Vedder and His Fans, Both Outspoken

Monday, August 18, 2008

Eddie Vedder's first ever solo show in D.C., Saturday night at the Warner Theatre, afforded the Pearl Jam frontman a chance to turn down the volume and connect with his fans on a more personal and intimate level. Unfortunately, some rambunctious members of the sold-out crowd saw it as their best opportunity to communicate with Vedder. So they yelled.

A lot. Everything from random sports teams to every song in the Pearl Jam catalogue to more chants of "Edd-ie" than the entire 1983 Baltimore Orioles season.

"Take it easy on all the shouting. It's affecting my professional output," said a clearly annoyed but still good-natured Vedder about halfway through the 2 1/2 -hour show. Finally, the noisy folks piped down enough for everyone to enjoy a freewheeling, often captivating show in which Vedder cracked jokes, offered political thoughts and played more than two dozen songs ranging from the Pearl Jam catalogue to his "Into the Wild" soundtrack work and classic covers.

"Sometimes" was transformed from an introspective Pearl Jam ballad to a stomping solo electric rocker. (Literally -- Vedder pounded his boot on the stage for accompaniment.) "Rise," from "Into the Wild," featured Vedder on mandolin. One Beatles cover ("You've Got to Hide Your Love Away") proved that Vedder's booming baritone is still one of rock's most impressive instruments, while another ("Blackbird") showcased his ever-improving skills on acoustic guitar.

There was as much liberal political commentary as you would expect from the notoriously outspoken Vedder as he performed just a few blocks from the White House. "The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is in itself a political statement," he said, defending himself against those who think he should stick to the music. His pro-Obama, antiwar platform was mildly presented, but a snarling cover of Dylan's "Masters of War" ("And I'll stand over your grave till I'm sure that you're dead") that ended with a knocked-over microphone stand featuring an Bush mask impaled on top said it all.

-- David Malitz

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