'98's Best: Pearl Jam Begin Tour In Maui

Hawaiian audience treated to first show of band's 1998 world tour.

[Editor's note: Over the holiday season, SonicNet is looking back at

1998's top stories, chosen by our editors and writers. This story originally ran on Monday, Feb. 23.]

MAUI, Hawaii -- As the palm trees swayed in the tradewinds and the sun set on the Maui

Cultural Arts Center in Kahului, Maui, on Friday night, a sold-out crowd of 5,000 people witnessed the opening show of Pearl Jam's first world tour in two years.

Under a starry sky, the audience waited expectantly. The teenagers in

attendance made their way toward the stage, some of the over-40 crowd sat

around drinking wine and everyone else seemed to be sharing Pearl Jam concert war stories. Rumors flew that Neil Young would join the band onstage -- he didn't.

"If the show had been on Oahu it wouldn't have been as

good," said fan Kona Bridges, who had flown to Maui from Oahu for the concert. "Being over here made it a hell of a lot better. They come over here and there is just such a vibe, it's so peaceful."

Pearl Jam chose Maui for the tour opener for one main reason: surfing. "Eddie's made it really

clear," said webmaster Caryn Rose, who runs the

Five Horizons (http://www.fivehorizons.com) Pearl Jam site. "That's his focus."

"I wish I

was a 5-foot wave breaking on the North Shore," sang Vedder during the set, improvising a lyric for "Wishlist," one of many songs the group played from its new album, Yield.

Introducing another new one, "Do the Evolution," Vedder told the audience, "This is an island, surrounded by

water, we all came from water, it's all about evolution."

Actually, nearly everything

about their performance alluded to progression. The eclectic Seattle rock outfit was back, and the growth in evidence on their No Code and Yield albums informed their live performance.

Clad in a Hawaiian shirt, Vedder at times assumed the

sexy swagger of the late leader of the Doors, Jim Morrison, and at other times leaned over

the microphone, motionless, delivering the lyrics.

The

rest of the band -- guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready, bassist Jeff Ament and drummer Jack Irons -- seemed to have outgrown their high-jumping stage antics in

favor of more dynamic musical expression. Performing songs such as "Given to

Fly," their current radio hit, Pearl Jam demonstrated a new ability to

explore both the loud and quiet sides of rock 'n' roll.

The two-hour set included songs from all five of the band's albums. They

played old songs such as "Jeremy" and "Even Flow" from Ten to the delight of the

crowd, picked up acoustic guitars and ran through "Daughter" off

Vs. and delivered "Better Man" and "Spin the Black Circle" from Vitalogy. And there was plenty of rock-solid new material such as Yield's punky opener, "Brain of J," and the powerful "Do the

Evolution."

Of course, it was opening night, and all the kinks clearly hadn't been worked out. The band sounded a little rough around the edges. Vedder's voice cracked from

time to time during "Jeremy," and the last verse in "Wishlist" was

mysteriously dropped. Throwing down a microphone in apparent

frustration, Vedder told the crowd, "I just wanted this to be perfect."

It may not have been perfect, but it was heartfelt, and the Maui crowd loved it.

"Their heart and soul was into it," said Honolulu resident Steve Neumeier. "And that's what matters most." [Mon., Feb. 23, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]