NEW ORLEANS — Pearl Jam, Friday’s headlining act at the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience, featured a special guest during the band’s headlining show Friday night at City Park’s Festival Grounds. Steve Gleason, the former Saints player afflicted with ALS who’s a friend of Pearl Jam, introduced the band.
Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder also acknowledged Gleason again during the show. Guitarist Mike McCready plugged Team Gleason — the organization Gleason founded to spread awareness of ALS and generate funding for search and support — by wearing a Team Gleason T-shirt. Vedder also revealed that Gleason, and huge fan of Pearl Jam, picked the band’s Voodoo set list.
Along with Nirvana, Pearl Jam spearheaded the grunge-rock movement that burst out of Seattle in the early ’90s. These many years later, Pearl Jam roared and perspired through an epic two-hour-plus show on Voodoo’s Ritual Stage.
Vedder, 48, and his middle-aged band mates didn’t let the 22 years since the release of Pearl Jam’s 1991 album debut, “Ten,” slow them down much.
A blockbuster of its era, “Ten” has sold more than 10 million copies. The album’s three hit singles, “Even Flow,” “Alive” and “Jeremy,” all appeared in Pearl Jam’s Voodoo show. New songs from the band’s 10th studio album, “Lightning Bolt,” also made the set list.
Pearl Jam, featuring original members Vedder, guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready and bassist Jeff Ament and subsequent additions drummer Matt Cameron and keyboardist Boom Gasper, opened with “Sirens,” a song from “Lightning Bolt.” Vedder strummed an acoustic guitar during the song, a mid-tempo number that reflects the album’s much-knocked, more or less mellow direction.
Another new song, “Getaway,” which Vedder said is about intolerance, didn’t sound or, what with Vedder jumping around like it was the ’90s again, look so laid-back.
Following six songs performed back to back without a break, Vedder greeted a crowd that was by far Friday’s largest audience. He also expressed his gratitude for such a perfect day and night for an outdoor show.
“On behalf of everyone on this stage, good evening,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of music to play.”
Pearl Jam didn’t skimp on playing its beloved back catalog. “Even Flow,” featuring Vedder spouting rapid-fire verses, came nine songs into the show. The song was more a showcase, however, for lead guitarist McCready than Vedder. Like Jimi Hendrix, another electrifying guitarist from Seattle, McCready played some of his hottest leads backwards, holding his guitar behind his neck.
Crowds favorites “Jeremy” and, from 1993’s “Vs.” album, “Daughters,” followed. The band’s nine-song encore included “Black” (with another marathon McCready solo), the guitar- and bass-riff driven “Alive” and, a Neil Young song that aptly expresses Pearl Jam’s philosophy, “Rockin’ in the Free World.”