An outstanding evening of music thrilled fans in Kentucky as Pearl Jam dominates the Rupp Arena.

It had been a long wait, 13 years to be exact, for Pearl Jam to return to Lexington, Kentucky. On this rainy Tuesday night, 18,000 fans packed the Rupp Arena in anticipation of a memorable evening. The excitement before the show was unmistakable as fans were overheard comparing their hopes for their favorite song to be performed.

Every Pearl Jam concert features a different set list and this evening was no different. A huge ovation welcomed Eddie Vedder, guitarist Stone Gossard, bassist Jeff Ament, guitarist Mike McCready, and drummer Matt Cameron to the stage.

With the house lights up, they started with “Lightning Bolt” and “Mind Your Manners” from their most recent album. Fans roared and the night was off to a great start.

The next three songs came from the early catalog with “Animal,” “Why Go,” and “Deep” followed by “Satan’s Bed.” They wrapped the block of tracks with an acoustic sing-along of “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town.”

With the crowd well warmed up, Pearl Jam launch into one of their biggest hits, “Corduroy,” that had the throngs singing along with Eddie.

They slowed things down to let everyone catch their breath with the fan favorite, “Sirens.”

Eddie dedicated the next song to the “intellectuals” in the crowd, noting that the Rupp Arena is the home of the Kentucky University Wildcats. “Did any of us graduate?” he asked the other members of the band, laughing. “Don’t tell our kids!” he added as they performed “Education,” for the first time since 2011.

Cheers erupted across the arena as the opening chords of “Evenflow” were played. During the song, Mike McCready was at the barrier playing guitar behind his head. Eddie threw his mic into the crowd during the final chorus so that fans could sing; it was a great show moment.

“Spin the Black Circle” from Vitalogy was next, followed by Eddie pausing to acknowledge those in the military. “We have played in front of a lot of veterans on this tour,” said Eddie. “We know some veterans are here tonight, and we are glad you are. We hope the government pays attention and takes care of our veterans.” They rolled from there into “Army Reserve” marking another memorable moment.

With Jeff Ament now behind an upright bass, Pearl Jam launched into another huge hit, “Daughter,” which included a brief segue into Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.” The venue responded energetically with shouts and applause.

The final few songs of the set featured “1/2 Full” followed by “Given to Fly.” During the later, Mike McCready played directly to the fans behind the stage making sure they didn’t feel ignored.

While playing “Swallowed Whole,” Eddie used his guitar to reflect an overhead stage light into the crowd.

“Lukin” followed, and then an insane rendition of the anthem, “Rearviewmirror” that ended their set.

Their encore began with Eddie on a stool at center stage with an acoustic guitar and harmonica.

He thanked everyone for coming out and said, “We still have lots left,” which brought a roar from the crowd.

Eddie also took a moment to make a solid political statement; “Kentucky recently made some news that kind of surprised me with our intolerance around a couple of LGBT issues.” Noting that Kentucky is such a beautiful state, he complimented the audience over the fact that Kentucky failed to pass two anti-LGBT laws recently, saying, “It only adds to the beauty here.”

He also mentioned that “sometimes we don’t understand things, but we should support them because support causes love and love creates a better community and tolerance.” He then performed a poignant solo acoustic cover of the Beatles’ “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.”

Eddie dedicated the next song to Mathew and Lindsey; they attend a lot of shows and are having a tough time right now. Eddie mentioned that Matthew needs support, and he planned to send him a recording of the next track. He urged everyone to join the chorus as they began to play “Just Breathe.”

With the entire band now on stage and Jeff again behind his upright bass, they performed “Thumbing My Way” before rolling into a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” (dedicated to Louisville author Mark Wilkerson and his book about heroic Iraq War veteran Tomas Young).

The final three songs of the night were “Do the Evolution” followed by a cover of the Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer” with the classic “Porch” ending the encore.

After a few minutes had passed, Pearl Jam came back on stage for a second encore, complete with Mike McCready donning a University of Kentucky Wildcats shirt.

Eddie, with a harmonica around his neck, starts the set off with “Smile” along with an Edward Holland Jr. cover of “Leaving Here” and a rendition of “Black” that was simply fantastic.

The entire arena burst into cheers with the first chords of “Better Man.” They digressed with a brief interlude to play a part of “Save It for Later” by English Beat, to the approval of fans.

Incredibly after more than 2 ½ hours, there was still more to come, including the classic Pearl Jam hit, “Alive.” The energy level within the venue reached a fevered pitch.

With the house lights up, Pearl Jam rolled into a raucous cover of “Baba O’Riley” from The Who complete with Eddie playing a number of tambourines that he later threw out to the fans close to the stage.

Finally, after nearly three hours, the night ended with “Yellow Ledbetter.” As Pearl Jam took their final bow and left the stage, the throngs of fans breathed a collective sigh. They were tired and spent, but satisfied. The concert was a memorable performance that will be talked of for some time to come.

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Rupp Arena
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