Thursday September 13, 2023 Dickies Arena Ft. Worth, Texas
Written by Andy Upton
Photos by Anthony Lowery
Let me take you rock-n-roll fans way back to the early 90s at the old Bronco Bowl Arena in Dallas, Texas. What started out as a night to see the on-fire band SOUNDGARDEN turned into a chance to see the opening band blow the audience away. That opening band was PEARL JAM and that was the one and only time I ever saw them in concert. So yes, thirty-two years later – I get reacquainted with Eddie Vedder and the boys at Ft. Worth’s awesome Dickies Arena.
Opening the show was Seattle’s DEEP SEA DIVER, a pop/rock band that got the audience going with their blend of guitar-driven, keyboard-infused straightforward rock-n-roll. Their nearly ten song set ran the gamut from dreamy pop to all out sonic assault, working best when they put their heads down and just let it fly. Lead singer Jessica Dobson was a dynamo on the guitar and her husband Peter Mansen’s drumming was spot on. Bassist Garrett Gue kept a constant, steady beat while keyboardist/guitarist Elliot Jackson played both instruments superbly. The highlight song of their set was “Impossible Weight” from their most recent album of the same name. I believe they won over a few new fans so if you have the chance – check them out.
With a career well into its fourth decade now, PEARL JAM has a few luxuries afforded to them: quite the extensive catalog of songs to choose from that allowed them to play nearly for 2 ½ hours and the opportunity to play deep, deep cuts that only the most die-hard fans know. Both of those items went well together as they fought off the flu (Eddie) and Covid (Matt) to put on an excellent show. Starting the concert sitting on stools reminiscent of their famous MTV Unplugged set, they eased their way into the first song and never really took their foot off the pedal after that.
Since this visit was split into two nights, they didn’t play just a greatest hits set at this show, instead, the audience was treated to hits, rarities, and everything in between. The hauntingly slow but powerful “Oceans” from their first album Ten bled into the rare “Footsteps” and then a little hello talk from Eddie. Explaining the situation with drummer Matt Cameron’s Covid (Josh Klinghoffer filled in nicely) and his own bout with the flu, Eddie promised to forge on if the audience was willing to help out. Smash hits like “Daughter”, “Black”, “Elderly Woman Behind a Counter in a Small Town” and “Corduroy” were mixed in with songs like “Past Tense”, “Mind Your Manners” and “Given to Fly” early on in the show.
“Daughter” was a special stand out on this night because Eddie was strumming the acoustic guitar with Stone Gossard leading the way, Jeff Ament was playing a stand-up bass and the audience finally let loose with the aforementioned promised backing vocals. Old souls would have also recognized Eddie throwing in the lyrics “Big D, little a, double L, a-s” as a nod to the Dallas area just before the band intertwined PINK FLOYD’s “Another Brick in the Wall” lyrics just before the song ended. “Black” allowed the audience to really get into the backing vocals and Mike McCready’s guitar solo at the end was one of the best I’ve seen lately.
I believe part of PEARL JAM’s charm has always been their ability to connect with their fans. Eddie took the time throughout the evening to slow down and chat the audience up a bit. He spoke about his sister and nephew who were in attendance tonight and gave a shout out to NASA Scientist Dr. Amber Straughn who was amongst the crowd on the floor. He also spoke about their early concerts in Dallas at Trees and the Bronco Bowl as well as telling us he does not like the Texas Rangers but does love Nolan Ryan!!!
Carrying on with a rousing rendition of “Even Flow” at hyper speed complete with another Mike McCready solo, they finished out the first portion of the show with “MFC” off of 1998’s Yield in addition to a great version of “Not For You” and an extended “Rearviewmirror”. Always knowing there would be an encore, the audience didn’t have to wait too long for the guys to reappear. Kicking it off with a searing “Crazy Mary” (complete with a funky keyboard solo by Boom Gaspar), PEARL JAM finished the night off with “Wishlist” and “Evolution” from Yield and “Porch” and Alive” from Ten. They added a great cover of THE WHO’s “Baba O’Reilly” to send the ecstatic audience off into the mid-week night. Reflecting back a bit, it would be hard to pick out one highlight but I think what stuck with me the most was the fact that PEARL JAM is just as exciting today as the first time I saw them in concert oh so many years ago.
- Jeff Ament– bass, backing vocals
- Stone Gossard– rhythm guitar, backing and occasional lead vocals
- Mike McCready– lead guitar
- Eddie Vedder– lead vocals
- Matt Cameron– drums, percussion, backing vocals
Deep Sea Diver