Pearl Jam have stayed vital in their fourth decade. Their most recent albums, like 2020’s Gigaton and 2013’s Lightning Bolt, feel sturdy and reassuring — music for functional adults, performed by functional people. They’ve successfully dodged the demons that tragically felled their grunge-era peers. You get the sense that these industry linchpins have shiny trucks, adorable dogs, loving families and spectacular homes — all while enjoying the love and respect of their global music community.
So it was appropriate that their first-ever performance at Harlem’s beyond-historic Apollo Theater, which took place on Saturday, September 10th, was thrown by SiriusXM, for subscribers, contest winners and other assorted VIPs. Prior to the show in the lobby, aproned waitstaff handed out IPAs and rosé while weekend-warrior Gen Xers lined up for free tee shirts, against a slick-looking, wall-sized timeline of their albums.
Onstage, a chirpy host — flanked by technicians — announced that the show would be broadcast to millions, which added to the once-in-a-lifetime feeling of the gig, one night before a more conventional show at Madison Square Garden (grab tickets to their upcoming tour dates here). The still-muscular Pearl Jam seem incapable of playing a lackluster show; you got the sense that barrels of money were poured into this deal. This means that this intimate show would be a slick, predictable affair, right? An Instagram-ready romp shared between finance-bro types? Wrong.