Pearl Jam mixes hits, rarities, politics at Bonnaroo


MANCHESTER, Tenn. -- Pearl Jam capped its headlining slot Saturday at Bonnaroo with an impassioned rendering of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower," with frontman Eddie Vedder urging the sprawling throng to vote for change in November.

"There's a time and place for this kind of talk, right?" he asked late in the show, noting that music alone can't change the world, only people like those in front of him can. "It is welded into the Constitution that people have not only the right, but the responsibility to make change. It can't get any worse. We're right here in the middle of America. We can change the whole world. Do you agree that this is the time and place for this kind of talk?" The crowd roared its approval.

Not long after reaching its scheduled finish time of 12:15 a.m., without hesitation Vedder and company pressed on with the Victoria Williams-penned fan fave "Crazy Mary" and others, before eventually forking over the mega-hit "Alive."

If the previous night saw fellow headliners Metallica sticking to its vintage, pre-1992 material, Pearl Jam toured its catalog and then some. The band wowed fans with a fiery take on the Who's "Love, Reign o'er Me," and during "Daughter" Vedder even threw in a portion of the English Beat's "Save It for Later." The outtake "All Night" was played for the first time ever, while "W.M.A." made its first complete live appearance in 13 years.

Pearl Jam's appearance at Bonnaroo marked just its second U.S. festival date since nine fans were crushed to death during its 2000 set at Denmark's Roskilde Festival. Without specifically mentioning the event, Vedder referred to the tragedy when expressing his awe at how so many people could come together peacefully. "There was a time when we thought we'd never play a show like this again -- and for good reason," he said. "(Bonnaroo) makes you realize how it could actually work. And on top of that it's a great f***in' night."

With Pearl Jam having just begun a short U.S. tour that was built around Bonnaroo, Vedder expressed shock at picking up the daily newspapers in each city and finding little to no media coverage of the Iraq War.

He later dedicated the song "No More" to friend Tomas Young, the paralyzed Iraq War vet featured in the new film "Body of War." Amid the war continuing, Young's health has taken a turn for the worse in the past couple of weeks, and Vedder admitted that has made it "a lot harder to be happy" these days.

But the band still drew and sustained one of the biggest main-stage crowds ever seen at Bonnaroo, the masses stretching well beyond those who showed up to see Metallica the night before. Even Vedder was a bit awed by the size. In between songs, when he glimpsed just how far back the crowd extended, he thanked the audience a second time for listening.