Tuesday night shows are not often much to write home about, but a surprise appearance by Neil Finn and a tribute to the late Clarence Clemons made Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder's sold out New York gig on June 21 something a little extra special.
The crowd packed into the Beacon Theatre was treated to a two hour, 29-song set studded with tunes from Vedder's new solo album "Ukulele Songs" ("Light Today,"Goodbye"), from his 2007 solo set for "Into The Wild" ("Guaranteed," "Rise"), and of course, from the Pearl Jam catalog (a retooled "Better Man," "Just Breathe"). But the audience listened raptly as Vedder explained that his first concert had been seeing Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago back in 1977 when he was a tween. Vedder remarked how notable "the Big Man," E Street's Clarence Clemons, who passed away on Saturday, had been that night "in a glowing white suit, a badass blowing crazy sax." He said that even though he's gone he feels like Clemons is still glowing, before launching into Pearl Jam's elegiac "Long Road."
And while opener Glen Hansard (Swell Season, the Frames) helped Vedder recreate "Sleepless Nights," the tender duet the pair shared on "Ukulele Songs," and the crowd found their voices and their feet for several of he night's tunes -- "Porch," "Unthought Known" -- the biggest roar erupted when Vedder invited Crowded House/Split Enz frontman Neil Finn to the stage for an impromptu collaboration Vedder jokingly called an "unrehearsed collision." With longtime friend Finn on organ, the twosome blended delicate harmonies on Hunters And Collectors' "Throw Your Arms Around Me." Finn took up a guitar and sat down next to Vedder to trade verses on Finn's Split Enz hit "I Got You," which found Finn playfully calling out chords to Vedder during the bridge. "It turns out we play that song differently," Vedder quipped, "But since he wrote it, he's right."
Decked out in a trio of long white lab coats, Finn (organ) and Hansard (guitar) returned with Vedder for the second encore, the rousing "Big Hard Sun" from "Into The Wild." The crowd in the orchestra section had surged forward, a singalong rang out, and Vedder shook hands with the front row. But ultimately, the baritone singer's finale turned out to be "Dream A Little Dream Of Me," ending the out of the ordinary Tuesday evening just as he began it, alone center stage strumming his uke and crooning. "Dream A Little Dream Of Me."
Vedder returns to New York's Beacon Theatre tomorrow (June 22), and his tour continues across the country through mid-July.