In February of 1998, I was in the second semester of my Freshman year of UNH. I had just started to get into our phenomenal college radio station that focused on indie music, but had yet to morph into full-on "music snob" yet (more on that next post!), so when Pearl Jam released their 5th studio album, Yield, I wasted no time in rushing out and picking it up. That is to say I waited for the bus to take me to the mall and buy the album at FYE, because it was the only store I knew of in the area. I probably paid a couple of bucks more for it than I would have at Bull Moose Music, but at the time, I didn't know that store existed. Plus, I was flush with fast food cash from working over the winter break, so… Well, I had enough to get the album.
The opening chords of "Brain of J" thrilled me. I knew "Given to Fly" already, as it had been released as the album's first single, and I liked it, even with the unavoidable comparison to Led Zeppelin's "Going to California". "Do The Evolution", with its rising guitar riff and screaming vocals reminded me of "Lukin" but longer, and more intelligible. Everything else… Was unexpected at the time.
It is a good album, sort of a hybrid between the stripped down feel of No Code and the more straightforward rock of earlier albums, though lacking the anthemic/stadium rock sound. From a band that was known for soaring guitars and vocals on songs like "Alive", "Dissident", and "Corduroy", this album was a far more mellow affair, and much different than everything that had come before it.
One reason for this is that the rest of the band was starting to contribute more to the songwriting. In the early days of the band, Stone and Jeff would write the music, Eddie would write the lyrics, and that was about it. For Yield, Mike McCready wrote three songs, "Brain of J", "Faithfull", and "Given to Fly". Stone Gossard wrote lyrics for "No Way" and "All Those Yesterdays". And Jeff Ament wrote the lyrics for "Low Light" and "Pilate". Jack Irons wrote the music and lyrics for the untitled track (unofficially known as "Red Dot"). Eddie wrote the lyrics for everything else, including "Wishlist" and "Do The Evolution".
On my first few listens, I found that while it wasn't what I'd hoped, I didn't hate it, and gave it a chance, and it grew on me. It's a solid record; go to any Pearl Jam show, and you're likely to hear multiple songs from this album, with the exception of "Push Me, Pull Me" which few people are all that upset about (even the untitled track, or "Red Dot" is used occasionally as intro music). Personally, I think "Push Me, Pull Me" would be fun to see live – it's got a good groove to it, and while the spoken-word lyrics are a little silly, I can picture Eddie roaming around the stage, having fun with it.
That said, Yield is, if not my least favorite Pearl Jam album, in the bottom three. That's not to say it's bad. As noted, it's a solid album, and, as I'm sure will become apparent over the course of this blog, I like all ten Pearl Jam albums. When this album came out, it got solid rotation in my CD player (CDs – or Compact Discs – were a form of data and music storage ubiquitous in the late 90s and early 2000s before mp3s/digital music caught on).
The upshot is that I listened to it a lot when it came out, and in the years between it and Binaural, and then again in the years between Binaural and Riot Act, because I underappreciated Binaural at the time (more on that next time). So now, with nine other albums, a double-disc release of B-sides and rarities, as well as bootlegs from the nine shows I've been to, if I want to listen to some Pearl Jam, Yield is the last album I'll scroll to on the old iPod (an iPod was a device for storing and playing mp3s/digital music before everyone went back to vinyl).
However I felt about the album, a new album meant a new tour, and I'd just seen them two years earlier. The band's battle with TicketMaster turned out to be a lost cause, but also good news to fans who just wanted to see the band in nearby venues. Well, nearby is relative, but the band was able to play more shows, in more places. For this tour, they'd be playing at Great Woods, an amphitheater that has since changed names a few times, located in Mansfield, Mass, down near Foxboro. It's not exactly close to Bedford, NH, or Durham, NH, but it's a better drive than trying to get to Hartford.
The other benefit was that they were playing two shows in the area, and more shows overall, meaning it would be slightly easier to get tickets. I was able to call the moment they went on sale, and procure four tickets to the second night, which happened to be on a Saturday, meaning I could head home on Friday, go to the show on Saturday, then go back to school on Sunday. I had no knowledge of the "second night is better" conventional wisdom. It just worked out better for me.
Now, to find someone to go with. Bagley was off in school in Ohio. I didn't have many friends who would still be in the area that September, who also wanted to trek down to Mansfield to see Pearl Jam. I did eventually convince a couple of friends to go, and found that one of the group I'd been to the Meadows with was at UNH, and she wanted to go, as well.
So, we had a foursome, and we made the long, boring journey down 495 to Mansfield. We wandered around the parking lot for a bit, unenthused by the opening act (Ben Harper – a talented musician, but the most boring live performance you will ever see), and finding the radio truck of a station we all loved back then. Looking back, I do kind of regret not heading in early, as Eddie was in his, "Introduce the opener by playing a song" phase, and so I missed a song. On the other hand, I also missed almost all of Ben Harper's set, so it's a mixed bag, really.
This is the poster I wish I had bought at the show. One of the best PJ posters ever.
Eventually, we went in, and, having lawn seats, sat in the bleachers at the back of the lawn. The venue is big, but not huge, so we still had a pretty good view of the stage. I'm pretty sure we sat back there because Ben Harper was still finishing up his set, but when Pearl Jam took the stage, no one in our small group was in a rush to stand up and push forward. Even being at the front of the lawn, you're still way in the back, so what's the difference?
I don't know that I was in the best frame of mind for this show. I was excited, for sure, but there was just something hanging over my head. The semester had just started, but I was already in a hole. I had missed early classes, was in over my head in at least one, had a new roommate who seemed okay, but not quite the right fit. I was on a floor with mostly freshman and felt like the newcomer, as they had all moved in a few days before I got there. Two of my good friends from the year before had dropped out after the Spring semester, and the only other person I was close to had moved across campus. It was a lonely time for me, but hey, I was at a Pearl Jam concert – it's like being surrounded by thousands of new friends!
A note about the concert: While Jack Irons recorded with the band on Yield, he only performed on the early leg of the resulting tour. Needing a drummer, the band called on long-time drummer for the recently broken up Soundgarden, Matt Cameron, who had helped the band record their first demos. He learned 80 songs in two weeks and agreed to help out for the tour.
And the next album.
...And that tour.
...And the album after that.
...Okay, he was asked to join the band permanently during the Yield tour, and he accepted.
Anyway, on to the show…
So, I didn't actually see this song performed, but it is on the bootleg I acquired…somehow. Honestly, I don't know where this bootleg came from. The Hartford show, Matt sent me. This one, I have no idea. I just sort of…have it. In any case, I didn't see this song. Kinda wish I had, as it's just Ed and a guitar, and it's a pretty, emotional song. Then I would have had to sit through Ben Harper, though.
I am sure Harper is a fine musician, but I cannot stand him live. He may have changed things up a bit, but I saw him perform one song here, and then caught his entire set a few years later, and his live performance is one of the most boring things I've endured at a concert. If you're into his music and want to see him live, save the ticket money, find a live recording, and sit in your living room and listen to it. No, you won't be able to see him, but here's a spoiler: he sits and plays his lap steel guitar. That's it. His drummer sits there and drums. His bass player stands there with his upright bass. Zero energy.
I always think of "Release" as a rarity to see live, though it really isn't. I've always felt it was intensely personal to Eddie (the lyrics weren't printed in the liner notes to Ten, nor in the official songbook). A beautiful way to start a show, though, with the slow building intro and dirge-like lyrics. I've also always figured this would be a show closer, as it was the album closer on Ten, but it works great at the start, and is, in fact, the most common show opener. Why did I think it was rare? I will say this – nine shows over the past twenty years, I've only seen it performed twice. So, rare to me.
Speaking of "rare", the music leading into the set is "Aye, Davanita", one of the strange, quasi-instrumental tracks from Vitalogy. According to the official website, as well as others that track this sort of thing, the song has never been "fully played live", which is technically true, as this was just a recording. However, I'm considering this seeing it in concert.
At any rate, the song is beautiful (even if my bootleg is suffering from a little data loss in the last half of the song), with Ed changing the last "Oh dear dad" to "Oh dear John" for someone he knows who'd passed away recently. It may actually be for a fan, because Pearl Jam is well-known for giving shout-outs to fans who write to them. Just another reason the band is so beloved by their fans. At the end, Ed sings softly, "I miss you" repeatedly.
Much like my previous show, the band starts mellow, then shifts gears right away, ripping us from the mellow yet soaring refrain of "Release" into to the cascading power chords of "Brain of J", a rocking tune about the government taking control.
Great solo from Mike, who is clearly feeling it early on in this show. Pretty close to the album version.
Ed starts the song with a comment to someone (us? The band?) to, "Loosen up!" Another great version of this song.
Ed addresses the crowd post-song, pretty early in set for him, greeting us to "Boston show Summer of 98 night 2" and then talking about the next song going out to a family who lost a member unexpectedly, and talks about appreciating those around you, be they family, friends, or strangers that might be friends by the end of the night. It goes out to "someone named John, and his brother and sister", which helps to explain the lyric change in "Release".
The band took flack for this song sounding too much like Led Zeppelin's "Going to California". Sure. I guess it sounds something like that. It also sounds like a beautiful song about life and loss and this version is particularly emotional, with Eddie near tears, screaming through the chorus just to get through it. The second verse is particularly tough for him, with his voice audibly shaking.
They go right into a song that, while it is one of my favorites on Vs, always seemed a little odd in terms of subject matter. Taken literally, it's the story of a political dissident and the woman who is supposed to hide him, but turns him in. It sounds like something out of Soviet Russia, or other fascist regimes. The band does get political, and has an active social conscience, but it's not like this was something that happened in this country in the 80s or 90s, it's not a cause that they've been particularly vocal in supporting, nor is it a subject matter that comes up pretty much anywhere else in their lyrics. At least, not this overtly.
I have heard other theories, that it's about a mother giving up her child for adoption (though it's a bit of a stretch, and not backed up by anything). Others have claimed that Eddie said during a show, "a woman's word is sacred and the no means no and that's what a 'holy no' is." Meaning that the song referred to a date rape. If that is true, the song takes on a whole new emotional intensity.
Which is saying something, especially in this performance. The guitars wail, Eddie sings his lungs out, and again, breaks down a bit towards the end, unable to sing the last line, speaking, "Escape is never…the safest path," in his normal voice. Powerful.
He asks for a moment to compose himself before continuing.
This is actually a great song to follow up the previous, as it's all about hopping in your car and getting the hell out of a bad situation. Supposedly, the initials stand for "Mini Fast Car". I'd always thought it was "My Fast Car". I have read others arguing that it stands for "Mini F'ing Cooper". As my wife owns a Mini F'ing Cooper, and it is an awesome little car, I think I'm going to go with that one. Also, I need to design a Pearl Jam-themed "MFC" sticker for her car now.
Quick, name every rock song you can think of that uses the word, "tincture". Come up with any? My guess would either be Rush or They Might Be Giants. "Corduroy" does, because apparently one of the perils of fame is having your drink spilled?
Sure, Rush and TMBG is pretty nerdy company, but here's a picture of Eddie and his MLB scorebook that he brings to every single game.
Great song, but a little more subdued than the version a couple of years earlier; Mike's solo is a little more bluesy. I still get a kick out of Eddie saying "Thank you" at the end. He does it for a bunch of songs at these early tours, and it reminds me of less well-known bands playing small clubs. I think that even 7 years into their run, Eddie was still not used to the fact that they were a big deal.
This was one of the songs that when I first heard Yield, I wondered what had happened to the musicians in this band. The main riff is this really simple two-chord boogie, but over time, I have learned to hear the beauty in its simplicity, the way Ed's vocals ride along on the gentle wave of this riff. Also, there's the e-bow solo, which is very pretty. I like the lyrics of the song, too, how we constantly want to be something we're not, and how maybe if we took a moment to actually look at ourselves, maybe we'd realize we are all those things, and more.
Kind of a strange version of this song, as they seem to end, but then continue on to the final verse, which fades out on the album.
Take no prisoners time.
Yeah! Hell yeah!
Two shows in a row? Okay, it was only 1998, and the band had only put out 5 studio albums by this point, but still, they had so much other material (not to mention the new album they're ostensibly promoting), that you have to expect that some of the older stuff would get left off the set list. That may happen at one of these shows, but it will not be this show!
Supposedly, Ed had been having trouble with the lyrics in the second verse on this tour, but he nailed them at this show. I like to think it was because of my calming influence, which he could sense from three hundred feet away. I also like to think that someday I'll be a best-selling author and be able to quit my day job.
Yes, that is the way the song title is spelled. I had to double check the album. Then, I checked the lyrics, where it is spelled correctly. So, why the typo in the track listing? The prevailing theory is that it is supposed to signal being full of faith…which is what "faithful" means, even when spelled correctly. So...typo, I guess? Other have suggested it is meant as in "Full of shit", which given Eddie Vedder…is equally as possible.)
I love the way this song starts, with a pretty guitar riff that is semi-mimicked by Jeff on the bass, that builds to a nicely energetic chorus, that then resolves back into the lightness of the first verse for the outro. A nice song about faith. Oh, and how faith controls us, like everything else, when we should really just realize that we're all in this together, and that maybe what we need instead of faith is to just be good to one another. "Just be a darling and I will be, too, faithful to you.
What's interesting about this version is that he really enunciates the Rs in words like "here" and "rare". If I didn't know better, I would think he was taking subtle jabs at the Boston accent.
Eddie has a thing for history. He loves classic rock, and this song is a love song to vinyl. Some think it's a song about drugs, what with the opening lyrics "See this needle, see my hand, drop drop dropping it down, oh so gently" and others that refer to arms and rituals, but no, it's all about spinning vinyl. Eddie was also ahead of the curve on the vinyl resurgence. I take a little pride in the fact that the first time I listened to this song was on vinyl.
Alright, so last night, we played a Neil Young right towards the end there, and uh, and uh, well we're trying to play as many different songs tonight as we did last night, so I hope that's alright, it's a little different. So, I don't know if this is like a radio hit or anything, or if this thing got played very much, but, uh, we wrote it and played it with Neil and it goes like this…
Or "I Got Id". Granted, "I got shit" is a lyric in the song, whereas "I got id" is not, but the somewhat pretentious reference to the Freudian concept of the id informs the song more than shit, and I think I'm overthinking this.
I don't know if this was a radio hit, either, but I do know that love this song, and sitting in the bleachers in the back of the venue it was great to hear. There's an awesome dischordance to the melody that I'm sure put people off initially, but it matches the quavering vocals so perfectly, that if they stuck with it, I think they started to like it. This song is sort of the last vestige of the "angsty" Eddie Vedder. Recorded for the Merkin Ball EP that accompanied Neil Young's Mirrorball (most of Pearl Jam played on Young's album, he lent his talents to the band's 2-song EP), it was released about a year before No Code. After this (and "Sometimes", the opening track on No Code), Ed's lyrics really started to mature. Not that this song is bad, or that I don't like the angsty songs. I like that the band has evolved over the years. The angst still resonates with me in a lot of ways, though.
So I lie alone and wait for the dream, where I'm not ugly and you're looking at me.
A quiet strumming intro (a quiet version of Habit, perhaps?), and some improvised lyrics:
I don't know how to win
I don't who to forget
I don't know who to trust
I don't know how I can live
You were so strong my friend
How come this life had to end?
You were my only one to trust
Now I'm left with the dust
I don't know how to go on
I don't know who to forgive
Oh I'm wondering about myself
and how I should live
Every day I shake ten hands
They're all shaking me my friend
Every day I walk the streets
I see people I never want to meet
And then into a rocking, angry version of "Habit".
Around this time, Eddie started doing something like this before "MFC", with variations on the same lyrics, but this is the only time I've heard him do this before "Habit". It's very cool though, and it works.
Instead of "Speaking as a child of the 90s…" we get, "I pahked… Speaking as someone who pahked his cah at the Gahden…" and holy crap, Eddie may have actually been over-enunciating the Rs in "Faithfull" as a subtle jab at the Boston accent!
All right, thank you. We're just gonna stick with our gameplan of songs here. Are you doing all right? Still going with us, yeah?
As if we wouldn't be.
Okay, here's a little story, and I'm not sure if the ending is happy or sad. I haven't quite figured that out yet. But anyways, it goes like this.
I remember reading an article about No Code around the time it came out, wherein the writer discussed the personal nature of many of the songs, but particularly "Off He Goes". The writer relayed a story about Eddie showing up in his old neighborhood, playing some pick-up basketball with some of his old friends, and then just kind of wandering off before the game had even ended. The writer wondered if this song was autobiographical based on stories like that.
Eddie has since confirmed that it is, but I think we all know someone like this. Someone you used to hang out with, who you're still friends with, but don't see all that often. Maybe you invite them to over, try to make plans, but things just never seem to work out. Every once in a while, though, you connect, and hang out, and it's a ton of fun, but it doesn't really last, and you have to remember to enjoy the time you do get together.
A very pretty song, with jangly acoustic guitars and one of my favorite Mike lead parts, where he just noodles over Ed and Stone's rhythm guitars. This version is a little subdued, but still nice.
All right, well, I picked up this thing that I read when I got to the hotel room. This is two, three nights ago, I was going to look for something to do. I ended up finding plenty to do, but anyways, I thought this was interesting. There was two different… I looked in it, and I thought, I wonder if they were going to say anything about the concert, right? This is just like museums on this side, and concerts on this side, and this says, "The Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts." It says (in "stuffy" voice), The concerts at the amphitheater are a hallmark of summer, and welcome some of the music industry's most exciting performers. So there's that. And then there's this one, but this one, see this looks like a very chi-chi type magazine, it's in the hotel or whatever, nothing… But listen to what this one says about it. It says (stuffy voice again), Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts… As yet another summer of drunken musical lawn orgies comes to a close… I read that and got kind of excited. I thought this was going to be fun, you know? Then it says, Pearl Jam with Ben Harper, sold out, sucker! So, Glad you could all make it. It's really been a nice couple of days, and we ain't done yet. So, for anyone back there having an orgy, don't let the next song get in the way.
This is one we don't always play, and it's one of my personal favorites.
Well, not really. I think it's more like validation.
As I said last time, this is one of my favorite songs off of No Code, and so hearing Eddie claim it as one of his favorites as well gave me that warm, fuzzy feeling of smugness that you get when someone who respect agrees with your unconventional opinion. This is a great version, starting out mellow, but with an edge, and then exploding into the second chorus and the outro.
I made a number of comments last time about how much the band seemed to use electric guitars on songs that normally featured acoustic/clean guitars, and that could go for this concert, as well. "Black" isn't an acoustic song, but it does feature that clean steel guitar that leads off, and then is prominent throughout the song. For this show, Mike might be playing the same guitar, but has gone with a light distortion. It's not bad, but it makes the first half of the song a little generic. He makes up for it in the second half, with some soaring guitar work.
The screamiest song on Yield. A rip-roaring anger fest about human nature, and the worry that though we've evolved as humans, maybe we haven't actually gotten any better as people. Ed's voice is a little rough, but it's been a night of yelling for him, and it's not over yet…
A classic Pearl Jam jam song. THE classic Pearl Jam jam song. While the solos in songs like "Alive" and "Black" have gotten longer over the years, "Porch" was a song built to have an extended solo. When you see footage of Eddie Vedder climbing up the set and into the rafters, it's usually during this song, in the time between choruses, when the band sets up the groove, and Mike McCready shreds. This version is really cool, almost an anti-solo, if I'm using that term correctly. Mike does his thing for a bit, then works into this atmospheric groove, perfect for a warm summer night. Eddie vocalizes a bit, then the song builds back into the final chorus.
This is also the classic (at least in my mind) Encore Break song. They jam, they rock out the final chorus, then head off stage to take a break, coming back a few minutes later for the final chunk of songs.
Well, we're coming down to it, you know, this is kinda coming down to it. What a decade! Heh. Alright, if this was the end of my summer, and this was the end of this show, and I were you, this is what I would be thinking…
"Oh please don't go out on me…"
Honestly, yes, this is what I tend to think at the end of Pearl Jam shows (and some other bands, as well, like Kingsley Flood). Looking back, it's what I was thinking of that decade, too, as the 90s were a banner decade for me. High school, college, grunge, my first jobs, my…well not my first car, but I learned to drive. Of course, this is heavily influenced by nostalgia – I was a young adult. Ask anyone over thirty about their favorite decade, and it will probably be around the time they were in their late teens, early twenties, so maybe this isn't all that profound. I was a young adult, the world was opening up to me, and I had all of my potential in front of me. Twenty years later, having squandered a good chunk of that potential, isn't it only natural to look back longingly on that time? I could look to the 80s, when I was too young to do much of anything but observe, or the 2000s, after college, when I was working terrible jobs and mired in debt and misery.
I should keep in mind that I've only experienced about 4 decades, and this most recent one has been, by far, the best of the bunch. Well, the first few years were a little rough, but the memories of that are clouded by those of the woman with whom I spent most of that time with, the woman with whom I hope to spend the rest of my decades, my wife. We can't go back to the 90s, but we can still listen to the music, and to those memories, and, even better, I can make new memories with her, and what could be better than that?
Speaking of being in school, here's a fun experiment to perform. All you need is a roll of quarters and a ticket to a concert with seats close to the stage. Go to the concert, start flinging the quarters at the stage, and then ask yourself how big an asshole you'd have to be to think that this was in any way a good idea. You know who doesn't think this is a good idea? Well…
Hey listen asshole, one more fucker throws a fucking quarter, and we're outta here, fucker! What the fuck? You're blowing it for fucking everybody! Hit me with a fucking quarter again, and fuck it, I'm outta here! We're all outta here! Fuck you, and if anyone sees someone throw fucking change right next to ‘em, you have my permission to personally beat the fucking holy shit out of them. Thank you very much. Fucking idiot! Ahhh, that felt good. Thank you. <guitars kick in> State of Love and Trust.
This was a shocking moment for me. Sitting way back in the lawn, it was hard to tell anything was going on, and then Eddie just lays into the crowd down front in, frankly, an epic tirade, that in today's culture would have been caught on camera phone and posted all over the internet, in articles with headlines like,
Pearl Jam Front Man Eddie Vedder Loses it on Stage, Berates Fan
Pearl Jam Fan Donates Money to Band Leader, Who Refuses in Worst Way Possible
Dumbass Fan Brings Pocketful of Loose Change to Concert. You Won't Believe What Happens Next!
I can understand people being upset over it, especially if they'd brought their kids to the show (might not have been an issue in 1998, but there were kids at all three shows I was at in 2016), but frankly, I have no problem with it. He was being pelted with quarters, he vented, then continued on. He didn't go into the crowd. He didn't storm off stage. Calling for other fans to "beat fucking holy shit out of them" might have been a bit much, though. Fortunately, there was no violence through the rest of the musical orgy. I mean through the rest of the concert.
If you want to see and hear the most epic rant I've seen at a concert, click here. The language is a little rough, but it's not like I censored the rant up above, so if you're shocked by that...I don't know what to tell you. Also, yes, you can watch the entire concert, if you would like, as someone videotaped the screens from the lawn. I literally had no idea this existed until today.
So, yeah, "State of Love and Trust". A good song to play after a rant. Stinging riff, snarling lyrics.
Alright, this is one we didn't do last night…
On the short 1996 tour, they started tagging this song with a chunk of The English Beat's "Save it for Later" (I missed seeing the first one by two shows). They don't do it every time they play it (only 180 of the 569 times they've played "Better Man"), and they've tagged some other songs on there, but there is a decent chance that if you see Pearl Jam a couple of times, you will hear a version of this song that ends with, "Don't run away, run away, run away, DON'T LET ME DOWN!!" and you'll realize there is a way to make "Better Man" better.
Slight hiccup at the beginning of this song, but it doesn't take long to launch into a romping version of what was already a classic Pearl Jam song. For the bridge/solo, Mike and Stone do some vibrato guitar work reminiscent of the start to The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" before Jeff's bass picks up the driving rhythm and pulls them back into the song.
They go from RVM right into this. What a great pair of songs to finish with! One of my all-time favorite guitar solos, a soaring chorus, and maybe the best Pearl Jam song ever. Love hearing Mike throw in some "War Pigs" during the final solo. Would love to hear Pearl Jam cover that. All in all, a nice tribute to some classic rock in these last few songs, though I probably didn't realize it at the time.
Sometimes, you go with something mellow to close out a show, but sometimes, you just leave the crowd's ears ringing, their hearts pounding, and the adrenaline pumping. It'll help with the drive home. And that's…um… Wait, what? They're coming back out for one more.
Thanks a lot. We're gonna do one more. Thanks for letting us participate in your summer. I'm proud to be a part of it—we all are…proud to be a part of your lives in any way. The fact that you listen to our music is… You know, I realize that people in Boston seem to be really smart, because they really seem to like our music, so they really must be pretty smart.
While I'm not sure that rock music tastes are a valid way to judge intelligence, I am a sucker for a compliment. Can't wait to hear what they play next. The end of a Pearl Jam show is always the worst part, so I'm always happy to hear that they're going to play one more. Yellow Ledbetter? Baba O'Reilly? Whatever it is, it's sure to be awesome!
So, the other night, I was out, drinking. There was an Irish pub, and another little place called Jimmy D's, anyways, the bar closed, they quit serving, and so we all went to this guy's house and we just started playing songs until the sun came up, and this was one of ‘em. I figured that if it could sound good in a living room…
It could get played over and over on the radio because people love it for some reason even though almost literally everything else we've put on record is better than it.
…It's going to sound great here. So, it's called, ‘Last Kiss', and I'll show you how it goes.
I didn't know what this was at the time, but I knew that I didn't like it (though it was fun to hear the band start, realize they had it wrong, confer, and start over). I'm not a fan of the style, or the lyrics. It's a great song for Eddie to sing, but other than that, I would be okay never hearing it in concert again. For some unknown reason, radio stations love to play this song. Ten studio albums, a double-album of b-sides, numerous soundtrack songs, and hundreds of live albums, and radio stations play, "Last Kiss". This is why FM rock radio is dying (not really).
Obligatory defense of the song: it was recorded as a benefit, and all proceeds went to help Kosovo refugees, so it being the best-selling single of Pearl Jam's illustrious career is actually a good thing in the grand scheme of things, but I still just don't like this song.
Non-obligatory defense: And yet another example of why Pearl Jam is so loved by its fans. This is a touching performance of it at the Bridge School Benefit, dedicated to a young woman they'd met years earlier (videos from 03 and 99 can be found on there, as well). It doesn't make me like the song any more...well, actually, it does, a little. I'll put it this way: I don't have a problem with Pearl Jam performing it, I just hope to never hear it in concert again. Seriously, though, if you watch that video and don't smile (and probably tear up), you may want to consider that you might be a robot.
Get home safely, take care of one another. Enjoy the rest of the millennium. We'll see you next time. We love you, thank you. Thanks for everything, over the years. We remember you. Ciao! Goodnight, goodbye!
I do love the way Eddie ends a show.
Both this concert and the album Yield demonstrate how Pearl Jam has lasted two and a half decades. Songs like "Low Light" and "Pilate" highlight why this band has been so successful. In the early years, the lyrics were all Eddie (except for "Mankind" on No Code, written by Stone), and they were (mostly) excellent. He has a way with poetry, and crafts songs that are full of meaning and emotion. It makes sense – he's the one singing (again, except on "Mankind", which Stone sings; it's a weird situation), so he's the one writing the lyrics – and it might have been how he was comfortable working in the early years. Some people don't like singing someone else's words. Some songwriters don't like having their words sung by someone else. And, sometimes, the other musicians stick to music because their lyrics aren't very good.
However, you listen to the lyrics Stone and Jeff wrote for this album, and you realize that not only can these guys write great music, but they can also write great lyrics. These are exceptionally talented musicians, that are constantly evolving. There's a joke about AC/DC, that they are a tremendously consistent band – they release the same album every few years. Pearl Jam does not do that. The changes may be subtle, they may be drastic, but each album is unique.
As are their shows. This was my second Pearl Jam show. They played 26 songs at each show, and only repeated nine songs. Now, granted, this was a show in support of Yield, but they only played six songs off the new album, the same number of No Code songs they'd played two years earlier.
Something strange about this show: while I tend to think of the 96 Hartford show as the shortest Pearl Jam concert I've been to, this show was actually about 6 minutes shorter, and featured one fewer song (technically, since I can't really count "Throw Your Arms Around Me" as I wasn't there for it). Somehow, it feels longer. I don't know if I was more relaxed about the show, less amped up for my first-ever Pearl Jam show, and thus more able to sit back and let the music wash over me. Maybe it's just that their shows have gotten longer over the years, so naturally, I assumed this show was longer than the previous.
It doesn't really matter. It was a great show. Discussing the show later, I was informed that the second night is always better, which I guess makes sense, as a band playing two nights in the same venue might be able to better settle in that second night, be more comfortable. Not to mention, bands like Pearl Jam, who don't play the same setlist night after night, might save the "good stuff" for night two.
I don't really know. All I do know is that this was a powerful set, and Eddie seemed to be in a good mood, even with the occasional hiccup from the band, or quarter chucked on stage. Even after the quarter rant, he still playfully changed a lyric in "State of Love and Trust" and has his typical effusive thanks for the crowd, just a few songs later. If only this show had ended with something other than "Last Kiss", but as it's the last song of the night, it is easily skipped. Or just edited out, a task made easier by this being a fan recording, not an official release.
I wish this show would be released by the band. They've been releasing "Vaults", mastered recordings of old shows, from the pre-bootleg era (i.e. pre-2000). I doubt this one would be, but I would buy it in an instant. My copy has some significant distortion, not to mention level issues, and I would love to be able to listen to a clean version. Probably won't happen. While I and the 15,000 or so other fans there loved the show, we are but a drop in the bucket of the Pearl Jam fan base, and I am sure that there are other shows that are considered "better" my people with far more say than me.
I wish I could find copies of all of the shows I've been to, but at least I have this recording. It's somewhat sad to think of all of the various shows I've been to, and how little of them I remember. I remember Queensrÿche being awesome, with video screens and a treadmill the lead singer ran on at one point to emphasize a lyric, but I don't remember everything they played, or really how good it was. I distinctly recall the set falling apart and a stage hand bursting into flames at the Centrum during Metallica's Load tour (it was staged to pay homage to the accident in their previous tour that nearly cost James Hetfield his arm…plus it was an awesome way to transition from the main set to the encore), but I don't remember what song it was, or all of what they played.
I wish I could remember more about shows I've seen by The Cure, Sonic Youth, Death Cab for Cutie, and various other bands. I remember sitting in the balcony of the Orpheum theater, watching Death Cab's drummer look like he was going to destroy his drum set during "Transatlantacism", and then Eddie Vedder coming out on stage to join the band for the final song of the night…a song whose name I can't recall. So, yeah, the quality might not be great, but these recordings are treasures to me. There are arguments to be made as to the legalities of recording a live show. On one side, people claim we paid to be at the show, so it's okay. On the other, people argue that the music still belongs to the band, and trading/selling bootlegs takes money from those performers (I think the big issue is selling bootlegs, as you're making money off someone else's work, and they don't see a dime; that's a big no-no…unless you're a record company).
I wish I could pay for these recordings. I have paid for every single show that I've been to that the band has released, and I would gladly pay for this one and the Hartford '96 show. The only reason I have audience recordings is because it is the only way. These are time capsules for me. A way to listen and reconnect to that past, to that moment, to that glorious decade.
I wish I was as fortunate...as fortunate as me.
Next post, I discuss how an underrated album begets an underrated show.