A couple of songs into Eddie Vedder’s headlining set at Saturday night’s Hot Stove Cool Music show, the Pearl Jam frontman called an audible: The crowd response to his first two songs — his band’s ’90s alt-rock standards “Corduroy” and “Not for You” — had been so full-throated that he inserted the 1993 track “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town,” a bittersweet, delicate ballad with a chorus made for singing along. The gesture foreshadowed the alt-rock icon and avowed baseball fan’s often-surprising, cameo-studded set.
This year’s Hot Stove Cool Music concert at the Paradise was dubbed the “Cubs & Red Sox Edition.’’ The reigning World Series champs, in town to play the Sox over the weekend, employ as their president former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, who with his brother Paul runs the Foundation to Be Named Later, the night’s chief beneficiary along with the Red Sox Foundation. While the two teams were rivals on the field, Saturday’s show was all about working together to benefit urban youth.
The first three bands, collections of various all-star players, performed their cover-stuffed sets with enthusiasm. Band of Their Own, which brought together Belly’s Tanya Donelly and Gail Greenwood, Letters to Cleo’s Kay Hanley, Fuzzy’s Hilken Mancini, and other alt-rock heroines, ripped through a punk-tinged set punctuated by covers of ’Til Tuesday and the Runaways. The Boston Hot Stove All Stars, led by longtime baseball sage Peter Gammons, were wiry and animated, with singer-songwriter Will Dailey commanding a muscular version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Badlands.” The Chicago Hot Stove All Stars, meanwhile, covered the Replacements and Springsteen. In between the bands’ sets, comedian and actor Mike O’Malley and former Sox player Sean Casey led auctions of items like a signed Tom Brady jersey and a cowbell autographed by comedian Will Ferrell while cracking wise, adding to the fun.
Vedder’s set showed off not only his own band’s impressive catalog, but his spirited appreciation of classic-rock touchstones like Aerosmith and Pink Floyd, as well as his gratitude toward the Boston-bred musicians who had appeared earlier on the bill. When bringing out Bill Janovitz for a cover of Buffalo Tom’s spiky 1992 track “Taillights Fade,” he talked about how he’d turned to that song for continuous-play comfort during Pearl Jam’s rise; he introduced Dailey’s biting “Down the Drain” by talking about how the rocker’s songwriting inspired his own efforts. (Dailey proved to be a formidable foil for Vedder over the course of the 20-song stretch, particularly on a cover of Squeeze’s sprightly 1980 track “Another Nail in My Heart.”) Donelly came out for a run-through of New Zealand alt-poppers Split Enz’s “History Never Repeats”; Hanley dueted with Vedder on a stripped-down version of post-punk hero John Doe’s “Golden State.” Epstein, too, strapped in for Pearl Jam’s chiming “Better Man.”
The night ended after 1 a.m. with a crowded stage and a rousing rendition of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” which featured former Yankee Bernie Williams showing off his fluid guitar playing. Two other special guests, which had been in the back of the venue earlier in the evening, also came out: the trophies commemorating the curse-breaking World Series wins for the 2004 Red Sox and the 2016 Cubs. As the Young-penned song churned, the two keepsakes were passed around the Paradise’s audience, and Epstein and Vedder engaged in a bit of crowd-surfing as well — a fitting cap to a night of surprises and celebration.
HOT STOVE COOL MUSIC 2017: Cubs & Red Sox Edition
With Eddie Vedder, the Chicago Hot Stove All Stars, the Boston Hot Stove All Stars, and Band of Their Own
At Paradise Rock Club, Saturday
Maura Johnston can be reached at email@example.com.