Pearl Jam wowed the Bonnaroo crowd with a three-hour performance late Saturday, returning the band to the grand stage of a music festival.
In the midst of their concert — which went almost an hour longer than scheduled — lead singer Eddie Vedder acknowledged that the band thought they might never again play such a show — and “with good reason.” In the summer of 2000, nine fans were trampled during Pearl Jam’s performance at Denmark’s Roskilde Festival — an experience that shook the band.
There were no mishaps at Bonnaroo, though, and Vedder’s faith in festivals appeared to be restored.
“After seeing B.B. King and Jack Johnson and Cat Power, it makes you realize how it can work and be really ... great,” Vedder said, referring to acts that played earlier Saturday. Pearl Jam also played Lollapalooza last year.
If he wasn’t already, Vedder appeared completely converted to the joys of mega festivals when the band played “Better Man.” The audience sang along and lifted lighters in the air, and only then did Vedder realize how large the crowd was. He muttered, “That’s ... beautiful.”
Pearl Jam was the main stage headliner Saturday at the annual Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, which is held on a giant 700-acre site south of Nashville.
The Friday night bill was led by comedian Chris Rock, who was followed by Metallica. Though the heavy metal band played a generally admired set, the Pearl Jam audience seemed larger and arguably more enthusiastic.
Vedder spoke frequently on politics and the need for change.
“It is proven that this many people can change world,” Vedder said to the tens of thousands. “This has to be the time. It can’t get any worse.”
Others playing Saturday included Ben Folds, Against Me!, Sigur Ros and B.B. King, who was honored with the key to Manchester by the city’s mayor, Betty Superstein. King, 82, showed his age by performing — as he has for years — seated. He rattled off a list of ailments: diabetes, a bad back, bad knees.
“I can’t remember anything, but I can remember that I am now 82 years old,” he said as the audience applauded. King showed he could still put on an excellent show.
Early Saturday began with a deluge that came while My Morning Jacket performed their late night set through the early morning hours. The Louisville-based outfit is something like the Bonnaroo house band; this was their fifth time at the festival.
Though the heat had broken, the band’s singer Jim James led them into a cover of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” and later, a funky cover of Funkadelic’s classic “Hit it and Quit.” My Morning Jacket, long a rising star, again cemented its reputation as a pre-eminent live performer.
The sun later emerged as Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings brought their warm, old-school soul to the Bonnaroo masses, who cheered wildly.
“I wear this dress so I can shake it,” Jones informed the crowd, calling it her “Tina Turner dress”.
The four-day festival was to come to a close Sunday with performances scheduled for Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Death Cab for Cutie and Widespread Panic, among others.