Pearl Jam – NYC II 7.9.03 Review

Madison Square Garden – New York City, NY
Opening Band: Sleater-Kinney
Attendance: 20,000+

Main Set: Crazy Mary, Save You, Hail Hail, Whipping, Corduroy, Red Mosquito, Dissident, I Am Mine, Get Right, Given To Fly, Evacuation, Even Flow, I Believe In Miracles, Untitled/MFC, Deep, Present Tense, Nothingman, State Of Love And Trust, Porch

Encore 1: You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away, Elderly Woman, Glorified G, All Or None, Do The Evolution, Alive

Encore 2: Go, Know Your Rights, Rockin’ In The Free World, Yellow Ledbetter

After a spectacular, defining first night in New York, I couldn’t possibly think it would be topped. Turns out I was right, but it was still the second best show of the tour thus far (regardless of whether I attended the shows or not).

I was joined for this night by two friends of mine, one who’d been working in New York for a web design firm, the other who came in via train from Dartmouth University. The former gave me the bonus of staying with him at his aunt and uncle’s stately 5th Avenue digs, including a friendly doorman I like to call “Hank.”

I think most of the people in the Garden for night two had also been there the previous night (most of the fan club members anyway), and I think both the band and crowd were a little worn out at the start of the show. The three of us met up before the show and shot the shiznit for a little bit, getting some eats et al, before heading into Madison Square Garden. We missed the opening band, Sleater-Kinney, but that didn’t really matter once PJ took the stage and launched into a fantastic Crazy Mary, highlighted by Mike McCready on guitar and Boom Gaspar on keyboards, trading blows with each other during their solos.

The band then blew through Save You, Hail Hail, Whipping, Corduroy, Red Mosquito, Dissident, I Am Mine, Get Right, Given To Fly, Evacuation, Even Flow, I Believe in Miracles, MFC and Deep before taking a breath with Present Tense. He briefly spoke to the crowd after Whipping, referencing how crazy/great last night’s show was. The band was incredibly tight tonight, nailing every song. The great main set was capped by an extended Porch, with Ed nearly climbing the lighting rig, reminiscent of their early 90’s shows.

A relatively low-key 1st encore was highlighted by a fantastic version of the rarely-played All Or None. That mood was immediately swatted away with Do the Evolution. As crazy as the building was at that point, it wasn’t quite what it was the night before, but how could it?

2003 was clearly the year of “Alive,” with the every single person in the crowd pumping their fists in time with a delirious “HEY” chant at the end of the song. This has become a staple of this year’s tour, but I don’t think it’s every been as resounding a rendition as this night’s, one possible exception being Montreal.

The final encore had a passionate version of The Clash’s Know Your Rights, working the crowd into a frenzy that peaked with Rockin’ in the Free World, the entire arena going nuts with the house lights on. Yellow Ledbetter closed the show out, the crowd singing along in delight as another show for the ages came to a close. It didn’t top the previous night’s show, but it without question belongs in the same company.


Two Feet Thick notes:

Unusual rip roaring ‘Crazy Mary’ starts off the set to a packed house at MSG for the second night in a row. Strong Ed voice on ‘Hail Hail.’ He addresses the crowd after a great version of ‘Whipping,’ telling them how special the previous night was for the band but that they “… have their work cut out for them because you guys always wanna make it better than the last.” This spins into a strong ‘Corduroy,’ with the crowd loving it. ‘I Am Mine’ lyrics are changes to, “The in between is yours … you are yours.” Ed phones Johnny Ramone before ‘I Believe in Miracles’ but gets his answering machine. “Hey, Johnny. You fucker. Why aren’t you home?” Then during ‘Untitled,’ “Johnny, I hope you get the message, or you’re not home. I’ll see you in a month or so …” An absolutely beautiful ‘Present Tense.’ Ed gives props to Matt and mentions that the fourth Wellwater Conspiracy album is finished and should be released soon. He says he’s glad because it means Matt will be available to record with PJ. ‘Nothingman’ is a great, huge singalong. Tight ‘Porch’ with a sweet bridge. Upon returning for the first encore, Ed starts reading signs in the crowd. “Garden, yes we’re in the garden. That’s good … This one says ‘play Leash you pussies’. You know, there’s fucking children here, you know. You fucking cocksucking motherfucker asshole prick!” He mentions the fan club support and that last night there were 7,000 and tonight there are 8,000 fan club tickets represented. He thanks the fans and mentions hearing how fans have met via shows and become friends or lovers. He jokes how a couple (“I think they’re from Jersey”) met, married and is trying to have five kids to name them after the band. “So far they have Jeff, Stone and Mike and they’re fucking right now trying to get a little Eddie. And if they get to Boom … we’re just gonna keep adding band members. We’ll have a horn section … that’s evolution, baby.” Ed starts to introduce ‘All or None’ but Mike goes into the first riff of “Glorified G” and they play that first. A heartfelt ‘All Or None’ leads to an incredible ‘Alive.’ As soon as Mike hits the solo, the entire arena begins the fist pump, simultaneously yelling “yeah” for the duration of the song. Ed scans the entire Garden in awe. Mike smashes his Gibson flying V at the end of ‘Go.’ A searing ‘Know Your Rights’ (played for Joe Strummer) encompasses the energy they had from the first note and leads gracefully into ‘RITFW,’ which blows the place up. Ed references phoning Johnny and leaving a message yet again in ‘YL’ (“I tried and I phoned and we only left a message; he wasn’t there.”) Mike intertwines a few of the unmistakable Hendrix doing the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ at Woodstock guitar wailings in ‘YL’ to close.

NYC II Image Gallery

Pearl Jam – NYC I 7.8.03 Review

Madison Square Garden – New York City, NY
Opening Band: The Buzzcocks
Attendance: 20,000+

Main Set: Love Boat Captain, Last Exit, Save You, Green Disease, In My Tree, Cropduster, Even Flow, Gimme Some Truth, I Am Mine, Low Light, Faithfull, Wishlist/(Why Can’t I Touch It?), Lukin, Grievance, 1/2 Full, Black, Spin The Black Circle, Rearviewmirror

Encore 1: You Are, Thumbing My Way, Daughter/(With My Own Two Hands), Crown Of Thorns, Breath, Better Man, Do The Evolution

Encore 2: Crazy Mary, Indifference, Sonic Reducer, Baba O’Riley, Yellow Ledbetter

I came into MSG expecting a memorable night, but with the caveat that the next night (the 9th) would just absolutely blow the roof off the Garden. But as Ernie Banks often says “That’s why they play the game…”

Starting with an unsuspecting Love Boat Captain, the set revved up quickly with the all-too-seldom played Last Exit, followed by the now standard Save You and Green Disease. We were off to a great if predictable start. The next song started and I couldn’t recognize it until the familiar first line “up here in my tree, yeah…” A new and rarely played version of In My Tree. Awesome song, very powerful stuff. I think this was the first hint that this show might be more than just a “warm-up” for Wednesday night’s show.

Even Flow was great as always. It still amazes me that a song I found so stale in 2000 is now one that gets perhaps the biggest reactions during the shows I’ve been to (as do most of the older tracks). It’s great to see it “refreshed” in 2003, along with a lot of the other Ten tracks.

One of the songs I had been most hoping for on this tour was Low Light, off of Yield. It’s one of my favorite “quiet” tracks and it rarely gets played. Well, flash to a week ago, they play it in Boston for the first time this tour. Lo and behold, they play it tonight. HUGE reaction from the crowd, very powerful performance.

I should point out here that the 7/8 and 7/9 MSG shows were originally scheduled to be the final U.S. tour dates (before Hershey, Boston III, Holmdel and Mexico City were added) and were the last shows to have the fan club ticketing. For a typical show, there are about a thousand fan club members down on the floor, for some of the bigger shows like Boston, Detroit and East Troy, there can be 2500-3000 members. For night one at MSG: 8000! Night two: 9000! Crowds full of Ten Club members ensure that EVERY song will get a big reaction and result in a huge sing-along. It made for a downright joyful atmosphere, one that I don’t think I’ll ever fully realize again.

A lot of great standards (highlighted by Faithfull) followed, the main set ending with Rearviewmirror. The roar between the main set and first encore was deafening as the band returned.

This first encore was perhaps the greatest single intense moment I’d ever seen at a PJ show (that is, until the second encore), climaxing with Do The Evolution to close the encore. But more on that in a minute. Daughter peaked as it often has with Ben Harper’s With My Own Two Hands tag, but tonight would be something special. The man himself came out onstage to deafening cheers and led the crowd in the tag. Unbelievable. But that was topped by CROWN OF THORNS after, a song they’ve only played once this tour. For those that don’t know, Crown of Thorns is a Mother Love Bone track, the band Jeff and Stone were a part of before Pearl Jam. Very emotionally charged rendition. And the only song that could perhaps top COT is Breath. Perfect song, perfect place, perfect time. And then, after Betterman…

There were a few points throughout the evening when the place just seemed primed to explode, but you could sense the band holding back a bit, perhaps sensing it as well, waiting for the right moment to unleash the frenzy the crowd had been whipped into. It’s evolution, baby. The place exploded with the opening notes of the song and people were going nuts, it was Armageddon, dogs and cats were living together and all in the world was chaos…but it was a good chaos.

In the encore break, unbelievably, the crowd kept getting louder and louder and louder…the entire building was roaring with the screams of fans rabid for more. There is no way to fully describe it unless you were witness to it. Ed came back onstage with an MSG staffer in tow and told the crowd that they had been “scared shitless” because the arena floor (made of concrete, I might add) had been shaking through Evolution and the encore break. The staffer informed him that it had only happened three times before: for Iron Maiden, The Grateful Dead, and Bruce Springsteen. Pretty good company to be in, if you ask me.

Ed mentioned something along the lines of saying “f**k the curfew, you guys made us rich so we’ll pay (the $14,000 fine for going over time)” resulting in deafening approval.

The final encore was just a delirious sing-along with the guys. Members of the Buzzcocks came out for Sonic Reducer, and Ben Harper and Eddie sang a beautiful rendition of Indifference. Baba O’Riley capped off the concert with the entire arena in absolute delirium, everything was right in the world. Everyone in the band did their waves and went to leave the stage, all save Mike, standing at the left of the stage with his guitar on, looking expectantly at the rest of the band. He wasn’t going anywhere. The guys kind of shrugged, smiled and headed back onstage for Yellow Ledbetter. Very emotional performance, no one wanting to leave. But of course there’s always tomorrow…


Two Feet Thick notes:

Jeff, Ed and Mike join the Buzzcocks for ‘Why Can’t I Touch It?’ during their set. Very emotional performance of ‘I Am Mine’ with Ed mentioning it was the band’s first time in NYC since that thing that happened about a year and a half ago and he applauds NY for being so strong. ‘STBC’ is dedicated to the record stores in New York City. Ben Harper joins PJ in singing the tag on ‘Daughter,’ saying, “This is the best band in the world!” Ed mentions that the staff at the Garden told him that they have only seen the stage rumble that hard in three shows: Grateful Dead, Iron Maiden (at which point Mike plays a quick riff from ‘Number Of The Beast’) and Bruce Springsteen (which elicits a major cheer). Ben Harper joins the band again to sing ‘Indifference.’ Ed says it will cost them $14,000, but that they will break curfew and keep playing (nearly three hours), going until almost midnight. Stellar show with the crowd wild (HUGE fan club turnout) and the band on fire.

NYC I Image Gallery

Pearl Jam – Montreal 6.29.03 Review

Centre Bell – Montreal, QE
Opening Band: The Buzzcocks
Attendance: 19,000+

Preset: Driftin’ (Ed solo)

Main Set: Long Road, Go, Save You, Ghost, Grievance, Present Tense, 1/2 Full, Even Flow, Off He Goes, I Am Mine, You Are, Green Disease/Not For You, Wishlist, Habit, Elderly Woman, Jeremy, Blood

Encore 1: Arc, Down, Black, improv, Rearviewmirror

Encore 2: Soon Forget, Last Kiss, Last Exit, Driven To Tears, Better Man, Alive, Fuckin’ Up

I love this band and its fans. The PJ show in Montreal ended up being a completely unexpected and spectacular show, perhaps matching even the Buffalo show in the crowd’s enthusiasm, which was returned in kind by the band.

My enjoyment of the show may have also had something to do with the fact that I had Fan Club seats once again, as I did for the Buffalo show. We drove up to Montreal from Potsdam (2-hour drive) and arrived at “Centre Bell” (damn Frenchies) around 2:30 and got right into the Ten Club line. At that point there were about 150 people in front of us in the line, and after we got there the size of said line probably tripled. Regardless, we had to wait for about an hour and a half for the doors to open and we eventually got our tickets and boy was I happy–10th row seats on the floor. Unless you’re a charter member of the Ten Club, it’s hard to do much better than that.

After getting some dinner, we headed back to the venue. Once inside, we found our seats, right up front in the “Mike McCready section” (the left side of the stage). They were fantastic. As the crowd began to enter the arena, it was perhaps a sign of things to come that each group would start screaming “PEARL JAM!!!” as they entered. You could already feel the energy building in the place. Prior to the show starting, we talked to a couple other diehards, one of which had the lyrics to “Indifference” tattooed on his arm. Lo and behold, I get home today and see a picture of his damn arm on the PJ website! (see the image gallery for the pic).

As he did in Buffalo, Ed came out before the Buzzcocks to say hello and perform “Driftin'” on the acoustic and harmonica. It was great and the crowd was already going nuts. And then he introduced the Buzzcocks…

Dear lord, I think the members of this band are certifiably nuts, but I loved ’em. They sound very punk-like and incredibly loud. In their 45-minute set they wouldn’t stop between songs, one running into the next–I lost count at 16 songs… The climax of their set was when their lead guitarist started mercilessly abusing his guitar, at one point PLAYING THE THING WITH HIS MIKE STAND LIKE A FREAKING CRAZYASS CELLO!!! In a word, insane. I highly recommend seeing these guys live if you ever get the chance. Oh yeah, and the bass guitarist threw his bass at the drummer as he was leaving the stage–he freakin’ threw it at him! Great stuff.

PJ, or Mike I should say came out to deafening–and I mean DEAFENING–applause and cheers. Mike shrugged, apparently not knowing where the rest of the band was. They came out moments later and–impossibly–the cheering grew in volume. I was gonna be deaf before the show even started. And, I should mention this now, these seats were AWESOME–you could see the whites of their damn eyes onstage.

Starting with ‘Long Road,’ the crowd sang along with every song. And, unlike other shows I’ve been to, the ENTIRE crowd was singing, not just those on the floor and lower sections–it was ridiculous. Every song was like this and thank God the band kicked it right into high gear after ‘Long Road,’ because the place just exploded hearing the first notes of ‘Go.’ On and on it went like this–every song had the crowd, Eddie and the band going crazy.

Other highlights of the main set: I finally got to hear ‘1/2 Full’ live, probably my favorite song from Riot Act; Not For You was awesome, Habit made a rare appearance and BLOOD was incredible, I don’t know how Ed can sing anything after that. You Are was stupendous (I’m running out of adjectives), the lighting for this song was also bizarre and great. The encore break was much needed, although maybe the band needed it b/c the crowd just got louder and louder.

I should take a paragraph here to mention Ed’s George W. Bush diatribe after Wishlist. I respect his right to free speech and I respect his opinion, but man did he say some inflammatory stuff. He started by relating the story of the climber that had to cut his own arm off a few months ago and Ed wanted to give him the “man of the year” award for that, and then suggested that Bush might want to cut off his own head in light of his recent actions. Jeez. Most if not all of the cheers came from the French-Canadians, as expected. Lots of cold silence from the Americans. If that’s not worse than what the Dixie Chicks did a while back, I don’t know what is. We’ll see if this leads to anything. If nothing else, I respect the band for saying what they believe, and based on my knowledge of them, I don’t think the comments are made without knowledge and respect for the political process they’ve researched and been vocal about in the past. Okay, political section over.

Ed came out and did his ‘Arc’ routine (see the Chicago review for the details) and it was incredible. Not too many more adjectives I can add to the performance of that song that would do it justice, just awesome. The band played what I thought was a slow intro to ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ but it turned out to be some sort of extended improv, it sounded great but I’d like to find out just what the origins of it are…

A stunning ‘Rearviewmirror’ ended the first encore, the crowd once again going absolutely clinically insane during the break, Ed came out to quiet them down with ‘Soon Forget’ on “Luke the Uke” as he did in Buffalo. As has been customary on this tour, Eddie motioned for the band to turn around and face those behind the stage for ‘Last Kiss,’ acknowledging them with a wave. Ed also felt the need to shake his ass at the rest of the arena during the song and the band could not stop laughing, Eddie had to stop singing at one point and said “I don’t know…” as the band struggled to play on. Weird, but great.

A paragraph should be devoted to Mister. Michael McCready, who was no more than 15 feet in front of us for the entire show. He was having fun with the crowd at every turn; very difficult to describe, unless you’ve seen him live you won’t really know what I mean, but he is unbelievable. He and Eddie are irreplaceable components of PJ, in my opinion.

You couldn’t ask for a better 1-2 punch to close the show than ‘Alive’ and the Neil Young cover ‘Fuckin’ Up.’ ‘Fuckin’ Up’ ended with what must have been 7-10 minutes of just jamming, with Ed working his way around the edge of the stage with the tambourine, acknowledging each part of the crowd. He ended the song right in front of us, looking over all of our faces–and I got a small nod of the head when I waved. Not too big in the grand scheme of things but it made my night. The band ended the song as the crowd roared in appreciation as the show came to a close. The band took their time leaving the stage, taking it all in–they knew this had been a special night.

This review’s been a bit disjointed but it’s hard for me to express how great this show was. Simply put:

Pearl Jam at its best.


Two Feet Thick notes:

Mike and Stone take the stage first, standing to the side for a good two minutes, waiting for the house lights to go down. ‘Long Road’ is started in partial light, with the crowd cheering when the lights finally go down. Jeff is playing stand-up bass for ‘Long Road.’ Matt goes off on ‘Even Flow’ … a great, great Matt night. After a lovely ‘Off He Goes,’ there’s a quick band meeting and ‘I Am Mine’ replaces ‘Gimme Some Truth.’ ‘Not for You’ is very powerful with lots of crowd singing. Lyrics are changed to “small my table, seats all of you” and there’s a small jam in the middle with the crowd chanting “hey, hey” and Ed turning it into “hey, ho, let’s go!” ‘Wishlist’ has the extended ending: “I wish I was the radio song, the one they can’t make money on. The one that can’t be bought and sold … turned into a commercial when we get old. I wish I was the president, keep them from killing girls and men. Figure out ways around the war. I always thought that’s what presidents were for. … and each one of you, there’s a light in each one of you … thanks for bringing your light into this room. Thanks for letting the light shine through …” Ed talks about the guy who was mountain climbing, fell, got trapped by himself and had to cut off his own arm with a knife to get free. “It was actually a ‘Leatherman’, prompting a guitar riff. He talks of how the climber had to get down and walk for hours and how he is “man of the year” but suggests that if the president would unselfishly cut his own head off to save the world, he might be eligible. To start off the encore, Ed gets ‘Arc’ going much more easily than when he first tried it in San Diego and it just sounds huge, with a big response from the crowd. Ed commends the crowd at the start of the second encore and lets them know that no one associated the band would ever order something called a “freedom fry.” ‘Soon Forget’ is about the greedy people on Capitol Hill that come up with that sort of “stupid shit.” He says we need to pay attention and vote. ‘Last Kiss’ is performed to the fans behind the stage. ‘Alive’ is a huge crowd pleaser with everyone in the entire arena pumping their fists and shouting “hey! hey! hey!” at the end and the show closes out with a thunderous ‘Fuckin’ Up’ with Ed destroying the tambourines with full house lights and the band and audience going ballistic.

Montreal Image Gallery