If you were driving down Louisiana Street on Monday evening, you might have noticed an unusual throng of flannel-clad twenty- and thirtysomethings milling around Jones Hall.
Though not a typical sight in front of the austere home of the Houston Symphony, it was understandable considering the words on the venue's marquee: "Eddie Vedder, with special guest Glen Hansard" glowed above a long line of eager fans waiting for the doors to open.
Monday's performance marked nearly 10 years since Eddie Vedder, well-known front man of Pearl Jam and recently accomplished solo artist, has performed in Houston, and the first time he has played here without his band.
To give a little perspective here, the Houston Astros have been to a World Series more recently than Eddie Vedder has played in Houston.
To give a little perspective here, the Houston Astros have been to a World Series more recently than Eddie Vedder has played in H-Town. This city's long wait was not lost on the 47-year-old singer.
"It's nice to be here in Houston, Texas tonight," Vedder said early in his set. "I was counting the numbers before the show, and it's hard to believe, but the group that I'm in, we've only played Texas, all total, in 22 years, about 15 times."
Finally given this opportunity to vent, many fans excitedly proclaimed "We KNOW!" before Vedder playfully retorted with a plea that he was there presently and that he would report back to "the fellows," depending on how well the evening went.
As the set continued, Vedder relied heavily on his solo material from 2007's Into The Wild soundtrack, but also performed favorites from his 2011 solo album Ukulele Songs and enough Pearl Jam songs to satisfy the large number of Ten Club members in attendance.
A sonorous sound
Drawing from such a wide range of material and equipped with an arsenal of acoustic guitar, mandolin and ukulele, the songs sounded natural in a sonorous environment like Jones Hall. This offered a welcome change of pace from the most recent Pearl Jam show played in The Woodlands back in 2003, which was a more raucous, political affair.
Vedder, a professed audiophile, took multiple opportunities throughout the set to relish in the rich tone that the venue lent to his unmistakable baritone. As often as the songs allowed, the performer let loose with a series of vocal and instrumental embellishments.
Vedder, a professed audiophile, took multiple opportunities throughout the set to relish in the rich tone that the venue lent to his unmistakable baritone.
During Pearl Jam favorites like "Immortality," "I Am Mine" and "Porch" — songs that are arguably incomplete without the dynamic of Vedder's band — the singer held his own by furiously strumming textured rhythms that worked surprisingly well in this context.
It's as if Vedder was channeling rather than defying his band mates; a comforting thought if the growing number of side projects from various members of Pearl Jam has fans worried about the band's future.
Vedder has always worn his influences on his shoulder, and Monday evening’s performance was no exception. Not including the impromptu lyrical lead-ins from Pink Floyd and Perry Farrell songs, nearly a quarter of the set contained covers spanning generations of American music — Tom Waits, Cat Power, Buddy Holly and James Taylor, to name a few.
As covers go, the singer made each song his own. "Good Woman" by Cat Power was introduced by Vedder as a song that he considers to be about the girl in "Better Man," if she had made the right decision. Similarly, Waits' "Picture in a Frame," when performed by Vedder, sounds like a soothing children's lullaby in addition to being a charming love song in its own right.
During the first encore, Vedder graciously invited his opening act, Glen Hansard of the Irish group The Frames, to accompany him on a few songs before Hansard performed his own Oscar-winning composition, "Falling Slowly," with Vedder himself taking a verse.
In keeping with that communal spirit, the evening concluded with a triumphant rendition of "Hard Sun" from the Into The Wild soundtrack, with Vedder joined by Hansard, a talented fan from the audience and a packed house full of energetic fans singing along with nearly a decade's worth of pent-up gusto.
Vedder will play a second show at Jones Hall on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. As both shows were rescheduled from the original soldout April dates, your best bet on getting in may be through a third party vendor.