photos and review by Jim Bennett
Jeff Ament grew up working summers on a farm next door to Jon Tester’s farm in the tiny Montana town of Big Sandy (pop. 700). Now, Jeff has been playing with Pearl Jam for over 20 years and Jon Tester is a U.S. Senator. In true Pearl Jam style — supporting the people they care about and believe in — the band came to Montana to play a benefit gig to support Jon Tester’s re-election.
The band played a monster set at the Adams Event Center on the University of Montana campus on September 30 to support Senator Tester. The ticket was a hard one to get, and at only about 5500 capacity, the event center felt really intimate. The band played 29 songs, including some great politically charged covers (“Know Your Rights” by the Clash, “Fortunate Son” by Creedence, “Rockin In The Free World” by Neil Young) and a terrific balls-out version of “Kick Out The Jams” led by Mudhoney frontman Mark Arm on vocals and guitarist Steve Turner providing ripping fills.
Pearl Jam have dedicated, dedicated fans, no doubt. This show highlighted the best version of what that looks like – fans carrying entire verses of songs, tons of interaction, a general admission floor that never got horribly packed/painful for attendees from the looks of it. The crowd was around the stage on four sides, and the band made a point of playing to everyone. At one point, they set up facing the back of the stage and played an entire song just to those sitting in the seats facing that direction.
Jeff’s parents were there, and he thanked them from the stage (perhaps for the first time?), as did Eddie Vedder. Favorites and rarities, acoustic and electric, every song building throughout the night.
It really felt like a gathering of friends and family, despite the thousands of people on hand. It’s a rare band that can pull that off with genuine sincerity, and they did in spades.