Pearl Jam – Camden 6.19.08 Review

Susquehanna Bank Center – Camden, NJ
opener: Ted Leo & the Pharmacists

Main Set: Hard To Imagine, Corduroy, Severed Hand, Do The Evolution, All Night, In Hiding, Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town, Gone, Who You Are, Unemployable, Even Flow, Light Years, Grievance, Given To Fly, U, Rats, Why Go

Encore 1: Love Reign O’er Me, Better Man(Save it for Later), State Of Love And Trust, Black, Leash

Encore 2: No More, Crazy Mary, Porch, Yellow Ledbetter

editor’s note: the majority of this was written in the wee hours of the night after the show on 6/19

I went into my semi-annual Pearl Jam tour-a-palooza with a bit of trepidation at the thought of seeing yet another Pearl Jam show–my fifteenth. I’ve certainly enjoyed each and every one of the fourteen shows I’ve been to in years past, but there’s been a growing sense of staleness and contemptuous familiarity with some of the live sets. (Keep in mind this is all relative–Pearl Jam’s most staid and boring show is better than 97% of the crap bands on tour at this very moment.) I’ve not been following this year’s tour dates with the interest I had in the past–I don’t know what the setlists have been like, I don’t know what crowd reaction’s been, etc. My Pearl Jam fanaticism was in need of some rejuvenation.

Well, consider me juvenated after a surprisingly spectacular show in Camden tonight, with the band just about as tight as I’ve ever seen them, with enthusiasm and intensity to match. I find myself unable to speak, not because of my elation at another fantastic PJ show, but because I literally can’t speak. I sang my larynx out all night and will certainly pay for it this weekend.

Some highlights:

  • Prior to the show, we partook of some all-American tailgating activity with some of my compadres from Red Mosquito (yes, it’s an Internet message board), an experience that always starts awkwardly before quickly becoming a blast (I attribute that to the fact that they’re all cool as shit). We didn’t get to partake of said tailgating for too long, thanks to 90 minutes of Philadelphia traffic. During the car ride, however, we did get to see a jalopy with a handwritten sign taped to the back that said “I Love Mike Huckabee;” and a car pulled over by a cop at the side of the road–a car I shall dub the “Satan-mobile” because of it being covered with death-metal graffiti. Alas, no picture. (I know, I know; for shame.) Because of the lateness, we opted to stay in the parking lot a bit longer and missed opener Ted Leo & the Pharmacists who, I’m told, got mixed reviews.
  • A quick word about one of those Red Mosquito compadres, Frank, who you might remember from my last Camden review in 2006. Frank passed away recently, and all of us who knew him were shocked and saddened by the news. Those of us who met him in 2006 at Camden, I’m sure, feel fortunate to have known him for that short time. He brought a lot of joy to a lot of people and he will be sorely missed in the community.
  • The fan club ticket pick-up was something of a mess this year. After the relative ease with which we were able to get our tickets at past shows, this was pretty surprising. So you know, fan club members get the ability to buy tickets on the band’s website, and pick them up at the box office the day of the show. Seating is done on a seniority basis, based on your “10club #.” Mine’s pretty decent, so I was a little surprised when I found out my seats were about 30 rows back on the right. Add that to the fact that we had to stand in line for about 40 minutes and I wasn’t thrilled. From what I hear, a lot of fans haven’t been too happy with the way tickets have been doled out this tour. Something’s fishy.

    fan club line

    One thing I will give the fan club kudos for, though, is the lottery system they instituted for rows 1-2 and 9-10. If you’re lucky enough to be chosen at random, regardless of your 10club #, you get tickets in one of those four rows. I know people that’ve won the lottery multiple times this tour, the bastards. *shakes fist in air*

  • The show itself, then: a great, rare (at least at this point in the tour) Hard to Imagine served as the show opener; a mellow track from the early 90’s Ten era. This turned out to be a good choice to ease everyone into the show before letting loose with an aural assault in the form of “Corduroy,” “Severed Hand,” “Do The Evolution,” and “All Night,” a track from the recent Lost Dogs rarities album. The crowd was ridiculously high-energy and a seemingly surprised band responded in kind. They seemed genuinely thrilled at the response they were getting right off the bat; Eddie mumbled something about it as well, asking us “are you guys all friends or something?” Lots of good energy in the ampitheater tonight.
  • Ed prefaced a haunting “Light Years” with a very nice tribute to recently-deceased Tim Russert, someone he and the band seemed to have a lot of respect and admiration for, in light of today’s political climate (stay tuned for more on this in my Washington, DC review).
  • “Light Years” was perhaps the best example of the band sounding much better than they have previous years. Drummer Matt Cameron has played a bit too up-tempo during past tours, making each song feel rushed or off-beat. Not so tonight; Cameron’s ever-increasing familiarity with the PJ catalog seemed in evidence as he favored accuracy over speed. The band sounded incredible tonight.
  • “Grievance” is fast-becoming one of my favorite songs to hear live. Hard-charging guitars and a passionate Vedder result in a frenetic singalong, with guys like myself hitting their chests at the end “I! will! feel!…ali-ive…as long as I am freeeeeee!!!!”
  • This drunk guy was a couple seats away from us during the show, and he alternated between frantic, seizure-like motions he probably thought was “dancing,” and a sort of slow swaying back and forth as he hugged himself.

    drunk guy

    I’m sure he had a great time, even if he was blacked out.

  • The encores were of the more familiar variety than I’d like (I must sound like an ass saying this about one of the best shows I’ve ever seen), but after what they’d done up to that point, I’ve got no problem with “having” to sing along to “Better Man,” “Black,” “Porch” and “Crazy Mary.”
  • Leash closed the first encore, the song that might have had the loudest sing-along, but the real highlight for me was The Who cover “Love Reign O’er Me,” which the band did for the Adam Sandler Reign O’er Me film in 2007. A beautiful piano intro by keyboardist Boom Gaspar led into a great rendition of a song that’s steadily grown on me.
  • crowd

  • Strains of closer “Yellow Ledbetter” played us into the Camden night, where we could make a quick getaway across the Ben Franklin Bridge to Philly, lest we get shot or mugged in the crime capital of the U.S. (I mean, did you see Live Free or Die Hard? There are gun-toting punks and mercenaries everywhere in that city!)

After a night like tonight, I’m ready for fifteen more shows, starting with Washington, DC on Sunday night. Hallelujah, Pearl Jam.

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