The sold-out crowd was happy just to see Vedder when he took the stage for the second of two nights in Las Vegas to open his postponed U.S. solo tour. He quickly earned the adulation in what became a special night for both performer and the audience.
Vedder launched into “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town,” the first of several Pearl Jam songs he played, before switching from acoustic guitar to an electric for Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage,” then picking up a ukulele for a cover of Cat Stevens’ “Trouble.” He then played a handful of tunes from his Ukulele Songs album before the show took on a more intimate feel.
Vedder dedicated “I Am Mine” to audience member Jason Baldwin, one of the West Memphis Three released from prison last year after 18 years following their questionable conviction for the killing of three boys, and was later joined by Dixie Chick Natalie Maines, another longtime supporter of the West Memphis Three, for two songs. Vedder also brought show opener Glen Hansard, who wowed the audience during his own acoustic set, back onstage for a few songs, including a rendition of “Sleepless Nights” in which both men sang without microphones from the front of the stage while Vedder played ukulele.
Being days before the election, Vedder voiced his political opinions, taking some shots at Mitt Romney before launching into an extended rant that included California’s Proposition 37, Honey Boo Boo and former FEMA director Michael Brown. But Vedder’s activism also provided the show’s most organic moment, when during a call for support for Heal EB, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting epidermolysis bullosa, a woman in the audience pledged $5,000 if Vedder would sing the Pearl Jam classic “Black,” a song he hadn’t performed solo before. After a couple of failed starts, with Pearl Jam keyboardist Boom Gaspar feeling out the chords on a pump organ, Vedder found the cadence and the audience helped him finish, supplying the falsetto vocal coda.
Concluding the 150-minute show, Vedder was joined by Hansard, Maines and Gaspar for the spirited Into the Wild anthem “Hard Sun.” It ended a rare evening in which the artist seemed just as moved as those he was entertaining. ★★★★★