Pearl Jam gets serious with Lollapalooza set


CHICAGO -- Playing its most-watched U.S. show in a decade, Pearl Jam closed the 2007 edition of Lollapalooza on a political note, bringing injured Iraq War soldier Thomas Young onstage to urge the audience to rededicate itself to ending the conflict in the Middle East. The two-hour-plus set concluded with a stage full of friends (including Ben Harper and ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman) and fans flanking Pearl Jam for a ferocious cover of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World."

Pearl Jam, who has largely eschewed festival performances since nine fans were crushed to death during its set at Denmark's Roskilde Festival in 2000, leaned heavily on its time-tested hits, galvanizing the capacity crowd with renditions of "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town," "Evenflow," "Daughter," "Better Man" and "Alive." Frontman Eddie Vedder, who grew up in nearby Evanston, made clear the band's appreciation for the occasion, telling the audience, "There's a deep amount of meaning that comes with playing on this stage tonight."

My Morning Jacket teed up the crowd for Pearl Jam's performance by playing most of its set with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra. The teenage musicians gave extra sonic girth to tracks such as "Gideon," "Dondante," "Just One Thing" and "Wordless Chorus," while the band itself, decked out in tuxedos, excelled on such classic rock-inspired cuts as "One Big Holiday," opener "Anytime" and the reggae-tinged "Off the Record." The set closed with a cover of Curtis Mayfield's classic "Move on Up."

Earlier in the day, Vedder joined Kings of Leon on their closing number, "Slow Night, So Long," singing with frontman Caleb Followill and bashing two tambourines together. The Tennessee group rocked through a set featuring tracks like "Molly's Chambers," "On Call," "The Bucket" and "Razz," more than translating the Southern-soaked rock 'n' roll of its three studio albums to a sizable festival crowd.

Other notable performances on the festival's final day were turned in by hometown rapper Lupe Fiasco, who balanced his Grammy-nominated hit "Kick, Push" with two new songs -- "Superstardom" and "Paris, Tokyo" -- which will appear on his next album, "Lupe Fiasco's the Cool," tentatively due Oct. 31. New York-based indie rock act !!! got the crowd moving just before MMJ's set with funky numbers such as "Must Be the Moon" and "All My Heroes Are Weirdos."

Across the field, Iggy Pop invited the audience onstage to sing with him during the band's late-afternoon set, causing minor mayhem. Peter Bjorn & John's set was cut short because of sound problems, while the jagged rock of Modest Mouse punctured the humid air on songs such as "Dashboard," flecked by the guitar work of former Smiths axeman Johnny Marr.