Pearl Jam were waiting to play this show for eight years.
At least that’s what Eddie Vedder said Saturday night (Sept. 10) in the middle of his band’s set at Harlem’s Apollo Theater. Though the idea of Pearl Jam playing the historic venue may have started long ago, it was first announced in early 2020. As with nearly everything planned for that year, the show was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the big night finally happened as a part of SiriusXM’s Small Stage Series, the longtime arena headliners seemed quite comfortable in front of the 1,500 fans crammed into the theater.
Pearl Jam have a long-standing history with New York City, first playing at the intimate Marquee on July 13, 1991, and then a few days later visiting the equally cramped Wetlands Preserve, where they were billed as the Epic recording artist formerly known as Mother Love Bone.
In fact, recognizing that the Red Hot Chili Peppers are set to play the Apollo on Tuesday, Sept. 13, Vedder cracked a joke about their shared roots: “Thirty years later, we’re still fucking opening for them.”
Instead of reflecting on Pearl Jam’s own history, Vedder spent most of his time celebrating the legacy of the Apollo. From Bessie Smith to John Coltrane, he took every possible chance to lift up the artists who had once stood on the same famed stage.
Watch Pearl Jam Perform “Footsteps”
That’s not to say the gig at the Apollo was perfect. In fact, it was far from it. During their first five songs, which were performed mostly acoustic with the band seated, there were noticeable issues with the venue’s PA system.
After the band wrapped up “Hard to Imagine,” Vedder took a moment to address what was happening. “I’ve been asked to tell you all…what I’m about to say I’m pretty damn sure they did not say to John Coltrane when he played here,” he joked. “They need us to take a second, one minute, to reboot the computer or reboot something.”
That minute turned into five, then 10, then 15. As the crowd grew increasingly restless, Vedder saved the moment with a beautiful and truly unplugged solo cover of Warren Zevon‘s “Keep Me In Your Heart.”
Watch Eddie Vedder Perform “Keep Me In Your Heart”
It didn’t take much longer for the sound issues to be fixed and the full band to come back to the stage. From that point on, tensions eased and the band and crowd were in sync for the remainder of the show, thanks in large part to Vedder’s continued positive mood.
The rest of the set included fan favorites like “Do the Evolution,” “Even Flow” and “Porch.” There were also plenty of new tracks from their latest album Gigaton, including “Dance of the Clairvoyants” and “Who Ever Said.”
Watch Pearl Jam Perform “Do the Evolution”
Near the end of 2020, journalist David Fricke interviewed Stone Gossard for TIDAL, and asked what it was like for Pearl Jam to have released Gigaton just as the pandemic forced them to cancel all tour plans.
“We’re definitely itching, ready to go,” Gossard replied, “and the gratitude and joy that will come off the stage will be for real. Having not been able to play for so long, we’re never going to look at a live show the same way again.”
That gratitude and joy saturated Pearl Jam’s performance at the Apollo Theater, making it a once-in-a-lifetime concert experience for those in attendance and all those listening live across the continent.
Pearl Jam, 9/10/22, Apollo Theater, New York, New York
3. “Sleight of Hand”
5. “Hard to Imagine”
6. “Keep Me In Your Heart” (Warren Zevon cover)
7. “Who Ever Said”
8. “Even Flow”
9. “Dance of the Clairvoyants”
10. “Quick Escape”
11. “Spin the Black Circle”
14. “Never Destination”
15. “Take the Long Way”
18. “Better Man”
19. “Do the Evolution”
20. “Baba O’Riley” (The Who cover)
Pearl Jam Play the Apollo Theater in New York City – Sept. 10, 2022
Pearl Jam perform an intimate gig at New York City’s legendary Apollo Theater on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022.