Pearl Jam – Chicago 6.18.03 Review

United Center – Chicago, IL
Opening Band: Idlewild
Attendance: 17,415

Main Set: Release, Hail Hail, Save You, Cropduster, Love Boat Captain, I Am Mine, Given to Fly, Even Flow, Off He Goes, Light Years, Green Disease, Grievance, Present Tense, Daughter/(With My Own Two Hands), Bu$hleaguer, Alive, Rearviewmirror

Encore 1: Arc, Corduroy, Small Town, Betterman, Crazy Mary, Do the Evolution

Encore 2: Down, Rockin’ in the Free World (with Idlewild), Yellow Ledbetter

What could have turned out to be an awful day turned out to be an eternally memorable one thanks to Pearl Jam. Between the awful weather, awful traffic and Eddie having an awful cold, the band was on tonight and the crowd was feeling it.

My seats this time weren’t anywhere as good as they were for the Buffalo show, but decent nonetheless. After slogging our way through the traffic, we parked on the delightful ‘Malcolm X College’ campus parking lot…(you heard right, check out the picture in the gallery)…and made our way the short distance to the United Center. We had to wait outside for a good 45 minutes before the doors opened and ended up chatting with a couple of longtime fans from Tampa. We were all expecting a wizbang of a show, as Eddie hails from Chicago and these shows have historically been among the greatest of past tours (e.g. Soldier Field in ’95).

The doors opened but not the arena and in the interceding time, I was able to hear ‘Thumbing My Way’ being performed for the sound check. Shortly after that, I made my way to the merchandise kiosk and picked up a poster then made our way to the seats.

Despite being in the 300 level of the arena, the seats actually weren’t too bad–we had a clear view of the stage and the sound, as it turned out, was great. Anyway, Idlewild came out around 8:00pm and played a 45-minute set. They weren’t too bad but it was difficult to understand anything with the lead singer’s Scottish accent. He did say “thank you, I’m Scottish” a lot though…

On to the good stuff: PJ took the stage at around 9 to deafening cheers and applause, which increased in intensity with the opening chords of ‘Release,’ a fantastic opener. I could tell right away we were in for a good show: Eddie’s voice sounded great and the band was tight. The band absolutely ripped through the next three songs and stopped before ‘Love Boat Captain’ to introduce his grandmother to the crowd! She was sitting at the right of the stage behind some equipment in a big easy chair (I’ll try to find a picture of this).

It became clear early on that Eddie was suffering from a cold, he was blowing his nose and scrocking onstage every few minutes, but one would be hard-pressed to tell his voice was suffering if you were just listening–he sounded great.

Highlights of the main set included raging versions of ‘Even Flow,’ ‘Grievance,’ and ‘Alive.’ Every time I hear that last song live I gain a greater appreciation of it–the album version simply sucks in comparison. Some surprises included a heartfelt ‘Off He Goes’ and ‘Present Tense,’ two of my personal favorites that hardly ever get played live. I felt fortunate to hear both along with ‘Bu$hleaguer.’ No boos…

I think the highlight of the night, for me at least, was Eddie’s performance of ‘Arc.’ This song is something he’s been doing sporadically on the second leg of the North American tour and I felt extremely fortunate to have heard it in person (especially since the band is NOT putting the track on the bootlegs). For those who have not heard the song (it’s on Riot Act), it is performed by Eddie singing a line of chants, recording it and then singing over that recording in a loop a number of times. He then uses that recording and sings over it and it’s all done onstage! It’s a heart wrenching performance and if you see a PJ show this year, I hope you’re lucky enough to witness it.

The first encore ended with a heart pounding rendition of ‘Do The Evolution,’ and the crowd was becoming ravenous at this point. Eddie came back out after the break and asked the crowd “two more?” (cheers) “one more?” (lusty boos) “okay, two more” (cheers) and proceeded with ‘Down.’ It’s a crime that song is not on Riot Act. The band brought the members of Idlewild up for ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ and I figured the show was about to end, but as it looked like Eddie was going to leave the stage, the rest of the band picked up their instruments and looked at Ed as if to say “where do you think you’re going?” The show ended with a passionate ‘Yellow Ledbetter.’ A surprisingly short show but the intensity was unmatched and it resulted in one of the best shows of the tour.

Chicago 03

Two Feet Thick notes:

Ed is still ill, blowing his nose throughout the show, but the show rocks with one song careening into the next. Ed thanks the crowd for filling the arena and speaks of the basketball stars and The Who playing there … and that his Grandma is there (watching the show from an easy chair side stage) and that he thinks “she likes this one” leading to ‘Love Boat Captain.’ ‘Off He Goes’ is dedicated to someone close to the band that passed away. Amazing version of ‘Light Years.’ Ed encourages the crowd to “clap for Grandma” and “sing for me” during ‘Daughter,’ even getting them to whisper the lyrics to the tag. Before ‘Corduroy,” Ed talks about surfing last December and getting the “picture perfect” wave and thinking “Wow, this is pretty good for a kid from Chicago,” and that he is proud to be playing in Chicago. He commends Chicago for “really good singing” during ‘Better Man’ and says you “could almost feel the pain.” Ed thanks Idlewild for opening and some of them join PJ for ‘RITFW’ with Matt swapping out and playing bass.

Image ©2003 Ten Club

Chicago Image Gallery