Without knowing Vedder's ties to North-Side Chicago and his favorite baseball team it would be mind-boggling that on an otherwise ordinary Thursday evening -- one in which Wrigley Field stood empty due to the Cubs having an off-day -- the singer stood center-stage at the tiny Metro, wailing away on his guitar alongside not his Pearl Jam bandmates but rather Cubs general manger Theo Epstein. Minutes later, Vedder was surrounded onstage by Cubs players like Anthony Rizzo, John Lester, and Jason Hammel while performing "All The Way," his self-penned rah-rah anthem to the Cubbies.
"We would do anything [to win a World Series]!" Vedder said of his and fellow Cubs' fans desire to end their century-long championship draught. Then, deadpanning before ripping into a typically raucous cover of Neil Young's "Rockin' In The Free World," he added: "We'd hire rapists. Get Bill Cosby on the team. Whatever it takes!"
Vedder was in Chicago to take part in Epstein's biannual Hot Stove Cool Music fundraiser. It benefits the Epstein family's Foundation to be Named Later, which helps the education, leadership skills, and healthy development of underprivileged kids. While many headlining acts at such charity events might coast through a two-or-three-song set, the Pearl Jam singer instead tore through a mighty hour-plus collection of Pearl Jam tunes ("Corduroy", "Small Town"), favored covers ("You've Got To Hide Your Love Away,"), and unexpected treats, the best of which was a triumphant cover of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb," something he'd performed previously in 2012 with Roger Waters The Concert for Sandy Relief. The climax of the evening saw a rowdy group rendition of the Band's "The Weight," with Vedder singing alongside several of the night's musicians including Wilco's John Stirratt, Cheap Trick drummer Daxx Nielsen, and Umphrey's McGee's Brendan Bayliss.
As he's wont to do at his concerts, Vedder made sure to pepper his set with some lighthearted remarks and quippy, timely banter. In this case, he made reference to the Supreme Court's recent decision in favor of marriage equality. "You grow up and sometimes you don't know how things are gonna turn out," Vedder told the rowdy crowd, some of whom had waited hours to get inside the venue. "You have faith in your country… even when [Richard] Nixon is the president. But it sure feels better now that the flag has a little more rainbow in it."
Watch Eddie Vedder Play 'Better Man' on 'Letterman'
Additional standout moments from the evening included a fiery rendition of "Wishlist" dashed this go-round with jazzy fair thanks to unorthodox saxophone accompaniment; earlier, Vedder and the adept backing band ran through a whiplash cover of the Talking Heads' "Love - Building On Fire," during which the singer's navy baseball cap flew off mid-guitar breakdown.
"Thank you for working so hard all these years for keeping this place around," Vedder said late in the evening in a touching tribute to the Metro's founder, Joe Shanahan. "It's really incredible."
As the crowd filed out a short time later, still buzzing from a monumental evening, they surely agreed.