getting a ticket to the show was a bit of an obstacle, I finally made my way to the Windy City last Thursday for the most anticipated show of my life. Although seeing the original Kiss reunited at the Summit in Houston in 1996 was a pretty close second.
After landing at Midway Airport on Thursday afternoon, I made my way over to Wrigley. I had seen on Twitter Pearl Jam already had two merchandise booths open. In fact, the booths started selling stuff on Wednesday. There were enormous lines at both booths when I arrived, so I decided to wait until the day of the show.
Speaking of merchandise…wow. Pearl Jam went all out. In addition to the normal event T-shirts and coveted posters, Pearl Jam had baseball caps, flags, pennants, wristbands, and even baseball cards for the big event. Yes, Pearl Jam baseball cards. It was obvious right away that in the 10 years since I had last seen Pearl Jam live (which is also the last time the band played in Dallas) the Seattle rockers had gone and become perhaps the biggest band in the world. Seriously, what band could sell merchandise to throngs off fans in the 98-degree temperatures for two days prior to a show?
Once the big day finally arrived, I took the train into town. I was staying in Northbrook, so it took me about 45 minutes or so to get there. I got to Wrigleyville in plenty of time to get my merch and get in line to get into the stadium when the gates opened around 5:45. Nearly every single person I talked to in line was from out-of-state. The build-up to the show was incredible, as I sat and watched fans file into my favorite Major League Baseball stadium to see a concert. I had a hard time not grinning as I looked at the rooftop seats beyond the back of the stadium and the ivy on the outfield wall.
Joining the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney, Pearl Jam became the 10th musical act to play Wrigley. And the show also sold out in a venue-record 45 minutes. The concert was supposed to start at 7:30, but the band didn’t take the stage until around 8:15. Having to sit and wait was a sign of things to come. Once the show finally got going, Pearl Jam opened with the beautiful “Release” from its debut album, Ten. It was a perfect choice for a crowd that was elated to finally see the band that started out originally as Mookie Blaylock.
Pearl Jam kept it fairly mellow with the next with “Nothingman,” “Present Tense,” “Hold On,” “Low Light,” “Come Back,” and “Elderly Woman Behind a Counter in a Small Town.” Prior to the last song of that bunch, lead singer Eddie Vedder, who grew up going to Cubs games in Chicago, told the crowd that the band was going to have to take a break because of bad weather rolling into town. So, after 45 minutes, the show was suspended. That’s right, a weather delay. Pretty fitting for a concert at a baseball stadium, don’t you think? That was a first for me.
Luckily, I was sitting under an awning while it absolutely poured rain and cooled things off by about 15 or 20 degrees. Officials had cleared everyone off the field before the storm came in. And so we waited. A lot. Two hours and forty-five minutes came and went before an “Evening With Pearl Jam” turned into more of a “Morning With Pearl Jam.”
To the band’s credit, it came back out and delivered an amazing rest of the show. The biggest surprise of the night was right after the delay. Pearl Jam came back out and played Vedder’s solo ode to the Cubs, “All The Way.” And at the end of the song, Vedder brought Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub, out on stage. What an incredible moment that was so worth the wait.
The band dug deep into the catalogue, playing a great array of songs that also included a few from its forthcoming Lightning Bolt album and a live rarity or two like the accordion-driven ”Bugs.” Covers of Pink Floyd’s “Mother” and Van Halen’s “Eruption” were also cool surprises. The band played until the 2 a.m. curfew. The original set list had eight more songs on it, so we lost a little bit because of the delay. I’m pretty sure if there was not a curfew, that show would have gone until at least 2:45.
By the way, I didn’t get back to my hotel room until 4:30, because the line to get back on the train was insanity. As exhausted as I was, it was absolutely worth it.
I’m really amazed, though not at all surprised, by how big of a following Pearl Jam still has. It is truly a band that has gotten better and better through the years. I’ve really come to appreciate how much fun a concert road trip can be. If there’s a band you love, I would encourage you to go to one of its shows out-of-town — even if it’s to Austin, Houston or San Antonio.
Fortunately for us, Pearl Jam is finally coming back to Dallas on a U.S. tour it did not announce until after the Wrigley show was announced. The band will be here on Nov. 15. Tickets go on sale through Ticketmaster on July 27. Pearl Jam always puts on an incredible show.