If you believe the Internet, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder hadn’t sung live for four consecutive days since September 1992. But the unusually heavy workload didn’t hinder his performances in the least this weekend at his fifth Ohana festival on the beach in Dana Point, Calif., which found him playing three times with his new solo band (twice in public, once in private) and another with Pearl Jam, who closed the festival on Sunday with just their second show in three years.
On the heels of debuting six songs from the group’s 2020 album “Gigaton” last Saturday at the Sea.Hear.Now festival in Asbury Park, N.J., Pearl Jam opened Sunday’s show with another new track, “Retrograde,” and also premiered bassist Jeff Ament’s slow-burning “Alright” as part of a 19-song set. “If it feels good out there, it feels great up here,” Vedder told the crowd. “We’ve been looking forward to this for a long, long time.”
Like all live music events, Ohana was postponed a year ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Vedder said he was heartened to read that California currently has the lowest rate of virus cases in the country, and when referencing the line “take a bottle, drink it down, pass it around” from the song “Crazy Mary,” he held up his usual on-stage bottle of red wine and mused, “You can’t do that no more. You can do it with a bottle of Purell.”
Beyond the new songs, highlighted by a ferocious jam at the end of “Quick Escape,” Pearl Jam sounded in top form on vintage tracks such as “Immortality,” “I Got ID,” “Corduroy” and “Black,” the latter dedicated to a local fan named Nicole. A performance of the 1991 fan club holiday single “Let Me Sleep” was a gift for the diehard, as it was played for just the eighth time ever.
Vedder took time to salute artists like Sharon Van Etten, Shovels & Rope and Yola who had played throughout the weekend, and, holding up a piece of paper with her signature on it, quoted with her permission Brandi Carlile’s assessment of the lineup: “Nan, there are a lot of power bitches on this stage!” He added, “Brandi would know about power bitches, because it takes one to know one,” before bringing Carlile up to duet with him on “Better Man.”
Fellow Seattle-ite Carlile was the MVP of Sunday’s festivities, joining Yola for the fast-rising British artist’s “Be My Friend” and, to close her own set, welcoming Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready and Matt Cameron for a wild cover of Soundgarden’s “Searching With My Good Eye Closed.” “This is just every vibe I could have hoped for tonight,” she said.
Earlier in the day, Van Etten played her first show since January 2020 and debuted a new song, “Come Back,” set to appear on her upcoming album. The spirit of collaboration was also felt on Saturday, with Mac Demarco’s girlfriend walking onstage during his set to help him light a joint, Vedder and a fan from the audience, Lissie Gipson, joining Glen Hansard on vocals for “Falling Slowly” and both of Vedder’s teenage daughters, Olivia and Harper, singing during his solo set to close the evening.
On Saturday night, as he did on Thursday during a private friends-and-family show and Friday to close opening night, Vedder showcased his new solo band comprised of guitarist Andrew Watt, multi-instrumentalist Josh Klinghoffer, Hansard on vocals and guitar, Pino Palladino on bass and Chad Smith on drums. As previously reported, several of those musicians are lending a hand on Vedder’s upcoming Republic solo album, “Earthling,” which was represented live by the driving rocker “Long Way” and the ballad “The Haves.”
As previously reported, Pearl Jam will return to Doheny State Beach to headline both nights of an Ohana “encore weekend” on Oct. 1-2. Carlile is the only other artist performing at both weekends.