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Pearl Jam pulled double duty during the opening night of their North American tour, more or less subbing as its own support act at Toronto's Molson Amphitheatre on Friday when the namesake leader of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists was stuck in New York due to a weather-related flight delay.

Singer Eddie Vedder casually walked on stage first with a smallish acoustic guitar, said "surprise, surprise," spoke of his experience of once riding the Ferris wheel with iconic Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young at the nearby Canadian National Exhibition, and then gently strummed Young's Sugar Mountain , a song about carnival barkers, coloured balloons and leaving one's youth behind.

Saying he hoped he wouldn't misplay the next selection, Vedder then offered The Needle and the Damage Done , a sorrowful ode containing the line, "I sing the song because I love the man." The impromptu performance came on a day in which Vedder had spoken to the Globe and Mail. Mostly he talked about Pearl Jam's forthcoming album Backspacer , but the subject of the mentoring Young was broached. "We learned a lot from Uncle Neil," Vedder said. "Him adopting us as his nephews has taught [Pearl Jam]immeasurably, on numerous levels. Things about music and about humanity, either by watching him, or hearing what he comes up with, or by conversations we've had."

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After Vedder's two songs, Pearl Jam guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard each presented solo spots. A version of Pearl Jam's Bee Girl by Vedder and Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament (on acoustic guitar) was followed by four spotty numbers from the undermanned Pharmacists. A hybrid group of Pearl Jam members and Phamacists closed the mix-and-match set with a wild-eyed reading of the Stooges' Search and Destroy .

A lengthy double-encore performance from Pearl Jam ended the evening as it began, with another Young tune, this time the brash protest anthem Rockin' in the Free World .

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More


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