PEARL JAM Concertgoers Head To Exits After VEDDER's Anti-BUSH display

Incensed fans walked out of PEARL JAM's concert Tuesday after lead singer Eddie Vedder impaled a mask of President Bush on a microphone stand, then slammed it to the stage, according to Rocky Mountain News.

Most of Vedder's antiwar remarks earlier in the Pepsi Center show were greeted with mixed cheers and scattered boos. But dozens of angry fans walked out during the encore because of the macabre display with the Bush mask, which he wore for the song "Bushleaguer", a Bush-taunting song from the band's latest album, "Riot Act".

"When he was sharing his political views in a fairly benign manner — supporting our troops, opposing policy — that's OK," said Keith Zimmerman of Denver.

"When he takes what looks like the head of George Bush on a stick, then throws it to the stage and stomps on it, that's just unacceptable. I love PEARL JAM, but that was just way over the edge. We literally got up and left."

Others joined Zimmerman, some complaining about the lyrics of "Bushleaguer", which in part call Bush "a confidence man" and say, "He's not a leader / he's a Texas leaguer."

"I wasn't sure if it was really happening," said Kim Mueller. "We looked at each other and realized he really did have George Bush's head on a stick and was waving it in the air, then slam-med it to the ground and stepped on it."

"It was like he decapitated someone in a primal ritual and stuck their head on a stick," Zimmerman said. "It kinda blows away THE DIXIE CHICKS."

THE DIXIE CHICKS were the target of boycotts and bannings after making an anti-Bush statement on a London stage in March. (On Wednesday, THE MARSHALL TUCKER BAND announced it would play a May 1 concert in Spartanburg, S.C., as an alternative to the U.S. tour-opening show in nearby Greenville by THE DIXIE CHICKS that same day.)

Vedder has used the Bush mask in previous shows in Australia and Japan, but Denver's U.S. tour opener was the first show since war broke out in Iraq.

PEARL JAM manager Kelly Curtis couldn't be reached for comment. The Seattle band plays Oklahoma City tonight.

Before "Do the Evolution", Vedder told the crowd the tale of a Vietnam vet who expressed severe reservations about war in Iraq to Vedder. The singer was incensed when someone in the crowd yelled, "Shut up!"

"Did someone just say, 'Shut up'? I don't know if you heard about this thing called freedom of speech, man. It's worth thinking about it, because it's going away," Vedder said. "In the last year of being able to use it, we're sure as (expletive) going to use it and I'm not gonna apologize."

Later in the show, he added to that.

"Just to clarify . . . we support the troops," Vedder said to cheers. "Our problem is certainly not with anybody over there doing something that not too many of us would do right now, not for these reasons.

"So to the families and those people who know those folks and are related to those folks and are married to those folks, we send our support. We're just confused on how wanting to bring them back safely all of a sudden becomes nonsupport. We love them, we support them. They're not the ones who make the foreign policy. . . . Let's hope for the best and speak our opinions."

It was after that when Vedder put on the Bush mask and a sparkling silver jacket. He took off the mask, mounted it on the mike stand, then slammed it to the floor.

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