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

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