Friday, June 6, 2003 | 8:43 a.m.
More than a decade after they helped define the musical term "grunge," is Pearl Jam still a relevant rock band?
Apparently, at least 13,000 people in Las Vegas think so. Tonight's show at the MGM Grand Garden Arena -- Pearl Jam's first Las Vegas concert in nearly three years -- sold out several days ago.
The band has been on the road since February promoting its seventh studio album, last year's "Riot Act." The tour's second U.S. leg kicked off last week in Missoula, Mont., and has worked its way through California to Southern Nevada.
Though Pearl Jam may not be the MTV fixtures they were when debut album "Ten" was released in 1991, the band still enjoys a loyal fan following. "Riot Act" debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 album chart.
Pearl Jam also continues to make headlines for its forays into the political arena. "Bushleaguer," a track on "Riot Act," offers criticism of President Bush. And in April singer Eddie Vedder reportedly impaled a mask in the president's likeness on a microphone stand and them slammed it to the stage during a concert in Denver.
Pearl Jam's last MGM Grand Garden performance -- on Oct. 22, 2000 -- is considered one of the band's more legendary shows. Celebrating their 10th anniversary, the quintet put together a set list packed with rarities, including their first stab at Mother Love Bone's Seattle-scene anthem, "Crown of Thorns."
As with all of the band's shows these days, that Vegas concert is available as an authorized "bootleg" in a two-CD set. Tonight's show will receive similar treatment in the months to come.
Rolling Stone magazine also reported this week that Pearl Jam is planning to issue a rarities set around the Christmas holiday season.
Scottish rock band Idlewild opens tonight's show. Modern rockers Sleater-Kinney and Sparta have also served as support acts for Pearl Jam this year, with the Buzzcocks slated to join the tour next.
Who: Pearl Jam.
Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena.
When: 8 p.m. tonight.
Tickets: Sold out.
Opening act: Idlewild.
Personnel: Eddie Vedder (vocals, guitar), Stone Gossard (guitar), Mike McCready (guitar), Jeff Ament (guitar), Matt Cameron (drums).
Latest release: "Riot Act" (Epic, 2002).
Album feedback: "Like Neil Young at his most deliberately despondent, Pearl Jam sound purposefully tired. Songs such as 'Can't Keep' fall subtly into their choruses rather than explode into anthems because Vedder and his mates are too honest to indulge in the showboating of today's power balladeers." (Rolling Stone, 3 stars); "Since 1998's 'Yield,' Pearl Jam have relied on an unchanging musical formula, consistently declining the opportunity to innovate or improve their sound, even while hinting that they could if they could be assured it wouldn't completely tank." (pitchforkmedia.com, 4.9 out of 10).
Essential releases: "Ten" (1991), "Vs." (1993).
What to expect: The first few nights of the tour's current leg have been somewhat heavy on material from "Riot Act," including "Bushleaguer," which is back in the set list after being absent most of the year. Pearl Jam rotates its other material nightly, so don't show up expecting to hear "Alive," "Jeremy," "Even Flow" and "Black" all at one show. Stick around after the first encore, because there's usually one or two more to come, generally sprinkled with covers by the likes of The Clash and Neil Young.
Recent set list: Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, Calif., Sunday: "Long Road," "Do the Evolution," "Animal," "Save You," "Green Disease," "Grievance," "I Am Mine," "You Are," "Even Flow," "Not For You," "Corduroy," "Habit," "Daughter," "Thumbing My Way," "Present Tense," "1/2 Full," "Insignificance," "Go." (First encore) "Love Boat Captain," "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town," "Better Man," "Crazy Mary," "Alive," "Porch." (Second encore) "Know Your Rights," "Bushleaguer," "F---in' Up." (from official site tenclub.com).
Tour feedback: "Pearl Jam no longer spins out the hits to excite the crowd the easy way. They are now sound technicians, who never offer the same set list twice, and build their momentum and mood off the precise placement of songs." (Houston Chronicle); "Pearl Jam is definitely in its element on stage. They may no longer sell the 11 million, but their live shows hint that they will be touring for years to come. They are bound for the classic rock radio of the future." (Charlotte Observer)
Previous Las Vegas appearances: Nov. 30, 1993 (Aladdin); Dec. 1, 1993 (Aladdin); July 11, 1998 (Thomas & Mack); Oct. 22, 2000 (Thomas & Mack).
Says Vedder: "In rock & roll, I should be able to do whatever I want ... This was a rubber ask, mock theater. You have to be able to do that. A close friend of mine, who's hardcore right, said, 'It's too sensitive. You can't do it during time of war.' If you can't be critical of the president during time of war, doesn't that encourage him to be at war?" (Rolling Stone, May 2003).