Review: ‘Pearl Jam & Neil Young’

Pearl Jam's long-awaited Golden Gate Park show left many in the crowd of more than 50,000 disappointed and frustrated after Vedder left the stage ill after only seven songs, to be replaced for the remainder of the show by band pal Young.

Eddie Vedder called it the “worst 24 hours of my life.” Neil Young called it “a surreal experience.” For thousands of others, it was a major bummer. Pearl Jam’s long-awaited Golden Gate Park show left many in the crowd of more than 50,000 disappointed and frustrated after Vedder, the band’s celebrated frontman, left the stage ill after only seven songs, to be replaced for the remainder of the show by band pal Young. The concert had taken on the air of a major event soon after all the available tickets for the show were gobbled up by P.J.’s rabid and long-suffering fans. Pearl Jam has been mired in a legal struggle with Ticketmaster, preventing the Seattle quintet from touring.

But it all ended in anticlimax for most after a reported stomach ailment felled the singer 30 minutes into what was shaping up to be a fearsome set by one of the world’s most popular rock bands.

As a blazing sun slow-baked the mellow throng, Pearl Jam kicked off the afternoon show with “Last Exit” and “Spin the Black Circle,” from the current multiplatinum “Vitalogy” (Epic) album. Vedder oversang to the giant crowd at first, but overcame that faux pas with terrific versions of “Tremor Christ,” the contemplative “Animal” and the explosive “Not for You.”

Band was taut and cohesive from the start, performing with the confidence of a group whose members are emotionally connected to one another.

But then the sky fell in.

“That’s enough for me for a while,” an exhausted Vedder wearily told the stunned fans. “Neil Young’s gonna take over,” he added, before quickly leaving the stage, never to return.

After a 20-minute break, Young, who was on hand to perform only as a surprise guest at show’s end, took the stage along with the remaining healthy members of Pearl Jam for a warmly received, but ultimately unfulfilling, two-hour pinch-hitting effort that had its moments but didn’t deliver what the audience wanted.

A number of songs from the Young-Pearl Jam collaborative album, “Mirror Ball” (Reprise), which goes on sale Tuesday, were offered: meaty, guitar-based jams that surely would have been quite an encore treat had Vedder not gotten sick.

This mutual-admiration society, in effect since a joint appearance at the 1993 MTV Video Awards, is a rewarding one. Together, the players complement each other in a rare, powerful way that surely will lead to many future projects and performances.

But this day it wasn’t nearly enough. Pearl Jam without Eddie Vedder is like a body without a head. Many fans left the show early, once it became clear that he wouldn’t be back.

At the end, band member Jeff Ament apologized for the turn of events and promised a makeup in the area. Ticketholders were advised by the promoter to hold their ducats for possible refund or rescheduling.

At presstime, Pearl Jam, along with Bad Religion and the Melvins, were still skedded to play the San Diego Sports Arena tonight and Tuesday.

Pearl Jam & Neil Young

Golden Gate Park Polo Field, San Francisco; 50,000 capacity; $23.50

Production

Promoted by Bill Graham Presents. Reviewed June 24, 1995.

Cast

Band: Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, Mike McCready, Jack Irons, Neil Young.
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