Pearl Jam's opening show in a two-night stint turned into a family affair Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center, with lead singer Eddie Vedder serenading a young couple who'd gotten married there, as well as a young boy with autism, and a 13-year-old celebrating his birthday - at his first Pearl Jam concert.

The set list for the grunge-rock super band started with walk-on music "Master/Slave" as Pearl Jam took stage at 8:38 p.m. before a nearly sold-out crowd. The band was slated to return to the Wells Fargo Friday night.

On Thursday, band members Jeff Ament, Matt Cameron, Stone Gossard and Mike McCready played several old favorites - wasn't everyone waiting for "Even Flow"? - although they didn't play chart-topping "Black."

For diehard fans, the set list included many favorites and some new material: "Once," "Animal," "Gonna See My Friend," "All Night," "Mind Your Manners" (at which point Vedder introduced Ament as a master musician on the bass and the talented songwriter of the next song), "Low Light," "Wishlist," and "Love Boat Captain."

Vedder paused to talk about the band's charitable work: "This is for Joshua. He is nine. There is a great organization called Given To Live that made it possible for him to be here."

They then played "Given To Fly" and, finally, "Even Flow," with thundering bass and drums.

Vedder was his usual mumbling, chatty self onstage between songs and spent some time praising drummer Cameron and joking about his "amazing memory. I don't know if Matt has ever 'inhaled' but I think he may have at least once when he wrote this song."

Vedder also took a brief political detour to discuss the merits of medical marijuana, before the band broke into "In the Moonlight."

Vedder then asked to shine a stage light on a basketball jersey hanging from the rafters. "That guy lived about 20 feet higher than anybody. Dr. J, Julius Erving," he said, referring to the retired 76ers basketball phenom.

The remainder of the first set included "In My Tree," "Jeremy," "Education," "Unthought Known," "Do the Evolution," "Lightning Bolt," and "Porch," followed by a break.

At that point, Vedder started serenading various fans, including the newly married couple.

"I think this is a first," he said. "We have had some people meet at shows. I think in Italy at least one couple conceived their child at a show. But I hear that Pat and Eden got married in Suite 25 at the show," Veder said, turning to face the back balcony.

"I tried to find the most romantic song I could for you," he added, and the couple were featured on the huge concert screen for much of the next song, "Picture in a Frame," by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan. Vedder played the acoustic guitar by himself, a soulful tribute.

As the second set began, there was some confusion with guitar tunings and, after the opening chord, Vedder joked that a guitar must have "gotten into his wine."

Cameron began strumming "Angie" by the Rolling Stones, and Vedder sang about 40 seconds of the first verse. That was followed by "Oceans," and Vedder reminiscing about Ament's art collection. Then came a tribute to the Seattle sound, "Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns," a Mother Love Bone song from 1990.

For the encore, Pearl Jam finished with "Save You," "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town," sung to the crowd in the seats behind the stage, and "Crazy Mary."

Vedder had by then changed into a Rocky T-shirt and an American flag robe thrown up to the stage from the floor crowd, as he sang "State of Love and Trust."

But there was still a song everyone was waiting for, and then the band boomed "Alive." The mostly Gen-X crowd put down their phones to rock out.

As the concert came to an end, McCready walked down into the pit to let fans strum his guitar for "Indifference."

Vedder also stood on the barricade singing, but he's 51 now, so there's no more mosh pit.

earvedlund@phillynews.com
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