Politically-charged Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder wasted no time in sharing his views on the war with US fans. On the first night of the band's North American tour, Vedder and company broke into their new song, "Bushleaguer." During the song, Vedder wore a mask in the likeness of President Bush and, according to NME, as the song ended, he removed the mask, speared it with a microphone stand, then smashed it into the stage. The severity of the crowd response to this and other anti-war comments made by Vedder are a bit unclear, but the Bush bashing scene did cause some fans to leave the venue. In a separate incident, Vedder shared a story from a Vietnam vet who spoke with the band about his reservations regarding war and someone from 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. In the last year of being able to use it, we're sure as hell going to use it and I'm not gonna apologize."
"Just to clarify... we support the troops. 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."
Pearl Jam released the following statement standing by their actions at the Denver gig:
"Dissension is nothing we shy away from. It should just be reported about more accurately. Ed's talk from the stage centered on the importance of freedom of speech and the importance of supporting our soldiers as well as an expression of sadness over the public being made to feel as though the two sentiments can't occur simultaneously."