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MUSIC REVIEW

Pearl Jam digs deep, delivers gold

Veteran Seattle rockers Pearl Jam fired up the crowd at TD Garden last night. It was the band’s 27th performance in Massachusetts. Veteran Seattle rockers Pearl Jam fired up the crowd at TD Garden last night. It was the band’s 27th performance in Massachusetts. (Matthew J. Lee/ Globe Staff)
By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / May 18, 2010

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“We’ve got to work hard up here. We’ve got to make this show happen.’’

As mandates go, that’s a pretty great one for a rock concert, and Pearl Jam delivered in bulk on that early proclamation by frontman Eddie Vedder last night at the TD Garden.

The Seattle rockers ground out a vigorous 2 1/2-hour performance that easily put another notch on their belt of strong Boston-area shows.

That was no mean feat, given that Vedder noted this was the band’s 27th performance in Massachusetts. But nearly 20 years on, Pearl Jam remains unfamiliar with the concept of phoning it in.

The band also wisely refuses to even flirt with nostalgia, instead opting for a free-range set list that covers all of the bases and the outfield.

There were new songs from “Backspacer,’’ their latest album, like the hushed “Just Breathe’’ and the hypnotic groover “Unthought Known.’’ There were covers, including their take on the Who’s majestic “Love, Reign ‘O’er Me.’’ And there were serious deep cuts, none more surprising than when the band reached back to Mother Love Bone for the stunning “Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns.’’

And of course, the band played the hits that always draw what must be some of loudest singalongs ever heard in arenas. Last night’s backing chorus had 16,600 eager vocalists during encore highs like “Better Man’’ and “Alive.’’

That spirit also informed the caliber of performance, with Vedder’s flailing passion, Mike McCready’s searing leads, and Matt Cameron’s monster drum fills. From the eased-in opener of “Release’’ to the final fiery encore of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,’’ the quintet, plus touring keyboardist Boom Gaspar, were a wellspring of energy.

Vedder was also a fount of thanks, tipping his cap on more than one occasion to the band’s loyal fans.

Gratitude is a good look for rock stars; more of them should check it out.

The Pearl Jam frontman also helped enliven the set of openers Band of Horses, adding his voice to a spirited run through “Act Together,’’ the Jagger-Richards obscurity which the ethereal rockers have been jamming on for a few years.

Sarah Rodman can be reached at srodman@globe.com.

PEARL JAM With Band of Horses

At: TD Garden, last night