The solo format afforded Vedder a chance to tell his Arizona stories, and he had plenty of them. He met a jazz-playing friend of his father's in Mesa, endured a 2 ½-week stay in Gila Bend when he was 17 (car troubles, of course), and spent time scouting locations with Sean Penn in the Grand Canyon for Into the Wild. The pair's river guide, Brian H. Dierker, was in attendance at the show, and Vedder invited him onstage to sit and warm his hands by a prop campfire set up as the back drop shifted to a tapestry of shimmering stars.
Dierker wasn't Vedder's only guest on stage. He invited opener Glen Hansard (whose opening set, at 7:30 sharp, was fantastic) onstage for a couple of numbers. "Sleepless Nights," from Ukulele Songs sounded great, but it was the theme from Hansard's film, Once, "Falling Slowly" that got the crowd roaring.
Unlike most folks I know, I thought the film was slow-paced and saccharine, but the combination of Vedder and Hansard's voice was remarkable, adding toughness to the song's wounded refrain. Hansard hugged Vedder as he made his way off stage, and Vedder rebounded with a howling take on Bruce Springsteen's road anthem, "Open All Night."
Vedder closed out with "Arc," recording loops of his own voice, creating a wordless song centered around intense harmonies. As the curtain came down, it felt like the show was at an end, but Vedder returned for a plugged-in take on Neil Young's classic "Keep on Rockin' in the Free World," and his own "Hard Sun." As a faithful guitar tech (dressed in a white doctor's coat) strummed an acoustic, Vedder prowled the stage with a white Stratocaster, delivering the song's earnest, anthemic message. He ended the night promising that he'd be back, saying "Good luck this week, and the next four years. Do the right thing, you know what to do."