After some triumphant festival-headlining gigs this summer — such as at Lisbon’s NOS Alive — Pearl Jam are in the midst of a brief Home X Away tour. So far, this run of shows has been pretty eventful.
As has become customary for the grunge-turned-classic-rock journeymen, these recent Pearl Jam sets have been career-spanning, with the band throwing in surprise deep cuts and covers alongside their enduring hits. At one of the Home shows in Seattle, Eddie Vedder offered his take on the White Stripes’ “We’re Going To Be Friends,” which in turn prompted Jack White’s interpretation of Pearl Jam’s “Daughter.” (Their mutual admiration was already on display earlier this summer when White joined PJ for “Rockin’ In The Free World” at their aforementioned NOS Alive headline set.) A couple nights later, they played Chris Cornell’s “Missing,” a more obscure solo cut Cornell had written for Singles.
Then, of course, there was Pearl Jam’s Away gig in Missoula, Montana this past week. That show was in support of Montana’s Democratic senator Jon Tester, and came with a custom poster designed by Jeff Ament that featured the corpse of Donald Trump on the lawn of a burning White House. This naturally pissed off Republicans, and Ament later defended his design in a statement to Rolling Stone: “The role of artists is to make people think and feel, and the current administration has us thinking and feeling. I was the sole conceptualist of this poster, and I welcome all interpretations and discourse. Love, from the First Amendment, Jeff Ament.”
It’s been an eventful couple of weeks for Pearl Jam! And, amidst all this, they’ve been playing some shows that have been reportedly transcendent even by the standards of their legendary live reputation. It’s enough to give you quite a bit of FOMO if they aren’t passing through your town — and maybe even enough to spark an existential crisis about whether you should risk traveling to see PJ when the birth of your first child is approaching.
Anyway, after all that Pearl Jam’s tour continued in Chicago last night, technically an Away show but also something of a Home show given Vedder’s roots there. Vedder’s love of the Chicago Cubs is deep and well-documented, and last night he started one encore by remembering the climactic 2016 night the Cubs won the World Series. This wound up being an intro to Pearl Jam covering David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” for the first time ever. (The track is a go-to for artists when paying tribute, with Bruce Springsteen and Arcade Fire also having performed it in the past.)
It wasn’t the only notable moment of the night. The group’s longtime friend Dennis Rodman also made an appearance, coming onstage to give Vedder his ukulele before “Sleeping By Myself.” And the setlist was pretty great overall for diehard fans, with inclusions like the Binaural opener “Breakerfall” and an encore that relied heavily on the beloved non-album tracks from the Ten era (“Footsteps,” “State Of Love And Trust,” “Breath,” and “Alone.”) Check out videos of “Rebel Rebel” and Dennis Rodman’s cameo below.