Eddie Vedder is known for his bombastic sonic forays fueling his Pearl Jam performances as the Seattle rock/grunge band’s frontman.
But Thursday night, when Vedder takes the stage for the second of a pair of intimate shows at the Ryman Auditorium, the mercurial vocalist and instrumentalist will be accompanied by only his guitars, possibly a mandolin and a cigar box he uses as a drum.
(Demand for Vedder’s solo concerts has been so great that he’s frequently had to add a second show to satisfy anxious fans, which was the case in Nashville.)
Vedder’s booming, animated growls and deep, anguished vocals — immortalized on a host of alternative rock hits — will now be utilized in a set list that at recent shows has included not just Pearl Jam tunes, but those from the catalogs of Tom Waits and Cat Stevens. Recent shows have also showcased several selections from his celebrated 2007 soundtrack Into the Wild, which was his first project where he was billed as a solo player.
However, Vedder has previously done a lot of music outside the Pearl Jam arena. He contributed some spectacular accompaniment to the stunning vocals of the Pakistani master musician Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan on the Dead Man Walking soundtrack in 1995. He also performed a very unusual but distinctive cover of The Beatles’ “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” that was part of the I Am Sam soundtrack, and he joined members of Sonic Youth, Wilco and Bob Dylan’s band on “All Along The Watchtower” that was part of the Dylan biopic I'm Not There in 2007.
Still, Vedder’s guitar playing and energized singing are so much a part of Pearl Jam that many people don’t realize he didn’t form the band. Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, former Mother Love Bone members who’d previously worked with Vedder, and Mike McCready formed Pearl Jam in 1990, recruiting Vedder and drummer Dave Krusen to round out their roster.
That quintet cut the seminal Ten in 1991 (recently reissued in a deluxe edition), after which Krusen left. Not only did Ten and subsequent releases Vs. and Vitalogy establish Pearl Jam as superstars, the albums earned the band numerous Grammy nominations and huge record sales. And, as often happens in the course of a rock band’s tenure, their success, and that of other releases No Code, Yield and Binaural, led to the inevitable personnel and artistic conflicts within the band, lineup changes and other issues.
Vedder and Pearl Jam still maintain a working relationship, though they haven’t made a group recording since the self-titled Pearl Jam in 2006. A new album, tentatively titled Backspacer, is set for fall release,and the band debuted a new song "Got Some" on Conan O'Brien's first Tonight Show.
Last year Vedder teamed with Ben Harper on Body of War: Songs that Inspired an Iraq War Veteran.
Vedder remains a huge sports fan and outspoken political liberal, an early supporter of President Barack Obama and a vegetarian. But none of those things prevent him from attracting fans across the political spectrum, and his ability to incorporate other influences into his work like folk and blues have shown that Vedder is a tremendous instrumentalist and versatile performer whose solo show should be among the year’s musical highlights.
What: Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder in a solo concert
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: The Ryman Auditorium, 116 Fifth Ave. S.
Cost: $55, $75
Info: 889-3060, rymanauditorium.com