Pearl Jam is a band committed to delivering electrifying live performances. Since the start of their career, they have consistently brought a level of enthusiasm and energy to their shows that are only matched by the responses from their rabid fan base.

One of the keys to what has made Pearl Jam’s live act so successful and engaging is that they change their setlist every night. The audience never knows what songs they’re going to hear. Since Pearl Jam digs into all parts of their catalog – while also often working in a few covers of artists they revere – each show is different, representing a surprising and refreshing mix of tunes.

This approach draws fans to show after show, with devotees hoping to cross songs off their personal list of live tracks they have yet to hear. I don’t know if it’s unique to Pearl Jam, but fans refer to the rare tunes they have yet to hear as “white whale” songs.

My one white whale song is “Off He Goes,” which is not that rare of a track – it was a single, but one that I’ve managed to miss at all the shows I’ve seen. Because I live in Connecticut, I’m extremely fortunate for tours as I can easily travel to New York, Boston, Hartford, and Philadelphia. Those locations are renowned for some of the best Pearl Jam shows and I’m grateful to have attended many of them and heard a ton of rare tracks.

My total show count currently stands at 23:

  • 7/2/2003 – Mansfield, MA
  • 9/28/2004 – Boston, MA
  • 10/3/2005 – Philadelphia, PA
  • 5/4/2006 – New York, NY (Late Show with David Letterman After-Show)
  • 5/24/2006 – Boston, MA
  • 5/25/2006 – Boston, MA
  • 6/1/2006 – East Rutherford, NJ
  • 6/3/2006 – East Rutherford, NJ
  • 6/24/2008 – New York, NY
  • 6/25/2008 – New York, NY
  • 6/27/2008 – Hartford, CT
  • 6/30/2008 – Mansfield, MA
  • 5/15/2010 – Hartford, CT
  • 5/17/2010 – Boston, MA
  • 5/20/2010 – New York, NY
  • 5/21/2010 – New York, NY
  • 9/3/2011 – East Troy, WI (PJ20)
  • 9/4/2011 – East Troy, WI (PJ20)
  • 10/15/2013 – Worcester, MA
  • 10/16/2013 – Worcester, MA
  • 10/25/2013 – Hartford, CT
  • 4/28/2016 – Philadelphia, PA
  • 5/2/2016 – New York, NY

I’ll be heading to see them again for a pair of shows in 2018 at Fenway Park.

Many fans on the forums of the official site request songs, including dedications to friends and family or just those yearning to hear one of their white whales. There’s also talk amongst fans of what their dream Pearl Jam setlist would be. I’ll attempt to do my best as to what I think I would like mine to look like, although I’m not sure I could ever be satisfied with the 30-35 songs that get played in a night’s show. Still, that’s about 3 hours of music and supersedes nearly every other act out there. On their 2013 tour, they eschewed having an opening act for several dates and since then they have continued to be the sole performers, which gives the band plenty of time to tackle their oeuvre.

In reflecting on what I’d like to hear for a dream setlist, I considered what a few of my favorite shows were, including those I’ve attended and ones I hadn’t. I narrowed my favorite set that I saw down to the Wachovia Center on October 3, 2005. I think my pick for a show I wished I had attended would be June 16, 2000 in Katowice, Poland. There are so many other great performances, but I find myself returning to listen to those time and time again.

I also thought about what I wouldn’t want to hear. One immediately sprung to mind: “Crazy Mary.” This one used to be a cool one to hear. Now all I think about with the first strum of the song is how two or three other songs could be played in the time it takes to perform this one. I love piano/keyboard/organist Boom Gaspar, but a 5+ minute organ solo has gotten to be a little much for me.

I’ve never been a huge fan of “Jeremy.” While I respect the songwriting, it just doesn’t do much for me as a live track. “Marker In The Sand,” “Green Disease,” “Supersonic,” “Force of Nature,” are ones that I can’t imagine ever desiring to hear again, but maybe depending on my mood.

I’ll try my best to mimic what would be a realistic show, keeping in mind where these tracks typically appear in a performance. I’ll also attempt to not fill the set with rare tunes that only serious fans would know, as Pearl Jam play a fair number of well-known tracks. I had to make a few heartbreaking cuts, including “Go,” “Undone,” “Daughter,” “Strangest Tribe,” “The End,” “Hold On,” and “Porch,” but here goes:

Main Set:

  • Release
  • Sometimes
  • Last Exit
  • Hail Hail
  • Gonna See My Friend
  • Animal
  • Breath
  • Faithfull
  • Given To Fly
  • Wishlist
  • Sirens
  • Off He Goes
  • Not For You
  • State Of Love And Trust
  • Alone
  • Get Right
  • Nothing As It Seems
  • I Got Id
  • Do The Evolution
  • Rearviewmirror

Encore 1:

  • Speed Of Sound
  • Hard To Imagine
  • Who You Are
  • Black Red Yellow
  • Dissident
  • Whipping
  • Comatose
  • Why Go
  • Black

Encore 2:

  • Better Man
  • Present Tense
  • Leaving Here
  • Alive
  • Rockin’ In The Free World
  • Yellow Ledbetter