After waiting 21 years to see my favorite band in concert, last Thursday night at SDSU’s Viejas Arena could be likened to arriving in Nirvana (yes, pun intended). The evening did not, however, begin auspiciously.
The Pearl Jam concert had been slated to begin at 7:30 p.m.; no warm-up act. At that exact moment, my son Matt, daughter-in-law Ashley, and I were still sitting on I-8 fighting a traffic jam that was no pearl. When we finally reached the front of the arena, Ashley kindly volunteered to drop us off, so we wouldn’t miss any more of the show.
Thankfully, the band and its crew were cognizant of the problem, so they didn’t take the stage until 8:30. For the next three-and-a-half hours, we were introduced to Eddie Vedder’s mother—who received a bottle of wine from her son delivered hand-to-hand by the crowd—and Mike McCready’s father, a Vietnam War vet for whom PJ performed a rendition of Yellow Ledbetter that concluded with lead guitarist McCready doing a cover of Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner. We also met drummer Matt Cameron’s son, who joined the band on rhythm guitar for a Who cover.
In between all that, Eddie brought a long-time fan and Philippines resident named Rob to the stage to receive thanks and a check to take back to his homeland. There also came a tribute to Lou’s Records of Encinitas, which—like most music stores—is enduring hard times. Lou’s apparently provided PJ with free promotional materials during its early days.
Then there was the music: glorious, tight, jamming, melodic rock. At the end of the concert, Eddie stood at the rear of the stage on the drum platform, raised his arms, smiled, and peered at the crowd as though he didn’t want to go. I know I didn’t want to. I mean “Why Go?”