Live: Pearl Jam Rolling With The Stones

Eddie Vedder relied on raw energy while Jagger leaned heavily on theatrics.

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The stage was built for the Rolling Stones Friday

night.

From the massive golden pillars and high-tech lights that flashed every hue

in the color spectrum, to the multi-million-dollar sound system which some

said could be heard from Route 580, the Oakland Coliseum had been transformed

seemingly overnight into the house that the Stones built.

Planes flying overhead flashed their name in lights. The cover band in the

parking lot played their classics for those who had arrived early. Radio

stations set up booths nearby, counting down the minutes until the famous

foursome of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood and Charlie Watts took the

stage.

Most gathered, from the teens to their wide-eyed grandparents, had come to

see the legendary rockers do it again, pulling out all the stops and

reminding fans everywhere what they could do if they put their talents and

several millions dollars to it. There was 16-year-old Carolyn McKibbin and

her friends who'd first discovered the Stones after finding their parents

records lying around the house. "I wouldn't miss this," Carolyn

said. "Stones rule."

There was 22-year-old Lauren Goldberg and her friend 26-year-old Alex

Shenkin, who had been to one of the Voodoo Lounge shows in 1994 and

couldn't wait to see what the Stones had in store for them this time. "I

wouldn't be here if the Stones weren't playing," Goldberg said.

And there was

48-year-old Eldon McNabb and his son, Michael, 24, who'd driven four-hours

from Dianuba to watch the Stones cross another one of their tour's Bridges To

Babylon. "We both came to see the Stones," Eldon McNabb said. "I have loved

these guys for years."

Though there was no arguing who were the guests of honor that night, it

wasn't as clear who owned the crowd.

From the moment the show's openers Pearl Jam began their unrelenting sonic

assault from a make-shift stage set up in front of the Stones' giant Caesar's

Palace, Las Vegas-style props, an electricity circulated that was all about

music and raw energy.

From the explosive opening tune, "Sometimes," off of their last album No

Code, Vedder was in perpetual performance mode, bobbing his head and

projecting his voice with the command of a man performing to a group of

friends in an intimate club. Dressed in a white and red striped sports coat

-- a la a member of a barber shop quartet -- and camouflage pants, his

hair cut to a medium length, Vedder was far from fashionable and seemingly unfazed by the massive rock altar that towered above and behind

him.

He grabbed the microphone as if it were a scepter and pounded it into the

stage. He screamed and ranted the lyrics to "Animal," off Vs., as

guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready thrashed desperately at their

instruments. Their only props were their guitars and the amps they played

through.

While the Stones hired a team of backing musicians and singers, Pearl Jam

relied on only themselves to communicate. And the sound that emanated from

the Seattle quintet was as massive as any rock orchestra.

After tearing through a rousing and particularly moving version of

"Dissident," Vedder stopped to speak, making the first of several off-handed

references to the night's special guests. "There's going to be more rain

tomorrow night than groupies at Altamont," he said, referring to the infamous 1969

Bay Area free concert at the Altamont Speedway, for which the Stones hired the Hell's Angels as

their security, only to watch as the bikers stabbed and beat one fan to

death. Later that night, Vedder quizzed McCready, who he said was the biggest

Stones fan in the crowd, asking him how many grooves are in the Let It

Bleed album.

From there, Pearl Jam tore into "Evenflow," one of their more popular songs

and the one that helped launch their career in the early '90s. Vedder jumped

up and down like an anxious child, while Jeff Ament, legs spread wide, rocked

in place, slapping his bass strings. "Good music! Good, good music!" Eldon

McNabb chanted, as he and his son danced at their seats.

The stadium was nearly full, or at least it sounded that way.

Vedder's eyes rolled back into his skull, and he shook his head with a mad

intensity as he sang the chorus to one of the band's most macabre hits,

"Jeremy," off of their debut Ten. The crowd sang along to the darkly

ironic tale, shouting "Jeremy spoke in class today!"

While Pearl Jam played their older songs with the passion of a struggling

band on the rise, perhaps more impressive that night were the new tunes they

sampled, which are expected to appear on their next album, the tentatively titled Yield (Feb. 3). The music ranged from punk to more traditionally

dynamic hard rock PJ songs, filled with storied lyrics and crunchy guitars. "Given to

Fly" (set to be the first single) found Vedder and company in a classic ebb and flow that built to an

explosive chorus, during which Vedder spread his arms and sang "Arms wide

open."

On another new one, "Wish List," Vedder recited all the things he's

wished for in his life, as Gossard chopped at his guitar, driving the song

irreversibly forward. Despite being dwarfed by the stage props, Pearl Jam

seemed larger than life. As they ripped through yet another new tune, "Brain

of J," they played with an abandon that was refreshing and vital.

Clearly Vedder had taken control of an audience which was not his own. "These

guys are wonderful," self-described Stones fanatic Eldon McNabb was now

telling his son. "We came to see the Stones. But, wow! These guys are some

bonus."

The final new song, "Do The Evolution," featured Gossard playing a churning

punked-up locomotive guitar, while Vedder shouted a sort of tongue-in-cheek

call to arms, "Do the evolution, baby!" This tune featured Gossard doing a

cameo, offering a background falsetto on the chorus.

"We'll play one more and then the real party starts," Vedder finally told the

crowd.

While there was certainly much more to celebrate that night as the Stones

offered a sensational, if not surreal two-hour performance of their bluesy

rock classics accompanied by a stage that metamorphosed throughout the night,

shot giant flames into the full-mooned sky, billowed a smoky fog across the

arena and exploded confetti that floated like stars above the crowd, the

party, as Vedder put it, had already begun.

The energy was flowing. The night was electric.

In perhaps one of the more impressive acts of production, the Stones stage

crew even launched an hydraulic bridge that carried the band over the audience

to a smaller stage at the center of the stadium.

What some may not have realized, however, as the Stones traversed that

bridge, was that Pearl Jam, about an hour earlier, had crossed a bridge of

their own.

Only their music carried them.

[Mon., Nov. 17, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]