Pearl Jam sick, but not tired during 1995 Vitology Tour live set

In 1995, Pearl Jam toured in support of the Seattle grunge pioneers’ third studio album, Vitology, selling out venues in Japan and several other Asian countries as well as Australia, New Zealand, and the United States—the latter focused on summer dates in the Midwest, Southwest, and on the West Coast. The Vitalogy Tour featured the original lineup of Eddie Vedder (lead vocals, guitar, accordion), Jeff Ament (bass guitar, vocals), Stone Gossard (guitar, mellotron, vocals), and Mike McCready (guitar, vocals). Red Hot Chili Peppers original drummer, Jack Irons, replaced the ousted Dave Abbruzzese, who played his last beats for Pearl Jam on Vitology.

The Vitology Tour was marred by various troubles. The most disrupting mishap involved a June 1995 show in front of 50,000 fans at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Vedder was in the hospital just prior to the concert suffering from food poisoning, and despite making a valiant effort to get through seven of the set’s 20 songs, good friend Neil Young stepped in to complete the show. Vedder's health forced the band to cancel several remaining dates on the U.S. leg of the tour, but on July 11, 1995, the band headed to Soldiers Field in Chicago for a memorable performance that was broadcast on FM radio.

Chicago 1995 is a dual-CD recording of the broadcast via Smokin’ Records. Subtitled “the classic Illinois broadcast,” the nearly three-hour show encompassed 32 songs on the same stage the Grateful Dead had played on two days earlier. It was the Dead’s final show at Soldier Field, and the culmination of the legendary band’s 1995 summer tour (Jerry Garcia would die in his sleep less than a month later).

Recording their concerts for FM radio broadcast was a frequent tactic employed by Pearl Jam on the 1995 tour, dubbing the practice “Monkeywrench Radio.” The Chicago show also marks something of a milestone in the band’s career. While there would be other notable nights during the tour, the Soldier Field performance is hailed as “one of the last times the band went all out in its pursuit of the cosmic, leaving battered guitars and vocals in its stead,” according to a review by Amazon.com.

A post-concert review by the Chicago Tribune related how Pearl Jam “blasted through most of its three albums, a handful of new songs and covers of Sly Stone's ‘Everyday People’ and Pete Townshend's ‘Let My Love Open the Door.’” The “spartan stage devoid of gimmicks” was also noted along with the “general easygoing demeanor” of the estimated 43,000 concert goers. Vedder did, however, try to shake up the audience by voicing his displeasure over service fees charged by a popular ticket sales outlet.

The Tribune concluded that rumors of the band’s demise due to “the wave of cancellations and Vedder's recent bout with the stomach flu” were unfounded. The paper emphasized the Pearl Jam that performed at Soldier Field “looked and sounded like a band very much in it for the long haul,” adding the music was “tautly performed” and the strength of the opening acts [Chicago blues artist Otis Rush and Southern California punk band Bad Religion] was “testament to Pearl Jam's determination to let music prevail on this night. And it did.”

Watch Pearl Jam in a live performance of ‘Alive’ during the band’s 1995 concert at Soldier Field in Chicago.




As A Matter of Fact…

* Pearl Jam was formed in 1990 by bassist Jeff Ament, guitarist Stone Gossard, and guitarist Mike McCready, who later recruited vocalist Eddie Vedder and drummer Dave Krusen. The band signed to Epic Records in 1991, adding drummer Dave Abbruzzese a few months after the completion of the band's debut studio album, Ten.

* The first album was a breakthrough success led by signature singles ‘Alive,’ ‘Even Flow,’ and ‘Jeremy,’ making it one of the best-selling alternative albums of the 1990s. After intense touring, Pearl Jam recorded second album, Vs., which features the No. 1 single ‘Daughter’ and spent five weeks atop the Billboard 200—setting a record for most copies of an album sold in a week.

* In 1994, third studio album, Vitalogy, became Pearl Jam’s third straight album to go multi-platinum. Former Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Jack Irons joined the band for the subsequent Vitology Tour and to record No Code (1996) and Yield (1998). The group also scored its highest-charting single on the Billboard Hot 100 when its remake of the early ‘60s classic, ‘Last Kiss,’ peaked at No. 2 on the pop chart.

* Former Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron joined Pearl Jam in 1998 and appears on sixth studio album, Binaural, released in 2000. The band also launched its series of “official bootlegs” of live albums, releasing 72 of the discs in 2000-2001 to set a record for most albums to debut in the Billboard 200 at the same time.

* Pearl Jam’s last album for Epic is 2002's Riot Act, moving to J Records in 2006 for a one-record deal that resulted in the release of their self-titled eighth studio album. Subsequent releases including Backspacer (2009) and Lightning Bolt (2010) are on the band’s own Monkeywrench Records with distribution via Republic Records.

* Pearl Jam has released 10 studio albums, eight live albums, three compilations, 32 singles, and numerous official bootlegs. An estimated 32 million albums have been sold in the U.S. alone—approximately 60 million worldwide—including all of the band's live official bootlegs.

* Pearl Jam has earned two Grammy Awards including Best Hard Rock Performance for ‘Spin the Black Circle,’ and Best Recording Package for the Lightning Bolt album. Other recognition includes five American Music Awards, four MTV Video Music Awards, and a Golden Globe nomination as Best Original Song for ‘Man of the Hour’ from the film “Big Fish.

* Pearl Jam Tour 2016 kicks off April 8 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and continues for 20 more dates through August. Highlights include the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (April 23), Madison Square Garden in New York City (May 1-2), Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn. (June 9), Fenway Park in Boston (Aug. 5, 7), and Wrigley Field in Chicago (Aug. 20, 22).

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