It seemed like an omen of stranger things to come. Early Tuesday evening at Soldier Field, kids were body-surfing to Otis Rush, which drew amused expressions from the Chicago blues great and his band.
But by night’s end, normalcy prevailed. If this was to be Pearl Jam’s last North American concert of the year, the Seattle band didn’t go out in a blaze. Instead, the mood was almost campfire mellow.
“I want to thank the Grateful Dead for letting us use their stage,” singer Eddie Vedder said, referring to Soldier Field’s weekend guests. “We think it’s only right that we play as long as they do” - and Pearl Jam nearly did. The 2-3/4-hour concert was short on theatrics but long on musical intimacy.
On a spartan stage devoid of gimmicks, Pearl Jam blasted through most of its three albums, a handful of new songs and covers of Sly Stone’s “Everyday People” and Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open the Door.”
Considering all the fuss made about crowd control as 13,000 concertgoers mingled and moshed on the stadium floor while another 30,000 looked on from reserved seats, the smoothness of the event and the general easygoing demeanor of the audience was a small triumph all its own.
The only splinters were from Vedder’s guitar, which he trashed during an encore of “Blood,” and the only hint of bile was dredged up during the singer’s rambling introduction to “Not for You.”
“I hate to think that’s the wave of the future when corporate giants … some of them just can’t be toppled,” Vedder said, referring to the band’s feud with Ticketmaster over service fees, which took a decisive turn last week when the Department of Justice closed its investigation of the ticket agency without filing a lawsuit.
“It’s up to you guys now,” he said. “We tried our bit,” and then laughingly led a halfhearted chant of “Ticketmaster sucks.”