Live Report | Pearl Jam Live in Chicago 2023

I’ll Ride The Wave, Where It Takes Me…

By Michael Ryan Kravetsky
Photos courtesy of United Center/Kena Krutsinger
Thanks to Pearl Jam‘s management and their crew

The waves took me to the United Center in Chicago, Illinois last night for the first Pearl Jam show back in Chicago since The Away Shows at Wrigley Field in 2018. It was my first time in the United Center and was very cool to be in the building that Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls made famous/battled epic games and won 6 championships, seeing Jordan’s retired 23 banner hanging from the rafters was pretty damn cool.

Pearl Jam took the stage shortly after 8:50pm and as Ed walked on the stage, he greeted the crowd with a wave and then gifted us Release and Low Light as the first 2 songs of the evening. This is the first time Release was played on this tour and I thought about the last time I heard it at Madison Square Garden almost a year ago (last September). I thought about those that are no longer with us physically but still with us spiritually and with the energy they left on this earth that surrounds us. Then Ed’s Jumbo acoustic guitar was handed to him by Simon; Ed, Josh, and Boom played Just Breathe which I honestly wasn’t expecting so early in the set, but fit perfectly with the vibe of the band and evening, since the fellas are continuing to start their shows seated for the first few songs and mix things up.

The rest of the band returned to the stage for an amazing version of Retrograde which they started seated and then slowly individually stood up. It’s been great to see Retrograde become a new fan favorite, especially with the amazing lyrics “Hear the sound in the distance, now / Could be thunder / Or a crowd”; the crowd really took its cue last night and was special to hear that thunderous Chicago crowd roar inside the United Center!

With the full band now standing, the setlist for the night turned into a rocking one – kicking into Who Ever Said, Corduroy, and then i think the best version of Gods’ Dice I’ve heard since the Binaural Tour (last played in 2018). Then into Faithfull, Quick Escape, and epic version of Animal which Ed mentioned before playing the song Jeff recently told him he thought the use of the song Animal in the TV show The Bear, was one of the best cinematic uses of their music he had ever seen/heard.

Light Years was also a nice surprise, I think the fans appreciate these Binaural songs being played in these first few shows. It’s really amazing to see how hard the band has worked to play more diverse songs from their catalog and to beautifully work them into the setlist, along with the new Gigaton songs. I know Ed and the band work hard to make this happen it’s extra noticeable, seriously i think Pearl Jam is getting better and better… Like a fine bottle of Eddies wine!

At this point I’m pretty thirsty and could use some water or a drink but honestly it was just amazing song after amazing song, and I didn’t want to miss anything going to get a drink, I couldn’t leave to get a drink with this setlist! Continuing to surf through their albums the band launched into Even Flow, Dance Of The Clairvoyants, and then Matt Cameron started playing those thunderous intro drums for In My Tree.

If you haven’t heard In My Tree live, you need to as it’s always something special, the way Ed engages and sings to the crowd it almost feels like a deeper connection on this song. Singing these lyrics with the entire United Center last night instantly took me back to hearing this song for the first time at Randall’s Island, NY in 1996 and singing our hearts out that night as well!

Wave to all my friends, yeah
They don’t seem to notice me, no
All their eyes trained on the street, yo, oh
Sidewalk cigarettes and scenes, (tem-pted)
Up here so high I start to shake
Up here so high the sky I scrape
I’m so high I hold just one breath here within my chest
Just like innocence.” – In My Tree

Comatose was also played last night for the first time since 2018 and they closed the first set out taking us back to Vs. with and amazing version of Rearviewmirror, which left me and other fans in awe of what we all just experienced and witnessed.

The Encore kicked off with Ed returning to the stage solo for an amazing version of Throw Your Arms Around Me where the crowd lit up the entire arena with the phones. Since there was no back drop/big screens the entire venue was sold out. This almost made it in-the-round with a wide open stage. The band really made use of the big open stage connecting with the fans/crowd and even playing Wishlist to the back of the stage crowd. While playing the guitar Ed started to play Matt’s drum kit at the end using his hat brim to hit the symbols and playing the kick drum as well as he played guitar. Jeff saw what Ed was doing and was laughing, as was I.

Photo: Michael Ryan Kravetsky

Taking things back to the front of the stage they launched into a rocking version of Not For You with everyone around me singing their hearts out on this one. Followed by classics Better Man and Alive and then a surprise ending with an extra rocking Cheap Trick cover of Surrender, one of Mike’s favorite songs. I think everyone was singing their hearts out throughout the entire encore. It was such a rocking song choice to end the night and without Yellow Ledbetter or Indifference it’s almost like the show didn’t end… it’s just intermission until Night 2 Thursday!

Tickets still available here:

Pearl Jam | 09/05/23 United Center, Chicago, IL

Opening Band: Inhaler

Setlist: [Intro Music: Phillip Glass – Metamorphosis TwoRelease, Low Light, Just Breathe, Retrograde, Who Ever Said, Corduroy, Gods’ Dice, Faithfull, Quick Escape, Animal, Light Years, Even Flow, Dance Of The Clairvoyants, In My Tree, Comatose, Down, Rearviewmirror

Encore: Throw Your Arms Around Me (Hunters & Collectors), Inside Job, Wishlist, Not For You, Better Man/ Save It For Later (The English Beat), Alive / War Pigs (Black Sabbath), Surrender (Cheap Trick)


Photos courtesy of United Center/Kena Krutsinger
Photos BY Michael Ryan Kravetsky