I got home a bit late tonight after work, eager to watch the big game. And boy, did it ever live up to expectations; I never expected a Timberwolves-Kings game to be so exciting! Okay, seriously, the big one. With so much having gone on this fateful night, it’s hard to focus one’s thoughts into a cohesive (and, of course, enjoyable) discourse for my loyal readers. Nevertheless, I’ll attempt to start with the commercial spectacle the NFL’s championship game has become. This year showcased the very pinnacle of what money can buy–whether it be advertisements, network executives, pop stars, or the loss of one’s dignity in the face of such all-encompassing greed. You can’t help but come away from Super Bowl Sunday feeling like you need a shower to wash off all the sleaze and amorality of what you’ve just witnessed. As funny as it may seem (and I admit–I was laughing out loud at this), what does it say about a culture when one of the most popular commercials is that of a horse farting on a woman? What does it say about us as a people when we laugh at it? It’s bad enough it was conceived in some advertising brain trust’s boardroom ont eh 80th floor of a gleaming skyscraper–the thing that gets me is that the American public-at-large has lowered itself to this level–and these ad execs know it! I’m not quite sure what’s worse: that we happily welcome these ads; or that there are executives who knows this and want to capitalize on it to make that very last cent–to scratch, claw and bit their way to every last buck, damn whatever moral credos and standards lay in their way. It makes me feel queasy just thinking about it.

That the American public so willingly takes in displays like that of the Super Bowl’s utter commercialism is frightening. We live in an age when our elections are a choice between lesser evils, when politicians and their countless advisers work long hours into the night before a speech, framing every phrase, syllable, enunciation and wink so as not to offend this constituent or that constituent. It’s become a game with the objective being the path of least resistance. It’s no longer (and I’m not sure it ever was) about taking a stand on an issue and bearing the consequences without regard for political correctness–it’s become about saying what fits a specific moment, what fits a specific audience, what fits Joe Sixpack sitting in his Barcalounger. It’s not about what John Kerry thinks is right, it’s about what his opponent does wrong. Will there ever come a time when a politician stands at a dais and says "this is me, this is what I stand for. I speak for myself and no one else. If you like what you hear, then by all means, give me your vote and I’ll do everything in my power to make it happen." Instead we get an endless cycle of mudslinging and bickering–forget any valuable discourse on the state of affairs of the country, or what we can do to change things for the better. It’s become a rat race to see who can get to the top of the heap the fastest–and oh yeah, if you vote for me I promise to lower taxes, create jobs and protect the environment. HORSESHIT!

Anyway, back to what really matters–commercials with the gold standard for comedy: chimps! By far the best Super Bowl commercials in history have featured chimpanzees prominently–the E-Trade commercial comes to mind. And just think what kind of impact chimps could have had if they had been embraced much sooner by the advertising industry. That Apple "1984" commercial? Throw chimps into the mix and you’ve got freakin’ Gone with the Wind! And you can’t tell me that a horse farting on a chimp wouldn’t be knee-slapping good fun!

As for the game itself, I’ve heard it mentioned as being "the best of all time." Whoa there, fellas. While it was a great game, much of the first half (about 27 minutes to be exact) was filled with sloppy and boring play. Say what you want about a defensive battle; just doesn’t do it for me–and it wasn’t doing it for me Sunday night. Not until the Patriots finally eeked their way into the end zone did the game begin to pick up some "Joementum." (And by the way, when did Lieberman become a huge joke of a candidate? Wasn’t he a pretty favorable-looking veep a few years back?) While Jake Delhomme’s and Tom Brady’s performances were admirable, by no means do they compare with John Elway’s heroics in ’98 against the Packers, or Montana’s grace under pressure in ’90 against the Bengals. Good performances by Brady and Delhomme, but they’re not the stuff legends are made of.

Dichotomy of the Week: I’ve listened to two songs over and over again over the last 24 hours: Incubus – Megalomaniac, and Britney Spears – Toxic. Something’s wrong with this picture. Was it me that just railed against indecency and outrageous amorality in the media? Oh well, I’m not part of the solution so I may as well be part of the problem.

You’re toxic, I’m slipping under. Until next time, me laddies.

Pearl Jam – Hershey 7.12.03 Review

Hersheypark – Hershey, PA
Opening Band: Sleater-Kinney

Preset: You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away (Ed solo)

Main Set: Love Boat Captain, Last Exit, Animal, Do The Evolution, Help Help, Grievance, Get Right, Elderly Woman, Immortality, Even Flow, Deep, Lukin/Corduroy, Thumbing My Way, Thin Air, Once, Insignificance, Rearviewmirror

Encore 1: Driven To Tears, Whipping, Glorified G, Daughter/(ABITW), Crazy Mary, Alive

Encore 2: State Of Love And Trust, Rockin’ in the Free World

My goal being to attend as many PJ shows as possible on this tour, I purchased tickets to their Hershey show, when it had been listed as the final show on the 2003 tour. Of course, about 3 days after I got the tickets, shows were added in New Jersey and Mexico City. Woe is me. But that didn’t really matter, as seeing Pearl Jam at any time is good enough.

I ended up heading down to Pennsylvania flying solo, as I couldn’t get anyone to go with me, but would meet up with some friends from college while down there. I sold the 2nd ticket on eBay, to who I’d hope would turn out to be a hot chick. More on that later.

Traveling to Hershey itself is akin to heading into the mountainous version of the Ozarks. About an hour after crossing the state line into PA, the concentration of hillbillies skyrocketed. I feared for my life while filling up at a Sunoco station meant for big rigs (the fuel pumps were about 3 feet off the ground, thus requiring one to have a step ladder just to reach the buttons). I caught a glimpse of the gas station attendant giving me the stinkeye from behind his crappy plexiglass window, and got outta there as soon as was possible.

After successfully navigating the circuitous route through the mountains, I arrived at my destination in record time, eager to meet up with some PJ fans and eat copious amounts of chocolate. Hersheypark is pretty much like any other theme park; you’ve got your rollercoaster, you’ve got your tilt-a-whirl, you’ve got your concession stands selling nothing but chocolate. Wait, that’s right, nothing but candy. And these weren’t your standardly-packaged candy bars either. There were giant, humongoid bars of Hershey chocolate on sale at these stands, about as big as my forearm. Vedder would comment upon this later that night, identifying Hersheyites as having bad skin. Chuckle.

Anyway, I met up with the chick I sold the ticket to, with her group (she was a MILF) and made my way through the hippie-infested parking lot and into the arena. It’s actually not so much an “arena” as an open-air ampitheater-like structure. Basically two grandstands bisected by a swath of sheet metal on the ground in the middle. I felt more ready to watch a high school football game than a rock concert.

I eventually spotted a buddy from college and talked for a bit before we were interrupted by Mr. Vedder coming onstage for his preset. He played a haunting rendition of Dead Man; which felt very strange in the Hershey environment. It was clear, at this point, that the arena wasn’t necessarily suited to the tone one would like at a concert. Nevertheless, the song sounded great and Ed gave way to the opening band for the night, Sleater-Kinney.

I’m not a big fan of theirs, but a highlight of the set was PJ drummer Matt Cameron accompanying SK on an inspiring tambourine. His style in playing said tambourine was notable in that he looked more like a tambourine-playing robot having a seizure than a musician. High comedy.

Finally, as twilight started to descend on Hershey, Ed and the boys came out onstage and launched right into a somber Love Boat Captain highlighted by keyboardist Boom Gaspar’s expertly-played intro. The low-key intro then gave way to the high-energy Last Exit, Animal and Do the Evolution, working most of the crowd into a frenzy. “Let’s go! Fuck this fuckin’ chocolate factory!” as Ed so aptly put it before Last Exit.

It was already apparent at this point that much of the crowd was more interested in smoking doobies and drinking than rocking out to Pearl Jam. It was relatively disappointing throughout the night. It’s difficult to be pogoing up and down, yelling out lyrics, when you’re the only one in your section doing so. The band clearly sensed this as well, displaying a sort of “fuck-you” attitude throughout the night to those who weren’t really there for the music. Nowhere was this more apparent than when Ed referred to a girl that had been flashing her tatas throughout the night. I can’t really do it justice just by describing it, so here is Ed’s quote:

“You know there’s some little coquette up here who thinks she’s getting us excited by pulling her top up and showing me absolutely nothing. Hey look guys … look at my mosquito bites from this summer. It’s all fucking girls gone wild bullshit. If every girl who pulled her top up educated herself and voted! And by the way, little lady, I’m just not turned on by that little thing. I’m into much harder core stuff. I actually like to shit on little girls heads just like you; that’s what turns me on.”

I think that more than made up for the crappy crowd.

The tension and attitude due to all that transferred itself into what turned out to be a hard-rocking Whipping. You could feel Ed’s anger and the crowd finally seemed to respond to it. As much as I liked Driven to Tears when I first heard Pearl Jam’s cover in Buffalo, it didn’t play as well in Hershey for me. That dissatisfaction was quickly tempered by the rest of the setlist, featuring Crazy Mary, Alive and State of Love and Trust.

Unfortunately, the encores didn’t last very long, and it seemed apparent that the band was pretty tired. This show came after the unbelievable shows at MSG in NYC, and the historic marathon show in Boston, during which the band played 44 songs over two sets. I couldn’t fault them for being a little tired, but what I found more disappointing was the mellow crowd. I’d been used to getting seats in fan club areas, so crowd mood and reaction wasn’t really an issue then. I still enjoyed the show a whole heck of a lot, but not as much as the shows I’d seen earlier in the summer. All in all, it was a nice capper to the tour for me, and I can’t wait until they’re out on the road again.


Two Feet Thick notes:

Matt helps out on tambourine during a Sleater-Kinney song. After the ‘LBC’ opener, Ed yells, “Let’s go! Fuck this fuckin’ chocolate factory!” Ed’s voice is a bit hoarse from the previous night’s marathon and makes up for it by having quite a bit to drink. Ed says everyone has fairly good complexions so they can’t be from around there. He jokes about a guy with a sign that reads “8 1/2 months pregnant” and suggests various band members’ names as names for the baby and wishes him good luck. ‘Elderly Woman’ is for people from small towns. The ‘Immortality’ solo is very bluesy, and Matt has a great solo. ‘Even Flow’ culminates with Mike and Stone squaring off from their respective sides of the stage, initiating a call and answer between guitars. Matt and Jeff own the middle jam in ‘RVM,’ with Jeff spending the second half leaning against his amp, eyes closed. The whole band brings it home at the end with Stone in particular rocking out (looking really cool in the strobes). Throughout much of the show, a female fan up front is flashing the band. Ed comments, “You know there’s some little coquette up here who thinks she’s getting us excited by pulling her top up and showing me absolutely nothing. Hey look guys … look at my mosquito bites from this summer. It’s all fucking girls gone wild bullshit. If every girl who pulled her top up educated herself and voted! And by the way, little lady, I’m just not turned on by that little thing. I’m into much harder core stuff. I actually like to shit on little girls heads just like you; that’s what turns me on,” leading to ‘Whipping.’ ‘Thumbing My Way’ and ‘Thin Air’ are gorgeous. The lyrics in the ‘Another Brick In The Wall II’ tag on ‘Daughter’ are modified: “Let’s pay teachers more and more; let’s not waste money on fucking war.” Mike tosses in a ‘Cat Scratch Fever’ riff at the end of a rocking ‘SOL&T” and Ed motions for someone in the crowd to toss him their harmonica, playing it a bit and tosses it back. The band brings out a friend of Stone’s who got married the day before (Mike Tyler … Stone calls him “Mr. Philadelphia”) to play on ‘RITFW,’ which Ed says is called “I do!” Ed dons the Bush mask for a while and dances around carelessly. A super tight set, but a very short second encore.

Hershey Image Gallery

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

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

Pearl Jam – Buffalo 5.2.03 Review

HSBC Arena – Buffalo, NY
Opening Band: Sparta
Attendance: 18,220

Preset: You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away (Ed solo)
Main Set: Love Boat Captain, Brain of J., Hail Hail, Save You, Corduroy, Small Town, I Got Shit, Even Flow, Faithfull, Deep, Given to Fly, Spin the Black Circle, Wishlist, Green Disease, Insignificance, Black, Go

Encore 1: Free Jazz, Driven to Tears, Betterman, Crazy Mary, Do the Evolution, Alive

Encore 2: Soon Forget, Smile, Fortunate Son, Sonic Reducer, People Have the Power

Encore 3: Baba O’Riley, Yellow Ledbetter

An absolutely amazing show. Having become familiar with the rest of the shows on the first leg of Pearl Jam’s Riot Act tour, the Buffalo show on May 2nd was not only the longest up to that point, but also the most electric and engaging of any of the previous shows; “one for the ages” as a Buffalo News reviewer put it.

Personally, I could not have asked for a better show, having been such a huge fan of the band for the last ten years. And unexpected as well; the last time PJ played Buffalo, it was less than extraordinary. Regardless, when I first entered the arena, Eddie was just taking the stage to play a great solo version of ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’–a nice surprise for those that showed up “early.”

Sparta wasn’t half bad, I hadn’t heard much of their stuff prior to that night, but was impressed enough to illegally download some of their music. Anyway, on to the good stuff: the band came out as the lights went down and I felt a jolt when I heard Boom Gaspar’s keyboard come to life for ‘Love Boat Captain,’ possibly my favorite track off Riot Act. Immediately after, quite possibly my favorite track off Yield, ‘Brain of J,’ I figured we were in for a good night, as the band was as tight as I’d ever heard them (in person or via mp3 or otherwise).

They kept on rockin’ (sorry) through some great songs (including I Got Shit, my favorite song of theirs) and wrapped the first chapter of the concert with a driving ‘Go.’ They came back and did their weird ‘Free Jazz’ cover and then hit the audience with a fantastic version of The Police’s ‘Driven to Tears’–although I think PJ does the song better.

One of the true high points of the night was ‘Crazy Mary.’ From Boom’s frenetic and wrenching keyboard solo (as wrenching as a keyboard solo can be…) to McCready’s tandem duet with him, it was simply awesome. Other highlights were the inclusion of ‘Smile’ on the setlist (gotta love that harmonica), Sonic Reducer, Fortunate Son (CCR), and an inspiring version of Patti Smith’s ‘People Have The Power,’ during which Ed brought a young girl onstage to hold the lyrics for him. Good stuff.

Also good was Vedder’s solo on ‘Soon Forget’ during which he serenaded a Bill Gates mask on a mike stand–a subtle but endearing ‘fuck you’ to the Seattle mogul.

PJ wrapped up with an epic final encore of The Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’ and the quintessential show closer ‘Yellow Ledbetter.’ One image I’ll never forget is Jeff Ament during Mike McCready’s final Ledbetter solo: he was standing behind Mike’s amp, staring at the crowd with a huge smile on his face. The crowd was also amazing this night, singing along with each and every song, sometimes outdoing Vedder himself.

Definitely a show for the ages, one that PJ will be hard-pressed to outdo for the rest of this tour (don’t believe the stuff you hear about the Penn State show the next night, Buffalo was clearly the better show in my humble opinion). Thanks, PJ.

Two Feet Thick notes:

During ‘Hail Hail,’ Ed forgets the next line after, “I get the words and then I get to thinking …” and says “What’s the next line, I always forget,” not missing a beat. No talk until after ‘I Got Shit’: “Here it is, the second-to-last night of the tour of this leg … going home for a while after this and watch the world turn round … You’d always think that … you’d want to see a band on their last night … that’s when they’d really let it all hang out … but being in the band, we realize it’s different … it’s really the second-to-last show” [that is the special one]. ‘Faithfull’ is subbed into the setlist in response to a sign on Mike’s side, gets off to a bad start and is restarted. ‘GTF’ is dedicated to Buffalo filmmaker Vincent Gallo. Wishlist’ is stretched to 9 minutes and contains a lovely tag, including:
“… I wish that I was a disease, a disease called love and peace
and I wish that I could spread, to every person in the land
and I know that eventually, and I hope that eventually
and I feel, I feel, feel; that it wont happen without you and me
it’ll take you and me, it’ll take you and me
and more than me, it’ll take you
and more than me, it starts with two
and then becomes ten; and then becomes ten thousand
and then becomes ten million; and then becomes … the truth
the truth, the future, and the truth
send home those troops, come on troops
seek more troops …”
Returning for the encore, the band seems to have trouble getting started and go into ‘Free Jazz,’ with Mike yelling “jazz jazz jazz … experimental jazz!” until they find their way to the start of ‘Driven To Tears.’ At the start of the second encore, Ed notes toasts Buffalo, noting that they make the best Mozzarella in the world and he observes that venues such as the HSBC Arena often have curfews, and that breaking them costs bands lots of money. As people start booing, he says, “Mike McCready is gonna pay the fine tonight,” (prompting a “Mike” chant). He then introduces Luke the uke and plops a Bill Gates mask atop the mic stand. Ed is confused whether the crowd is saying “Luuuuke” or booing. “Are you angry that it’s black and white and not red, white and blue?” He talks about the mask, commenting, “He’s a skinny little guy … note the size of his penis,” (or lack of same, as he sizes up the mic stand) leading to ‘Soon Forget.’ ‘Smile’ is played by request for a group of friends who attended the Uniondale show and held up various signs and towels with ‘Smile’ written on them. (After the Bushleaguer incident, Ed sees the ‘Smile’ signs and says to the group, “tomorrow night, tomorrow night, next show,” and the band delivers.) For ‘People Have the Power,’ Ed invites a young lady (“Nana, from the heart of Buffalo”) on stage to hold the lyrics up for him. At first she seems nervous, but as the song progresses, she is more confident and by the end, is rocking right out. Great singalong and a long, impassioned, powerful version with the crowd chanting back the chorus, Eddie yelling “let’s hear you!!” and asking, “It’s the ultimate goal, yeah?” Ed and Nana do a back-to-back lean, and Nana helps sing the closing chorus into the mic. At the song’s end, Ed gives her a great, dramatic dip. This version is so good that most thought it was the close of the show and are stunned when the band returns for the third encore. When they come back to the stage, Ed says, “We had a democratic vote backstage and the verdict was: It’s Friday night … what the fuck.” At the beginning of ‘Baba,’ the house lights are turned up and people from the stands rush the floor area as security give up trying to control the crowd as the band and the audience go crazy. Classic show.

Buffalo Image Gallery

Pearl Jam – Buffalo 10.1.96 Review

Marine Midland Arena – Buffalo, NY
Opening Band: The Fastbacks
Attendance: 21,000

Main Set: Oceans, Last Exit, Hail Hail, Spin the Black Circle, Animal, Tremor Christ, In My Tree, Corduroy, Lukin, Betterman/(Save It For Later), Not For You, State of Love and Trust, Rats, Jeremy, Off He Goes, Footsteps, Whipping, Immortality, Alive, Porch, Even Flow, Daughter

Encore 1: Blood/(Heaven)/(Fame), Present Tense, Yellow Ledbetter

For my first PJ show, it was great. However, I found Ed seemed to be a bit tired, and I think this showed in the fact that he screwed so many songs up. I’ve seen much better shows since, but a decent show (especially since it was my first). B+ (and I’ve got the video if anyone is interested, pretty good video and sound quality)

Two Feet Thick notes:

‘Oceans’ hasn’t opened a show since the final show of 1995. ‘Rats’ is started, paused (Ed notes, “OK, we haven’t done this one for a while and we’re gonna do it right”) and the song is picked up again. Lyrical changes to ‘Rats’ include “drag the bones of the Grateful Dead.” After a lyric flub at the start of ‘Off He Goes,’ Ed modifies the lyrics to “… I should relax.” By request, ‘Footsteps’ is played for the first time this tour. A climactic ‘Immortality’ makes the smooth transition into ‘Alive.’ After a problematic ‘Porch,’ the song is restarted … with Ed apologizing and saying he has a lot on his mind with the elections and all. During the ‘Porch’ jam, Ed pulls a kid up on stage who is wearing an old Who shirt and swaps shirts with him. The kid stage dives into the crowd but the shirt is instantly ripped off him by the audience. PJ immediately return after ‘Porch,’ with Ed commenting about a sign in the crowd reading “Don’t delay” and launching into a version of ‘Even Flow’ with a cool jam. ‘Blood’ includes a handful of lines from ‘Heaven’ by the Talking Heads prior to the ‘Fame’ reference. A request that the crowd “listen to the words” is the lead in to a lovely ‘Present Tense.’ Great connection between PJ and the audience at this show.

Buffalo 96

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