After a lengthy ovation from the Barclay’s Center crowd, Letterman mused: “I can’t even begin to tell you what an honor and a privilege it is to be out of the house.”
The retired TV host, now 69, was an 11th hour substitute for Neil Young, who cited an undisclosed illness and couldn’t make the event (“The poor guy just can’t stay up this late,” Letterman teased).
Letterman fondly recalled having Pearl Jam on the “Late Show,” as well as other live acts “and future hall of famers,” during his 33-year tenure.
“Never take the opportunity for live music for granted and that’s the message I can bring you folks tonight,” he said warmly.
Pearl Jam became a staple on the CBS program over the years, performing a total of 10 tens, including one stint that turned into an epic 10-song after-party for the Ed Sullivan Theater crowd.
“Every time they were there, they would blow the roof off the place,” Letterman recalled, “and I’m not talking figuratively. They actually blew the roof off the place. For two years I did a show without a roof over the goddamn theater.
He added: “The nice thing about knowing them for as long as I’ve known them, I know them as friends as well as cultural icons. And I would just like to say one day I hope to come back here for the induction for my friend Warren Zevon.”
Watch the full speech above.