Noah Keeley showed up extra early for his first Pearl Jam concert.

For more than a day, the 10-year-old from Bar Harbor waited in line outside the Centre Videotron in Quebec City, guitar in hand, in hopes of getting a good spot close to the stage. As he waited near the front of the line, he played his guitar with other fans of the rock band that rocketed to fame in the 1990s.

Noah, who was introduced to Pearl Jam by his parents, Sarah and Shawn Keeley, was expecting a great show Thursday, but what happened inside the Centre Videotron blew them all away.

After the fourth song, lead singer Eddie Vedder spotted Noah in the crowd – the boy was holding a sign that said “1st show: ‘Sad’ makes me happy” – and welcomed him to the concert. Two hours later, Vedder asked the fourth-grader to hop on stage to play with the band.

“Eddie crouched down and said, ‘Hey Noah, do you want to come up and play this next song with us?’ ” Sarah Keeley said Monday. “We went a little blank. The next thing you know, you’re watching your son get lifted over the rail and 20,000 people are calling his name. It was the most magical thing.”

Sometime before the concert began, Vedder had apparently seen a message the Keeleys sent the band requesting that it play Noah’s favorite song, “Sad.” Sarah Keeley included a video clip of her son and husband playing the song together.


“I saw a clip of him playing it with his pop,” Vedder told the crowd. “He played it much better than I could have. Crazy. I asked him if he wanted to play it and he said, ‘I might die.’ So, no pressure.”

“I literally thought it was a dream for a second,” Noah said. “Then I realized it’s really happening and I just tried to have fun.”

For nearly five minutes, Noah perched on a stool and played along with the Seattle-based band, at one point taking the lead on a riff. After the song, the band talked to him briefly and sent him home with a pocket full of guitar picks.

“Them actually playing with me is a dream come true. It’s beyond dreamable, really,” Noah said.

Pearl Jam is widely considered one of the most popular and influential rock bands of the 1990s and has sold about 60 million records worldwide. It helped popularize a more stripped-down form of rock music, often referred to as “grunge,” and is known for its bond with deeply devoted fans.

Noah said he could feel the support of the band members – he describes them as full of love – and knew the cheering fans would be supportive even if he slipped up.


Playing “Sad” with the band was especially meaningful for Noah because it’s one of his favorites and his dad taught him to play it. He loves the beat and the riffs, and isn’t bothered by the somber lyrics.

“It has some really sad lyrics, but in a way it kind of brings a hopefulness to the song,” Noah said.

“(Noah) rocked it,” Sarah Keeley said. “He’s handling it with such grace and humbleness. He says it was like a dream. It was the best dream he could have, he said.”

After Noah was done playing, Vedder dedicated a cover of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” to Noah’s parents.

“That was absolutely sacred,” Sarah Keeley said. “To have your favorite band in the whole world play you that song is crazy and so special.”

The next morning, the Keeley family tried to walk through Quebec City in search of a place to get breakfast, but they were slowed by fans who recognized Noah from the show.


“We couldn’t even walk through Quebec City because people came up to him to say how great he did and asked him for his autograph. It took us two hours to go a block,” Sarah Keeley said. “He had a pocket full of picks from the band and gave them out to the fans on the street.”

Noah Keeley started playing banjo at age 6 and switched to guitar about a year and a half ago. He particularly enjoys playing Pearl Jam songs with his dad, who has been a fan of the band since the 1990s and also plays guitar.

“It’s been the soundtrack of our life in a lot of ways. In the last 10 years since having kids, it’s been really fun to watch our kids fall in love with the music,” Sarah Keeley said. “Pearl Jam has helped us love deeper and rock harder as a family.”

Noah brought his younger sister, Aliyah, a guitar pick from lead guitarist Mike McCready. Aliyah, 6, is excited about seeing her first Pearl Jam concert at Fenway Park in August.

Four days after the concert, the Keeleys are still amazed by the experience. Sarah Keeley, a photographer, spent Monday juggling emails and phone calls from people who wanted to hear all about the show. Shawn Keeley, a fundraiser for Friends of Acadia, posted a stream of photos and videos on Facebook for their friends to see.

On Monday, Noah got back to his other love when he took to the pitcher’s mound for his first baseball game of the season.

“It’s baseball season and he just jammed out with Pearl Jam,” Sarah Keeley said. “I don’t think he could get much happier.”


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