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Pearl Jam at The Spectrum | photo by John Vettese

You’ve got to hand it to Pearl Jam: when they throw a party, they go all in.

The year was 2009, and the scene was South Philadelphia arena The Spectrum — a space that, since opening its doors in 1967, was the site of hundreds upon hundreds of concerts and home to various pieces of local rock and roll lore…as well as, you know, sports and whatnot.

The storied venue had been on the chopping block since June of 2008, and curiosity was strong among the local music community about who would be the last to play its stage. The announcement went out in July of 2009, and it was perfect: following a pair of performances by Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, The Spectrum would shut down in late October with a four-night stand by Seattle rockers Pearl Jam – with the final show landing on Halloween. There was no way this was going to be anything short of incredible.

Eddie Vedder and his band of amplified merrymakers held a unique distinction in 2009 – they were one of the first rock bands of the 90s to reach arena status, and one of the only bands to maintain it throughout the course of their career, all the way to present day. Their music, while distinctly modern, was unapologetic about its dalliances in timeless classic rock throwbacks, whether that meant covers of The Who and Neil Young or riffs of their own unapologetically indebted to the same. They were unifiers, cross-generational titans spanning the 60s through the 90s and further into the 21st century. And in that regard, Pearl Jam was the best possible band to sum up The Spectrum’s four-plus decades of history.

Over the course of four nights, the band reportedly performed 103 different songs. On Halloween in 2009, a clip reel of highlights from The Spectrum’s past — Julius Erving to Billy Joel — rolled on a big screen, and then Pearl Jam walked onstage to Bill Conti’s Rocky theme, Vedder donning a pair of boxing mitts.

Pearl Jam at The Spectrum | photo by John Vettese

Pearl Jam at The Spectrum | photo by John Vettese

Over the next three and a half hours, the band played 41 songs spanning their catalog, “Why Go?” to “Life Wasted.” They brought on a local string quartet for “Just Breathe,” “The End,” “Jeremy” and “Bugs.”

For the second encore, they returned to the stage in yellow radiation suits and red energy dome hats to cover Devo’s “Whip It.”

And to shut down the night and the venue, Pearl Jam covered Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World,” followed by their own “Yellow Ledbetter” and a Hendrix-esque take on “The Star Spangled Banner” as a storm of red, white and blue confetti dropped from the rafters.

An audience recording of the entire concert is available at the taper site PanicStream — listen to it and download the entire thing here, and watch a video here.

I was lucky enough to shoot photographs of this historic show; check out a gallery of my images from the concert below. One of my most vivid non-musical memories of the night was seeing one attendee who maybe went a little bit hard on the Sam Adams draft trying to pry one of the seats from the floor to take a memento of The Spectrum home. He was stopped and scolded by security – I sadly do not have photos of this.

Were you there when Pearl Jam closed down The Spectrum on Halloween of 2009? Tell us your memories of the night in the comments!

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