Photo by Glen Casebeer. While the band was in excellent form, lead guitarist Mike McCready was playing with emotion and gusto.

Despite family ties to the original line-up of Pearl Jam, this music nut had never witnessed the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band in a live setting. With constant radio play and MTV putting the band’s videos in heavy rotation, I found myself happily surrounded by their music. Whether I was rocking out in my 1991 Nissan Sentra, mowing my parent’s lawn, or sitting on the couch with a Totino’s Party Pizza within reach, they were the new best friend in my world.

When the band’s “Home Shows” were announced, I barely gave it a second thought. I knew that the tickets were going to go awfully fast, and the price was probably going to be too much. As the show date approached, I began kicking myself for not making it happen. I should have stepped up to the plate.

The day prior to the first show, my friend Glen asked if I wanted to join him for the concert. It took me possibly a nanosecond to respond with a resounding yes, and the excitement had immediately taken hold.

Firstly, if you don’t know about the buses and trains that go from Tacoma to the stadiums in Seattle, you should really look into it. There is nothing like letting someone else worry about driving, parking and of course, paying the ridiculous parking fees in Seattle.

After a sumptuous meal at Kau Kau in Seattle’s Chinatown, we hoofed it over to Safeco Field for the big show. The seats were not only on the floor, but they were close enough that I could probably reach Eddie Vedder with a solid pitching wedge. After letting the stadium fill up, which ran the show’s start maybe 40 minutes behind schedule, Pearl Jam took to the stage and the place erupted.

It was about as close to heaven for three hours that this old kid probably has ever been.

Vedder was in fine form and energized by the sizzling welcome from the band’s home town. It had been five years since Pearl Jam had played the Emerald City, and the roughly 47,000 fans in attendance made the “welcome back” feel like something I had never witnessed before.

I had heard that Pearl Jam put on marathon rock and roll sets. Even so, there’s very little that can prepare a person for a mammoth 33-song performance. The set list was filled with choice tunes from throughout the band’s historical run, along with a few tasty cover songs. The second song of the night, “Release,” is one of my all-time favorites, and by then, the boys had me eating out of the palms of their hands.

Not only was this an epic concert, but it was also one of the largest humanitarian deals I have ever witnessed first-hand. Between the band, the fans and local businesses, the two “Home Shows” raised more than $11 million to help combat homelessness.

Instead of taking a huge concert paycheck, these guys decided to basically give it all back. I’m pretty sure this is one of the definitions of a home town hero. Well done, gentlemen.

The gargantuan, 33-song setlist must be included:

Long Road
Low Light
Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
Do The Evolution
Throw Your Hatred Down
Mind Your Manners
Lightning Bolt
Given To Fly
All Those Yesterdays
Even Flow
Help Help
Setting Forth
I Am A Patriot
We’re Going To Be Friends
Nothing As It Seems
Let Me Sleep
Again Today
State of Love and Trust
Wasted Reprise
Better Man
Comfortably Numb
I Got A Feeling
Rocking In The Free World
Yellow Ledbetter

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