Now comfortably into the new millennium, it seems challenging to characterize a certain musical genre which accurately encompasses the vibe of our current music scene. Other than possibly the rise of several rap and hip hop artists, listeners of today’s music may one day have difficulty determining the sound that truly defined their generation. With now more than two decades passed, the dust is still settling from the explosion of the Seattle ‘grunge’ sensation that left 80’s hair bands reaching for their last bottle of Aqua Net. Not since then have we witnessed a more powerful movement which spoke so prominently to a fragile youth.
Evidence voiced the appeal of the alternative rock form as Detroit’s motown legacy took a backseat to one of its creators, the innovative Eddie Vedder. For one evening, the elegant Fox Theater was transformed into a living room-style intimate setting which played host to Vedder’s solo acoustic tour. With Scotland’s Glen Hansard as opener, igniting his own fan base in the crowd, Vedder was welcomed with thunderous appreciation. It was evident that his depth as an artist penetrated even the most fickle of blue-collar Michigan residents raised on a healthy dose of Bob Seger, Kid Rock and Ted Nugent. Enough could not be said for the loyal, appreciative and committed fans who were more than willing to rise up and shake their fists at each and all of Vedder’s anthems.
Several unique theatre backdrops draped the center stage stool aptly surrounded by a collection of guitars for the legend. His unique baritone voice and poetic lyrics echoed through the hall as the familiar catalogue of Pearl Jam hits mingled with solo material and the occasional well-placed cover. In particular, “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town”, “Without You” and “I Am Mine”, captured the raw emotion of a passionate song writer. Moving from electric and acoustic guitar to ukulele, Eddie revealed his unique flair as he displayed his proficiency on each.
A few odd moments were noted in the show as Vedder’s botched a cappella attempt at “The Wolf” caused him to resort back to his original intention of performing the song on the pump organ. Also, forgetting the lyrics midway through one of his songs bringing it to an abrupt halt, almost seemed to work to his advantage, as the laid-back atmosphere catered to the unpredictable.
Vedder’s version of several cover songs revealed his own musical preferences. Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done” and Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open the Door” showed his love for classic rock & roll. Reaching back even further into the musical archives was an interesting rendition of The Everly Brothers’ “Sleepless Nights” performed with Hansard without microphones. As well, attributing the evening’s unscheduled performance to friend and retired star Red Wing defensemen Chris Chelios, Eddie dedicated Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” in gratitude. However, by far the most impressive selection outside of Vedder’s own work that evening was “Falling Slowly” joined again in seamless harmony with Hansard. The ballad was originally created in Glen’s duo The Swell Season alongside classically trained Czeck pianist and vocalist Markéta Irglová.
Though the term ‘alternative’ in today’s elusive music industry demands a far broader umbrella encompassing other subcategories aside from ‘grunge’, the Seattle sound has been no doubt influential and has undeniably collapsed many prior musical borders. And with Eddie Vedder continuing his solo tour throughout the U.S., he will certainly keep this vital music form “Alive”.