Frontman Eddie Vedder was emotional as he sang brooding, building show opener "Release" (1991) to the sold-out crowd of 40,000-plus fans in the fine, if humid, twilight. "It's kind of like I've been waiting a lifetime for this one," The Chicago native and avid, lifelong Cubs fan said a few songs later. "Not only is this the crown jewel of Chicago, but the crown jewel of the whole planet earth."
With just a miniset of seven of PJ's more gentle songs played ("Nothingman" from "Vitalogy," "Present Tense" from "No Code"), Mother Nature intervened to halt the show at 9pm. A few streaks of jagged lightning lit the sky behind the band -- whose just-announced fall album, fittingly, is called "Lightning Bolt" -- during "Come Back" (off Pearl Jam's 2006 self-titled album). Vedder said there was "potential weather we might have to get through as a team" and announced that the concert was on hold as the stage, and fans in the GA and field sections would have to shelter in the building and wait for the storm to pass, though he promised the band would come back hard.
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The rains, thunder and lightning came once the field emptied. The weather lasted about and hour and the clock blew past ten and eleven o'clock as all waited for the all-clear. Incredibly, rather than cancel, Pearl Jam called fans back to the field and resumed around 11:50pm with a relentless two-plus-hour set after Vedder played his rousing Cubs ode "All The Way" in a No. 1 Jose Cardenal jersey.
Video: Pearl Jam debuts new song "Lightning Bolt" at Wrigley Field.
Cubs legend "Ernie Banks used to say, 'let's play two,' I say 'let's play until 2,'" Vedder quipped and he wasn't kidding. One of the night's biggest cheers erupted as Banks himself took the stage wearing Vedder's childhood baseball glove and said "I really appreciate you coming to my house."
Ferocious favorites flew past in fine form -- "Do The Evolution" (from 1998's "Yield") and "Vitalogy" gem "Corduroy" got the crowd leaping. Vedder was in prime snarl on just released single "Mind Your Manners," with its' pummeling earworm of a opening salvo from guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard in tandem with rhythm section Jeff Ament (bass) and Matt Cameron (drums).
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The night soon proceeded to yield two more "Lightning Bolt" songs, both of which where unheard tracks PJ was playing live for the very first time. The "Lightning Bolt" title track proved to be an anthemic, mid-tempo rocker with a warm McCready solo. Tender ballad "Future Days," a love song, featured "Lightning Bolt" producer Brendan O'Brien on piano.
Video: Pearl Jam debuts new song "Future Days" at Wrigley Field.
Among the wee-hours onslaught, PJ also pulled out rarities ("Bugs," "Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns," 1998 b-side "Leatherman") and covers (an all-McCready-solo version of Van Halen's "Eruption," Pink Floyd's "Mother"). But the show headed into overdrive during "Porch" as Vedder and McCready ran the length of the front barricade high-fiving fans, before Vedder leaned back into the open arms of the GA section audience and crowdsurfed briefly.
With all the stadium lights up, Pearl Jam powered up Neil Young's "Rockin' In The Free World" to close the night (morning?) at 2am. The marathon show -- almost three hours of music despite the nearly three hour rain delay -- ended with a sweat-drenched Vedder flinging numerous tambourines to fans and McCready raining picks upon the front rows.