Eddie Vedder Shouts Out Kreepy Tiki, Booby Trap at Pearl Jam's Tour Kickoff in Sunrise

After a 20-year hiatus from playing Fort Lauderdale, Pearl Jam returned to the BB&T Center on Friday night to kick off its latest North American tour.

The arena was invaded by a decidedly middle-aged demographic, with fans donning band T's, graying ponytails, and throwback goatees. One even sported a Vedder jersey, in honor of frontman Eddie Vedder.

Dressed in a black crop top, plum skinny jeans, and platform wedges, my 25-year-old self might have been slightly out of place. The last time I heard “Alive” played out was in Murphy's Law at the Hard Rock years ago — when Dennis Rodman actually jumped onstage and sang with the cover band. 

Could tonight possibly live up to that moment?

Getting to our seats, my friend and I noted the lack of a single empty chair in the place, a swarming general-admission pit area in front of the stage, and plenty of beers in hands. As the smell of pot lingered in the air, my two immediate thoughts were: “Damn, these people still party” and “Traffic is going to suck.”

Pearl Jam emerged onstage to an onslaught of applause and friendly whoops. “Eddie!” someone behind me yelled drunkenly. With opening song “Go,” the band set out to prove it still has plenty of energy, Vedder impressively folding himself into a backbend, mic stand in hand. Wearing a green plaid jacket over a black T-shirt and tight jeans, Vedder definitely embraced his '90s image. 

Vedder's singing voice, a signature deep mumble that's gone on to inspire many others (looking at you, Scott Stapp from Creed and the Calling’s Alex Band), was still intact and strong. 

As Pearl Jam dove deeper into its catalog, “Help, Help” and “Nothingman” became new personal favorites. But every song the band played was filled with energy, impressive guitar riffs and drum skills, and unwavering vocals. The stage design consisted of pulsing colored lights and a silver apparatus in the shape of a bird. It seemed like it was made out of hurricane shutters, its wings trembling slightly during “Given to Fly.” 

After “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town,” Vedder held up a bottle of wine. “I’ll bring more next time — we didn’t expect this many people,” the frontman joked. “The last time we played in Fort Lauderdale was 1996. We’ve been together 20 years this week.” The audience went off.

Vedder then launched into an anecdote, prefacing by admitting it had “no meaning whatsoever.” He began: “I was brushing my teeth 20 years ago today, and I saw a tile of an old man, looking at me sideways…saying, ‘What the fuck is going on here?’ I spit the toothpaste out and said, ‘I need to get the fuck out of here!’”

Vedder continued, “So what’s the moral of the story? Probably nothing. But Colgate has these crystals, that could be more — there’s freaky people out there that might try to slip you a mickey, so be careful. I’m a dad; I think about these kind of things.” OK, Eddie!

After about three more songs and a singing of “Happy Birthday” to lead guitarist Michael McCready, Vedder played “Even Flow.” The crowd roared a fervent “Yeah!” in unison as Vedder sang and jumped in the air. The guitar riffs on the track were powerful and flawlessly executed. 
After “I Am Mine,” Vedder took in the packed arena. “Holy shit!” he said with a smile. “You guys are just great, thanks.” The audience agreed, whooping and cheering. After mentioning having passed through local venues Kreepy Tiki (a rockabilly bar) and Booby Trap (an adult store), Vedder admitted, “We’re just trying to be as good as the fucking Booby Trap.” The audience roared with laughter and yells.

The band powered forward, playing “Swallowed Whole,” “Who You Are,” and “Do the Evolution,” the last song featuring Vedder putting on a rubber Donald Trump mask and doing some funky dance moves onstage.

Following “Why Go,” the band left the stage before returning for the first encore. Vedder read from a notebook onstage, noting some young people attending their very first concert. “Happy fucking birthday,” he said to one of them. On the other end of the spectrum were two elderly men, one 90 and the other 91. Vedder enthusiastically pointed them, John and Frank, out to the audience. 

After a slower number, “Yellow Moon,” Vedder ventured into the audience on the left side of the stage as the band launched into its classic 2000 cover of Wayne Cochran's “Last Kiss.”

During the second encore, Vedder turned somber as he spoke about his friend and crew member Tim “Skully” Quinlan, who had passed away that day. Voice shaking with emotion, Vedder said Skully would be missed and was considered family. The band dedicated its next song, “Light Years,” to Skully.

They began to wrap things up with “Better Man” and  “Alive” — the song that introduced the world to the band back in 1991, from its debut album, Ten.  (Yes, it sounded better than when Dennis Rodman sang it.) Next was a cover of "Baba O’Riley" by the Who, which consisted of Vedder playing tambourines and handing about eight total to audience members. 

Vedder even played “I Am a Patriot,” per an audience sign-holder's request. Before launching into that song, Vedder noted that Florida holds more veterans than any other state. The song was for the sign-holder's son, Tyler. The night concluded just past 11:30 p.m. with “Indifference” — and lots of applause. 

Set List  
01. Go
02. Mind Your Manners
03. Corduroy
04. Given to Fly
05. Help, Help
06. Deep
07. Nothingman
08. Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
09. Severed Hand
10. Unthought Known
11. Sirens
12. Surrender-(Nielsen)/Cheap Trick {one chorus of the song only}
13. Even Flow
14. Amongst the Waves
15. I Am Mine
16. Swallowed Whole
17. Who You Are
18. Do the Evolution
19. Why Go
Encore One
20. Yellow Moon
21. Footsteps
22. Last Kiss-(Cochran)
23. Black
24. Comatose
25. Lightning Bolt
26. Porch

Encore Two
27. Light Years
28. Betterman
29. Alive
30. Baba O’Riley-(Townshend)
31. I Am a Patriot-(Van Zandt)
32. Indifference

Natalya Jones is a food and music writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in entertainment and fun things to do in South Florida, follow her on Twitter.
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Natalya Jones