Wiltern LG, Los Angeles
Saturday, April 12
In a mock presentation in the middle of his set Saturday night at the Wiltern, Eddie Vedder finally received his Golden Globe for best original song for "Guaranteed" from "Into the Wild." Vedder jokingly thanked the writers for striking so he didn't have to attend the ceremony because he was on vacation surfing on the North Shore in January.
On a more serious note, Vedder thanked filmmaker Sean Penn, who enlisted him do the score, and the film's protagonist Chris McCandless, the honor student who ventured into the wilderness to find himself only to never return.
During the first of two sold-out shows at the Wiltern, Vedder's sympathetic songs from "Wild" served as the heart of his set on his first solo tour, but he also spent plenty of time tipping his hat to a variety of influences with well-picked and nicely executed covers.
As the frontman of Pearl Jam, Vedder was one of the most powerful and oft-imitated voices of rock in the '90s. He's already proven he can step away from Pearl Jam and stand on his own in the recording studio with "Wild." Yet the studio and the concert stage are two very different things. It remained to be seen if Vedder could command the stage by himself without the sturm und drang of his four Pearl Jam band mates.
Based on his performance Saturday night, Vedder can do just fine solo, even if this six-city, 10-show jaunt is serving as a warm-up of sorts before he rejoins Pearl Jam for a run of shows in June. Seated on a stool for most of the evening, Vedder played a variety of acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, ukulele and banjo on a set that resembled a basement. Despite the fact that seats had been placed in the Wiltern's usually open floor, he made the gig feel casual from the get-go. "Sit down and enjoy and relax," Vedder said early on. "We're going to be here a long time."
True to his word, more than two hours later, Vedder finally leaped to his feet and brought the crowd with him on a rousing version of "Hard Sun," originally recorded by late-'80s Canadian act Indio. He was joined by opening act Liam Finn on drums and his back-up singer, EJ Barnes, in a moment of pure celebration. The previous two hours were more somber but never boring. Aside from his own songs, Vedder wrapped his throaty baritone around Bob Dylan's "Masters of War," James Taylor's "Millworker," a pair of Cat Stevens songs from "Harold & Maude," Bruce Springsteen's "Growin' Up" and the Beatles' "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," which was transformed into a joyful sing-along. While he has yet to write a song that has as much resonance as the work of his heroes, Vedder proved to be a captivating solo performer, something that's not a given for the frontman of any superstar rock attraction.