Pearl Jam plays Oakland Arena: Night One

Thursday May 12th was night one of two at Oakland Arena for Pearl Jam’s Gigaton Tour, featuring support from Pluralone. Dressed in my best flannel, I made my way to the NBA Warriors’ old home at the Oakland Arena for a night of nostalgic 90s grunge. This was my first official arena show that I’ve had the privilege of receiving a photo access, so I had no idea what to expect, not to mention it was my very first time at this arena! After getting checked in and getting escorted to the front of house with the other photographers, we all waited for the opener to kick off the show.

The first surprise of the night happened as soon as the lights turned down and it got really quiet.

The person who walked out onto the stage was the last person I would have expected to see on stage so soon. It was Pearl Jam’s own Eddie Vedder! My first thought was, “Oh no, bad news”… but, Eddie had an acoustic guitar with him. Sure enough, he treated the audience to not one, but two songs! The first was Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done” and then Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down”. It was a nice treat for those who came to the show early. Next, Vedder introduced Pluralone, the solo project of former Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, Josh Klinghoffer. The set was short, but highlights included when Pearl Jam’s rhythm guitarist Stone Gossard joined Klinghoffer on piano for a cover of “Buttercup” by BRAD. And, when he closed out the set with a cover of Prince’s legendary hit “Purple Rain”, that ended in a giant sing-along.

Pearl Jam kicked their set off with another Neil Young cover, “Rockin’ In The Free World”. While the band was rockin’, I was surprised for the second time that night by seeing another familiar face, but this time onstage where I wouldn’t have expected! It was Josh Klinghoffer on drums! After the song finished, Eddie Vedder thanked the crowd, popped a bottle of what appeared to be wine and started the first of what would be many toasts that night. His toast was to his longtime drummer, Matt Cameron, who — just the day before — tested positive for COVID-19. After the tour was postponed twice already over the last two years, Vedder explained that there was no way the band was going to cancel or postpone a third time. That being said, Eddie Vedder finished his toast and thanked Josh Klinghoffer for stepping up and filling in.

Pearl Jam played all the hits, of course including “Alive”, “Jeremy”, “Black” and “Even Flow”. Another guest, drummer who received a toast later on in the night, was Richard Stuverud, who absolutely killed it on “Even Flow”; he was rocking out having the time of his life, making the best of a once in a lifetime opportunity. Eddie Vedder’s performance was also on fire. At one point he was windmilling the microphone by the cord, like the veteran frontman he is and even doing backbends with the microphone stand. Lead guitarist Mike McCready also had several standout face-melting solos demanding the audience’s full attention.

Two more highlights of the show I thought were pretty cool were during another toast Eddie made.

He was shocked how many bottles he had opened and gave the newly opened one down to the crowd. Security guards were quick to think on their toes, passing out red solo cups and giving the audience in the front row a sample. Last, but least, a moment that played on into Night Two was when Pearl Jam asked the audience if there were any drummers in the house and if anyone could play drums at the show the next night. I believe the search was successful. During Night One’s show, they gave one eager concertgoer a rapid test and quick audition backstage during the encore break and for the final encore, he got to play drums on “Yellow Ledbetter”. All in all, it was a super fun and memorable show. Pearl Jam proves — 30 years later — why they are in Rock and Roll’s Hall of Fame and arguably one of America’s greatest rock bands. If Pearl Jam is coming to a city near you, don’t miss out on your chance for a rockin’ trip back to the 90s. 

Photography by Katey Schoenberger

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