PHILADELPHIA (Billboard) - Pearl Jam saved the best — and rarest — for last on Saturday at the Wachovia Spectrum in Philadelphia, the final concert that will ever be held at the storied venue.
Playing the fourth of four shows at the arena, Pearl Jam let loose with a 41-song, three hour-and-35-minute performance that featured one of the strangest set lists of its career. A host of A-list guests, including Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel, had been rumored to appear, but ultimately the band did not need any extra star power to send the Spectrum off in style.
Pearl Jam emptied its proverbial vaults for the venue’s finale, offering the first-ever live performances of the Tom Waits-style accordion dirge “Bugs” from 1994’s “Vitalogy” and the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tribute “Sweet Lew,” sung by bassist Jeff Ament while frontman Eddie Vedder dribbled a basketball around the stage.
Also part of the set were just the third airing the live 1994 improv “Out of My Mind,” the first performance of “Pilate” from 1998’s “Yield” in nine years and a rare cover of “Crown of Thorns” by the pre-Pearl Jam band Mother Love Bone. Vedder told the audience that a fan had offered a substantial charitable donation if the band would play “Out of My Mind,” which was released 15 years ago as a live B-side on the “Not for You” single.
Getting into the Halloween spirit, Pearl Jam came out for the second encore dressed in full Devo costumes and proceeded to rattle off a note-perfect cover of that band’s “Whip It.”
But it wasn’t all rarities targeted toward the uber-fan. For every obscurity, there were thundering renditions of classics such as “Corduroy,” “Even Flow,” “Jeremy,” “Porch” and “Alive,” and the capacity crowd was substantially louder than Vedder during other hits like “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town,” “Black” and “Better Man.”
Throughout, Vedder paid tribute to the soon-to-be-demolished Spectrum and its history, at one point bringing a spry, 89-year-old stagehand on stage for a standing ovation. As the evening wound down, the house lights were turned on and confetti and balloons rained down on the audience for a cover of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.” The show closed with the fan favorite “Yellow Ledbetter,” which sported a “Star Spangled Banner” tag from guitarist Mike McCready.
Pearl Jam had pledged to perform as many different songs as possible during the Spectrum run, which yielded several other significant rarities earlier in the week, including performances of songs such as “Rival,” “Ghost,” “Mankind,” “Tremor Christ,” “Deep,” “Habit,” “Push Me, Pull Me” and the never-before-played “Ten”-era outtake “Hold On.”
For Pearl Jam, the shows marked the end of a fall North American tour in support of its recent chart-topping album, “Backspacer.” The band next heads to Australia and New Zealand for a short run, beginning November 14 in Adelaide. No plans have yet been revealed for potential 2010 touring.