Pearl Jam Starts Out In Pittsburgh

Pearl Jamm launches its 24-date North American tour Friday in Pittsburgh.

A sold-out Consol Energy Center crowd will be some of the first fans to get a live jolt from “Lightning Bolt,” the Seattle rockers’ 10th studio album that streamed this week on iTunes in advance of Tuesday’s formal release.

Fear not, Pittsburgh fans, if Eddie Vedder and his Pearl Jam mates decide to load their set with lots of “Lightning Bolt” tracks.

It’s a strong and accessible album netting largely favorable reviews including a B+ from Entertainment Weekly and four-stars from the New York Daily News.

“Everyone’s a critic looking back up the river,” is Vedder’s opening salvo from lead-off track, “Getaway,” delivered more with a “what-ev” defiance than sorrowed resignation.

Most of the album’s dozen songs are quick-tempo, including the first single, “Mind Your Manners,” which lead guitarist Mike McCready said in a web video is “my attempt to try to make a really hard edge-type Dead Kennedys-sounding song,” aided by bassist Jeff Ament adding a few punk flourishes.

Punk urgency meshes with arena-rock hooks throughout the album. “Swallowed Hole” has a blistering guitar solo, while the bridges to “Let the Records Play” stomp along a bit like a Black Keys number.

Moody guitars from McCready and Stone Gossard are leveled by jaunty drum slaps from Matt Cameron on the slow-ish “Infallible.”

Vedder, 48, sings spiritedly, prudently picking moments to let his dramatically quivery voice sound either fired up or sensitive.

He broaches faith, or lack thereof, with “Sometimes you have to find yourself putting all your faith in no faith,” on “Getaway”; and “I caught myself believing that I needed God” on “Mind Your Manners.”

Mortality is on his mind on songs like “Sirens,” a ballad where Vedder ruminates on the fragility of life and his gratefulness for at least a temporary feeling of safety in the presence of a love one. “Sirens” and “Yellow Moon” both offer a few tasteful guitar moments suggesting the Pink Floyd vibe that McCready also alluded to earlier when discussing the band’s first new album since “Backstarter” in 2009.

This sixth Pearl Jam album to be produced by Brendan O’Brien also reprises the gentle-starting, straight-forward “Sleeping By Myself” from Vedder’s 2011 solo album.

The “Lightning Bolt” lyrical themes are serious, but the album isn’t a downer; not with the ground-level grunge-rockers sounding so zestful and inspired.

At their lone U.S. summer show at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, the band debuted the “Lightning Bolt” title track and “Mind Your Manners.” Pittsburgh fans could be the first to hear other new songs live.

Pearl Jam hasn’t played Pittsburgh since June 2006. Fans at that Mellon Arena show will remember the encore, where people in the luxury boxes began flicking their lights on and off in rhythm, prompting Vedder to wisecrack “You have some drunk talented rich people in Pittsburgh.”

Moments later, he began a seemingly harmless speech about Pearl Jam traveling all over the world, before commenting “Pittsburgh isn’t exactly our favorite place…” Fans didn’t wait to see if that was a flub of the tongue, a punchline setup, or the start of a poorly constructed sentence, as they immediately showered Vedder with boos and a “Here we go, Steelers” chant. Then someone threw a joint on stage. Vedder caught it and joked “Maybe I should insult you more often,” which sparked much laughter. More laughter followed, when he asked for a lighter, and then Bics and Zippos rained down on the stage.

Once calm ensued, Vedder assured fans what he was trying to say is that band has always enjoyed the times it has played Pittsburgh, referencing Pearl Jam’s prior visit nearly nine months earlier at PNC Park when they opened for the Rolling Stones.

Pearl Jam won’t have an opening act Friday at Consol Energy Center. The show is slated for a 7:30 p.m. start, meaning the band might play for three hours — plenty of time to feature radio hits like “Alive,” “Black,” Even Flow,” “Jeremy,” “Better Man,” “Daughter” and “Corduroy.”

Beaver County Times (PA)

(c)2013 the Beaver County Times (Beaver, Pa.)

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