Toledo Sports Arena – Toledo, OH
Opening Band: Gob Roberts, Death Cab For Cutie
Preset: I Am A Patriot, You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (Ed solo)
Main Set: Long Road, Corduroy, Hail Hail, Save You, The American In Me, Cropduster, I Am Mine, Wishlist, Better Man, I Believe In Miracles, Even Flow, Bleed For Me, Alive
Encore 1: (acoustic): Thumbing My Way, Elderly Woman, Black, Harvest Moon (Ed and Neil)
Encore 2: All Along the Watchtower, Act of Love, Cortez The Killer, Rockin’ in the Free World
I’m not one to attend political rallies, or publicly endorse candidates, or try to subvert those around me into supporting one platform or another, so attending the Vote For Change tour Pearl Jam is on could be seen as being in conflict with some of my personal views and feelings on politics. The band (and all other groups on this tour throughout the States) are touring, basically, in support of John Kerry’s bid for the presidency, something I’m not in tune with them on. But, anytime I have a chance to see my favorite band play one of their guaranteed-to-be-great shows, I can’t turn it down. Politics be damned, as long as they play music, I’ll be there.
That being said, there was occasion for me to roll my eyes a few times throughout the course of the night. Enough about that garbage, on to TOLEDO!
Well, there’s not a whole lot to say about Toledo. If you think downtown Buffalo is dead after 5pm, Toledo makes it look like a regular thriving metropolis by comparison. I think we saw a total of 3 people walking the streets, 66% of them homeless. We were right on the river, seemingly a great location for clubs, bars and restaurants, but I think the closest thing I saw that came to that was a sculpture of jagged metal. I think it was built in honor of an old sea captain named Wilhelm, Ye Olde Salty Dog.
After taking in all the sights (three vacant lots and a AAA baseball stadium), we got changed and headed off to the Toledo Sports Arena, a compact venue capable of fitting about 6,000 concertgoers. Crossing the drawbridge across the river, we navigated our way through countless hippies and frat guys all roaring to go see Pearl Jam. It was around this time we began to hear rumors of a certain aging rock god being in the area, one Neil Young. The buzz in the crowd as we got into the arena was tangible, adding to what was already a festive mood in anticipation of Pearl Jam’s set.
Ed’s now-standard preset consisted of I Am A Patriot and You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away, then yielding to a band called Gob Roberts. The most notable thing about Gob Roberts? Their lead singer, none other than Hollywood actor Tim Robbins. Yes, Tim Robbins of The Shawshank Redemption. We were surprised, too. He can’t sing worth shit, but the band itself was pretty good. There was some predictable ranting against Bush, and then the second opening band for the night, Death Cab For Cutie, came out and played a pretty toned down set consisting of the wailing that constitutes the current Coldplay-copycat trend in the music industry. They weren’t too bad, though.
We clearly weren’t there for them, though, and Pearl Jam quickly made us forget the openers as they launched into a high-energy block of Corduroy, Hail Hail, Save You and insertbandnamehere’s The Amerikan in Me after opening with a beautiful Long Road. Interspersed with the opening tracks was a short political musing on all the jobs lost in Ohio (25% of the jobs lost in the last four years; and of course it’s Bush’s fault), etc. Ed kept it brief, and I appreciate the fact that he cares about the country enough to be involved as he is. I can’t fault him or the bands involved for that.
The rest of the set, while fantastic, had a fairly ordinary setlist, but that soon changed with the close of the first encore. Mr. Young joined Ed on stage to a raucous reception from the crowd and from there on, it was basically Neil’s show. Ed and Neil played Young’s Harvest Moon, accompanied by Young’s wife Pegi on backing vocals. Beautiful, lovely version to close the first encore.
None other than Peter Frampton came out to join everyone on Young’s Act of Love, adding to an already nutty lineup, but the second encore was dominated by Neil’s rocking, extended solos on All Along the Watchtower, Act of Love, Cortez the Killer and Rockin’ in the Free World to close the show. It’s a joy to watch the seemingly old man rock out onstage, basically dominating the music as Pearl Jam struggled to keep up as they watched him in awe. How often do you get to see Neil Young and Peter Frampton play with your favorite band? Unbelievable night, as the show came to a close in Toledo, on the banks of the mighty Maumee River.
A short coda to the review: after we left the arena, we were in the mood for some phat beatz, and there actually was a club (with real live people inside) just down the road on the river. Of course, as one would expect, we were turned away because I was wearing sneakers. I guess sneakers would damage the fragile dance floor. I know I can bust some moves, but come on. Instead of dancing the night away, we watched the drawbridge go up as a ginormous tanker came down the river. We ended up in a club back across the river, although there weren’t too many people there. The buddy I was with went out in the middle of the dance floor and started doing the robot solo in an effort to attract the fine ladies around him. Needless to say, he failed miserably. I wisely nursed a beer off the floor as he flailed about. We got some eats and called it a night–another one for the books thanks to Pearl Jam.
Two Feet Thick notes:
Big, big show with Neil Young heard soundchecking with the band. Toward the start of the show, Ed quote some statistics: “Four percent of the whole US population is in Ohio. You account for 25% of the jobs that have been lost in the last four years. That’s staggering. And this is a swing state?” At the end of the acoustic set, Ed says something about a friend “… who came a long way, I thought to see us, but really I think he came out to see you” and Neil and Pegi Young take the stage. ‘Harvest Moon’ ends the acoustic set and is just Ed and Pegi on vocals with Neil playing acoustic guitar. The encore songs include Neil (obviously) and the final three songs also include Neil’s wife Pegi, plus Peter Frampton For ‘Act of Love,’ Ed and Pegi stand to one side providing vocals, with Neil fronting. Neil tells the crowd to get friends registered to vote and “… maybe we can turn this whole thing around.”