Vedder’s voice steals show
Eddie Vedder has been giving a lot of props to his ukulele, saying that the tiny stringed instrument is the real star of his recent solo album. And in his performance last night at the Citi Performing Arts Center’s Wang Theatre, the Pearl Jam singer did begin with a batch of ukulele songs. But it became clear pretty quickly that the ukuleles, guitars, and mandolins were not the most important instruments on stage. Rather the most entrancing musical element was simply Vedder’s voice.
Without the oomph of Pearl Jam around him, Vedder delivered a relaxed but intense two-hour performance that put his husky-yet-wavering vocal tone in a whole new light.
After bashing away on one uke through the opener, “Waving Palms,’’ Vedder captured the lighthearted tone of his new album. He was quick to play off of “Youk’’ chants familiar to the Fenway faithful, but it was ultimately the music that sold a concept most people probably thought was a crazy self-indulgence.
Nobody seemed disappointed, however, when Vedder swapped the ukuleles for an electric guitar to deliver a terse “Dead Man Walking.’’ It was a song choice symbolic for the night, as Vedder pulled oddball bits from his soundtrack and solo work, as well as Pearl Jam deep cuts.
Though casual and affable, Vedder still tackled serious themes of resolve and fortitude, with “Guaranteed,’’ “I Am Mine,’’ and “Unthought Known’’ surfacing as powerful statements couched in fetching tunes.
After a dark and vexing “Immortality,’’ Vedder again put his voice front and center with the vocal chant “Arc’’ to end the regular set.
Vedder tapped the Pearl Jam catalog for crowd-pleasing encores of “Wishlist’’ and “Porch’’ and had opener Glen Hansard join in for the ballad “Sleepless Nights,’’ rocker “Hard Sun,’’ and others. Vedder also delivered Victoria Williams’s thoughtful character sketch “Crazy Mary’’ and Bruce Springsteen’s rambling rocker “Open All Night.’’
Hansard, known for his work with The Swell Season and The Frames, turned in a galvanizing solo performance, which was all the more stunning in that he played mostly new and unfamiliar songs.
Scott McLennan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.