Few bands can match Pearl Jam’s ability to cause chaos and then conjure beauty minutes later.
At Barclays Center Friday night, for the first of two shows there, the veteran rockers may have outdone themselves.
Pearl Jam have long used the push of punk rock and the pull of pretty, contemplative pieces to balance their sets and their albums. However, the combination of the raucous “Porch” and the serene “Wasted Reprise” was stunning.
“Porch” is wild on most nights, but this time, it involved guitarist Mike McCready and bassist Jeff Ament pushing the lights hanging above the stage so that they swung around, giving singer Eddie Vedder the idea that he could climb one and swing on top of it while singing. It created a chaotic scene, with Ament dodging lights as he played and Vedder trying to figure out how to get off the swinging light without breaking it.
When they returned after the pieces of lighting were picked off the stage, Vedder offered a “What a night, huh?” before the band launched into a serene “Wasted Reprise” jam. Vedder talked over the instrumental, offering thanks to the grateful crowd. “You’ve always been really good to this band,” he said, to loud cheers, as he then rattled off a list of bands Pearl Jam had opened for in New York.
Earlier in the night, Pearl Jam did the same trick in reverse, moving from the band’s lovely current single “Sirens” into McCready’s fiery, fingers-flying version of the classic Van Halen instrumental “Eruption” followed by a potent, fist-pumping version of “Spin the Black Circle,” which included McCready and Ament starting their own circle pit. And to close the two-and-a-half-hour show, they went from a lush version of “Alive,” the anthem that launched countless grunge bands, to a punishing, pogo-filled version of The Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer” and back to a mellower, expansive version of “Indifference” as a sing-along, with the house lights up so everyone could see each other having a great time.
That included Pearl Jam, who were clearly enjoying themselves onstage as they rolled out material from their new “Lightning Bolt” album, which is currently on pace to become the band’s fifth No. 1 album next week. After a botched start to “Sirens,” Vedder joked that the misstep was actually a B-side to be released next year. Before “Yellow Moon,” Vedder tried to tell the story of the song’s origin — something to do with a guy who works a lot and has to wear a clip-on tie — and then decided to just play the song and then decided to finish the story.
“Be careful what you dream,” Vedder said later, “because it might come true.”
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SETLIST: Pendulum / Release / Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town / Lightning Bolt / Corduroy / Mind Your Manners / Dissident / Why Go / Swallowed Whole / I Am Mine / Infallible / Given to Fly / Sirens / Eruption / Spin the Black Circle / Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns / Save You / Let the Records Play / Do the Evolution / Rearviewmirror // ENCORE 1: Oceans / Yellow Moon / Sleight of Hand / Just Breathe / Daughter / Got Some / Porch // ENCORE 2: Wasted Reprise / Life Wasted / Alive / Sonic Reducer / Indifference