Recap: Eddie Vedder and the Earthlings (Plus Benmont Tench/Stewart Copeland) Trace Rock & Roll History in LA


Adrian GarroCategories:Latest News

Rock Cellar Magazine

It was easy to feel overwhelmed by the level of talent assembled on stage at Friday night’s Eddie Vedder and the Earthlings concert at the YouTube Theater in Los Angeles. But, as the Pearl Jam front man explained during one of his many chatty between-song moments, it very well might have never happened.

Touring in support of his new solo album, Earthling, Vedder explained that a bout with COVID-19 delayed the start of the tour — and he feared worse:

“I got the COVID right before we were supposed to start practicing, about five or six weeks ago, and literally saw my life flash in front of my eyes,” he said, adding that his condition “felt pretty serious. And to get through that and then be back in a room like this, facing this many people facing this way, listening to us … really, truly, it’s been a gift and an honor. Thanks for listening, we’re so grateful.”

Eddie Vedder at the YouTube Theater, Feb. 25, 2022 (Jérôme Brunet Photography)

Eddie Vedder at the YouTube Theater, Feb. 25, 2022 (Photo: © JeromeBrunet.com)

The feeling of gratitude was mutual throughout the concert, which felt like one of those exclusive, invitation-only “supergroup” concerts you often hear about through the words and social media posts of your other, more fortunate friends and acquaintances.

Accompanying Vedder throughout the course of the 24-song performance were colleagues Glen Hansard (guitar/vocals, who opened the show with an emotional solo set), Josh Klinghoffer (formerly of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and currently a member of Pearl Jam‘s live band, on guitars and keys), Andrew Watt (producer/guitarist), the Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith (drums) and Chris Chaney of Jane’s Addiction (bass).

Benmont Tench at the YouTube Theater, Feb. 25, 2022 (Jérôme Brunet Photography)

Benmont Tench at the YouTube Theater, Feb. 25, 2022 (Photo: © JeromeBrunet.com)

Since the show was in Los Angeles, many of Vedder’s musical peers and friends were in the building … facilitating a guest appearance from Benmont Tench of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, who graced the stage to assist on a cover of Petty’s “Room at the Top” and “Long Way,” which he performs on Vedder’s Earthling album.

Toward the very end of the concert, Stewart Copeland of the Police popped out from backstage to supplant Smith behind the kit for the show-closing “Message in a Bottle” and “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World,” while Smith switched to additional guitar (an odd sight, to be sure).

To the credit of the iconic artists sharing the stage, there was no sense of rigidity or awkwardness that sometimes comes with these “supergroup”-type performances, nor did it really feel like an “Eddie Vedder solo concert,” which it technically was.

This was a performance from a band with boundless chemistry and an obvious camaraderie. There was nothing forced about it, just a group of musicians rocking out because they wanted to and because they enjoyed each other’s company.

Josh Klinghoffer live at YouTube Theater in Los Angeles

Josh Klinghoffer live at YouTube Theater in Los Angeles (Photo: © JeromeBrunet.com)

The set list varied from nine Earthling tracks to 13 covers, including Pearl Jam classics “Porch,” “Wishlist,” “Better Man” and the early Chili Peppers’ inspired “Dirty Frank,” as well as a lively rendition of “Baby Don’t You Do It,” first released by Marvin Gaye in 1964 and later recorded numerous times by The Band as “Don’t You Do It.”

It was this song in particular that Vedder described came about after he and his Earthlings band mates “played music until the sun came up” after their a Seattle concert earlier in the tour — indicative of the free-spirited and loose nature of the whole show.

Tench lent his services to a few choice songs, including powerful versions of Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “The Waiting” and George Harrison’s “Isn’t It A Pity” (which Vedder dedicated to the late Beatle, as this show was on his 79th birthday), to begin the encore.

Vedder and his Pearl Jam colleagues are still waiting to tour in support of their 2020 album Gigaton; the tour is expected to start later this year.

Chad Smith at the YouTube Theater, Feb. 25, 2022 (Jérôme Brunet Photography)

Chad Smith at the YouTube Theater, Feb. 25, 2022 (Photo: © JeromeBrunet.com)

Despite the considerable time off the road these past few years and his aforementioned fight with COVID, Vedder sounded like someone 15 years his junior, moving around the stage with a limber, energized spirit and leading the proceedings like a man on a mission, making up for lost time stolen by the pandemic.

The blending of veteran musical talent with younger generations was also present; Watt, at 31, is one of the most in-demand producers on the alt/rock scene at the moment, and watching him sprint around the stage like a live wire it was obvious how much he was enjoying chopping it up with Eddie and his rock and roll veterans.

Andrew Watt at the YouTube Theater, Feb. 25, 2022 (Jérôme Brunet Photography)

Andrew Watt at the YouTube Theater, Feb. 25, 2022 (Photo: © JeromeBrunet.com)

Vedder also brought out his daughter, Olivia, to sing the song “My Father’s Daughter,” which was prefaced with his COVID speech mentioned above:

Moments like these, the cross-generational shared experiences between father and daughter, delivered from a stage stuffed with A-list names and to an audience bewildered at the spectacle of what was going on in front of it (but loving every second), were pure magic.

The Eddie Vedder and the Earthlings tour was a triumphant celebration of rock and roll’s past, present and future, the sort of experience that nobody in attendance will soon forget.

Eddie Vedder and the Earthlings set list, Feb. 25, YouTube Theater:

Drive (R.E.M. cover)
Room at the Top (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover) (with Benmont Tench)
Long Way (with Benmont Tench)
Invincible
The Dark
Brother the Cloud
Tender Mercies
The Haves
I’m One (The Who cover)
Mrs. Mills
Wishlist (Pearl Jam song)
My Father’s Daughter (Olivia Vedder cover) (with Olivia Vedder)
Try
Chad-O (Chad Smith drum solo)
Rose of Jericho
Fallout Today
Better Man (Pearl Jam song) (with Benmont Tench)

Encore:

Baby Don’t You Do It (Marvin Gaye cover) (with Benmont Tench) (+ horns: Nate Walcott, Sean Billings, Vikram Devasthali, James King)
The Waiting (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover) (with Benmont Tench)
Isn’t It a Pity (George Harrison cover) (with Benmont Tench)
Dirty Frank (Pearl Jam song)
Porch (Pearl Jam song)
Message in a Bottle (The Police cover) (with Stewart Copeland)
Rockin’ in the Free World (Neil Young cover) (with Stewart Copeland)

Eddie Vedder live at YouTube Theater in Los Angeles

Eddie Vedder live at YouTube Theater in Los Angeles (Photo: © JeromeBrunet.com)



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