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

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