About halfway through the 30 or so songs in Pearl Jam’s set at the Garden on Monday night, Eddie Vedder sang a song that will be 20 years old in October. As he rocked out to “Even Flow,” it was hard not to remember the different stages of Vedder as a frontman, and so exciting to realize that two decades in, he’s in his prime. What began as the ADHD rafter-climber and then shifted to the disaffected statue approach is now a comfortable everyman rock star, like a neighbor who you wouldn’t necessarily expect to be awesome at Rock Band.
As for the players in this rock band, they have also aged gracefully. At 43, guitarist Stone Gossard still looks like a shy teenage stoner. Drummer Matt Cameron has still maintained his boyish good looks through the years as well. But most importantly they sound fresh. Lead guitarist Mike McReady and bassist Jeff Ament still look psyched to crouch with their axes in a playful face-off. And the years have only been kinder to McReady’s blistering Hendrixian chops. It’s remarkable at their level that the guitarist would still step on his own effects pedals and adjust his own amp onstage, but this fun before professionalism approach works well for the band. Vedder was tugging on a bottle of wine the whole show, and doing enough jumping around to make one wonder why so many of the songs in their set had a backward-looking feel.
“If I could get it back again,” sings Vedder in “The Fixer,” from the band’s most recent album, “Back Spacer.” But the thing is, not only does he have that proverbial “it” back again, he has it better than before.