Last show was a night of revelations for me, though some of them came after the show. One was that Pearl Jam has a keyboard player now. I mean, sure, “Love Boat Captain” starts with an organ and Ed’s vocals, but that doesn’t mean the person playing that keyboard is now in the band. Groups use studio musicians all the time for recording, then find a way to make the song work live. So, when Ed introduced Boom Gaspar on the keyboards, after I chuckled at Boom not actually being at the keyboards, I wondered about this new musician, and when he joined Ed, Mike, Jeff, Stone, and Matt.
The story as I’ve heard it goes something like this: sometime after 9/11, Eddie found himself in Hawaii, hiding from the world. The Roskilde tragedy in 2000, the Presidential election later that year, and 9/11 were big events that shook him, and I think his first marriage was either falling apart, or had fallen apart around that time, too (I’m not about to dig that deeply into the man’s private life). He surfed, and drank, and probably smoked some pot – basically, he lived out the story of “Given to Fly”. A bad time, nothing could save him, so he tuned out. Went to the ocean had a smoke in a tree (not sure about the tree part).
He did eventually find love, in the arms of Boom Gaspar. Er, Boom’s piano. They would jam out together, Ed on guitar, Boom on the keyboards. At some point, they worked out a song together, and Ed invited Boom to come to Seattle and record with the band. Ed threw some lyrics together, and they recorded “Love Boat Captain”.
Boom isn’t technically a member of the band, and to this day, I don’t really know much about him. He’s from Hawaii, I think, and always seems to be having a good time jamming away on his keyboards. He has said that the only band he’d play with is Pearl Jam, and I get the impression that he doesn’t take much seriously, and would play and act the same whether playing for 80,000 screaming fans at Lollapalooza or 20 people drinking in his bar.
The other big revelation was that the series of three shows could be something special. Ed and the band had decided that since they were playing three shows, they might as well do something different, and play every song they’d played on the current tour over the course of the three nights with no repeats. That’s very cool, possibly epic.
Talk to Pearl Jam fans about seeing the band live, and they will talk about the “Epic Shows” – shows that fans hold in higher regard than other shows on a given tour. There’s something about them that makes them special, unique. It’s hard to say what makes a show epic. The length? That is a factor, if you believe that longer shows are inherently better. That’s not always the case, though, as sometimes shows are extended due to technical errors or just the lead singer rambling about something for minutes at a time (not that Eddie Vedder would ever do that). Maybe length in terms of number of songs? That makes more sense, at least to me, as I always leave these shows wanting more, but with the solos in songs like “Even Flow” and “Corduroy” lasting longer and longer, even if the show is long, they may not play more songs.
Song selection is another metric. Another thing Pearl Jam fans will talk about is “rarities”. There are many Pearl Jam songs that almost never get played live anymore (if they ever did). Some are b-sides, some were only released as the Ten Club annual single, and others are album tracks that, for one reason or another, they just never play. A show with a lot of rarities is considered better by long-time fans, and, to be fair, does feel pretty special. To someone who hasn’t seen the band perform often, though, and doesn’t know all of those rarities, this might not be as special as just seeing them crush more familiar songs.
There are other indicators, also, like crowd intensity, or the set list. At a few shows over the years, the band has decided to play an album front to back (I am still holding out hope that they read one of my suggestions and play Vitalogy back to front some day). Some argue the venue makes a show special, like when they closed down the Vet in Philly, or played Fenway and Wrigley in 2016. All of this is very subjective, though.
So, really, it’s difficult to pin down what makes a show “epic”, except that a majority of fans tend to agree with the designation and hold a given show in high regard. One thing I can say with some certainty is that you never can quite tell heading into a show whether this particular night will just be great, or will, in fact, be epic. Well, usually…
Mansfield 2003 had all the makings of an Epic Show, especially when viewed as one show over three nights. I was unable to make it to the second night, both fiscally and logistically, but I knew that I had to be at the third night. As noted last post, I had purchased tickets for the show when it was announced, but upon learning that I’d gotten tickets through the Ten Club, I promptly sold those tickets. If I recall correctly, they were in about the same place as my Ten Club seats for the first night.
Mom was okay with not going, and I could get a ride down and back with Bagley and his brother, so all I needed was a single ticket. Sure enough, the Internet came through for me, with a ticket the section behind where I’d sat for night one. Not great, but I’d be in the building. Well, technically it’s an outdoor amphitheater, but I’d be there.
That day, I left work early, drove to the Bagleys’ house, and we trekked down to Mansfield. It rained during the day, but the amphitheater has a roof, so we weren’t worried about that. Well, Matt and his brother Tim weren’t, anyway. They had gotten tickets from one of Matt’s students, and were meeting up the student and their father at the show, with seats in the second row. The rain wouldn’t be an issue for them.
I, on the other hand, had a seat way in the back of the seating section, about ten rows shy of the lawn. These seats are newer, and extend past the edge of the roof. The rain stopped well before we got there, meaning I just had to find a way to dry off my drenched seat. Fortunately we had gotten there well ahead of showtime, so I was able to run back and forth between my seat and the concessions and dry it off with napkins.
That done, I settled in for the show.
One final note: as we knew that Matt and his brother would be so close to the stage, we decided that bringing a camera would be a good idea. This was back before camera phones were a thing, and really just at the dawn of digital cameras, so, we bought a disposable camera. I snuck it into the concert, and the less said about that, the better. Suffice it to say, Matt and Tim got some great photos that night, and I figured it would be a good idea to use them in this post, especially since one of them immortalizes a moment not captured in the bootlegs.
Ed addresses the crowd immediately.
Here is a sign that the show you are about to see just might be epic: the band announces that in order to play everything they want to play tonight, they’re going to go one before the opening act to play an acoustic set. There’s something awesome about seeing a show starting before sunset.
Alright, the advice we give to you is the advice we give to ourselves: let’s pace ourselves. It’s gonna be a long one. I appreciate you coming down early to participate in the experiment. And after we play this bit here, you’re going to have the profound experience of getting to witness Sleater-Knniey play in between, and then we’ll come back and get to the task at hand. So, anyways…
So, yeah, the buzz in the crowd is incredible, even though the theater is not quite full. I feel bad for the people sitting next to me (one of the really nice things about my ticket is that I have the aisle seat), as they haven’t shown up yet. The band sounds great, too. It’s my first time hearing “Long Road” live since ‘96, and it’s even better than on the Merkin Ball EP.
I’m torn on this version of this song, because listening to the intro, I just want them to play the song as an instrumental. Listening to Jeff, Mike, and Stone just get into the groove of this song is amazing. I could listen to this for hours. On the other hand, Ed’s voice is amazing, and his vocals compliment the music so well, that I don’t mind when he starts singing.
Confoundingly this is a pretty rare song to hear live, only having been played 49 times as of this blog post, with 23 of those coming in 2000. For a song this could, that is insane. I am lucky to have seen it twice.
Hey, I’m gonna throw out a suggestion as part of the experiment, something that we’ve never attempted. If you’d like to all sit down, again, in the guise of conserving energy, please feel free to do so. It might… We haven’t played for a seated crowd in a long, long time. It might be kind of exciting. We might have to do it, too. (pause) There’s not going to be an acoustic version of “Blood” or anything like that, so feel free to sit down.
I’m not sure the rest of the band heard this, but I’d have given anything for Mike or Stone to launch into the opening chords of “Blood” on their acoustic guitar. That would have been hilarious.
Back in 1996, when fans picked up No Code, they already knew things would be different, having heard “Who You Are” as the first single, and, if they bought that, they’d have heard “Habit” as its b-side. Still, though, I don’t think anyone was ready to hear this song leading off the album, with its simple, subdued guitar intro. Their first three albums open with big drums and snarling guitars. This starts with a small, quiet song. It was confusing, and more than a little worrisome for those of us expecting something more like Vitalogy.
Over time, though, I think many fans discovered the understated beauty of not just this song, but the entire album. Perfect setting for this song today, too, a little stripped-down and raw.
They go from the outro of “Sometimes” right into the intro of “Off he Goes”. I’ve always like this song. It was one of the more easily-accessible songs on No Code, and I liked the full sound of the acoustic guitars. As I was starting to learn how to play back then, I thought I’d be able to learn to play this one. That was when I learned that I’m not very good at playing guitar.
The acoustic sound is neat for this song, as even Mike is on an acoustic, so his lead guitar noodling takes on a brighter tone. Hearing Boom tinkle on the electric piano is a nice touch, too.
I’m not sure any of the songs in this opening set benefit as much from the acoustic performance as this one, though it’s not one I’d have tabbed as something they’d do an acoustic version of. The electric/album version of the song is fine. It’s the closer on Yield, which is, admittedly, not my favorite Pearl Jam album. The song builds nicely, and I do really like Mike’s work on the outro, it’s just not a song that I’m going to pick out to play.
The acoustic version, though, has a great richness to it, that deepness that only a hollow-bodied guitar can give the notes. Once again, Mike’s work on the acoustic has that brighter, clean tone to it. Then, there’s Eddie’s voice. Obviously, in a recording studio, there’s more control. He can do multiple takes. They can play with the mixing (which, yes, they can do some of in concert, and then on the bootlegs) or layering. Somehow, though, his voice sounds amazing today. Find a copy of this version, listen to the first verse, and tell me your knees don’t go a little wobbly when he croons “Don’t I think you wanna lay your head down, tonight.”
Good thing he urged us all to sit down.
I’ve actually never heard of this song, which turns out to be Ten Club single from a few years ago, and a excellent example of a rarity, as this is just the third time it’s ever been played live. Given it’s jangly guitars and preponderance of harmonica, I initially thought it was a cover. Maybe Neil Young or even Willie Nelson, but nope, it’s a Pearl Jam original. Fun to sing along with, even when Ed Flubs one of the verses.
Another great version of a great song that doesn’t get played anywhere near enough. It’s not a rocker, a little more of a ballad but still with some energy, but it’s such a lovely song and so much fun to sing along with, that I wish it was played more at shows.
I have professed my love for Binaural in other posts, and I’m sure I’ll rave about it again in the future, but at this point, I still hadn’t fully discovered how much I like this album. In the car on the way to the show, I confessed to the Bagley brothers that I didn’t really like this song. The problem for me was the verses. The pacing of the lyrics is strange, the music a little disjointed. The choruses, though, I have always loved.
What took me years to fully appreciate about is that the choppiness of the verses is supposed to contrast the melody of the choruses and give life to the lyrics about a man basically shuffling through his daily routine and wondering what had happened to his dreams. Today, I adore this song, and try to take a lesson from it, namely to be active in planning my life and pursuing my dreams. In some ways, I have found myself moved by sleight of hand, which hasn’t necessarily been a bad thing, but I don’t want to rely on that.
As for tonight’s performance, Mike switches back to the electric guitar. I get why he uses it, as his lead for this song has a lot of reverb and other effects applied to it, but I would have liked to hear this with him on the clean acoustic.
It’s my second time hearing this classic b-side, and my first time hearing it on acoustic guitars, and with the harmonica, the way it was initially recorded. They played it in 1996, but it was an audible, as Jack Irons had a problem with his drum kit, and they played it on the electric guitars they had been about to play “Alive” on. Tonight, it’s a little more planned, as in planned at all.
The extended bridge/solo section is beautiful.
This closer from Riot Act is another great song if you want to get lost in Eddie’s baritone. Mike is on the electric again, but it doesn’t overpower Stone on the acoustic, and actually sounds pretty awesome on the solo, when he kicks in the distortion. The whole song has a jazzy feel to it, making it sound sort of like a spiritual successor to “Indifference” from Vs.
Aside from seeking out Epic Shows, fans who go to a lot of shows also keep track of which albums they’ve seen in their entirety. It rarely happens all at one show; outside of a handful of shows (as of 2018) at which they’ve played entire albums front to back, they probably haven’t played all the songs from a specific album at one show since the very early days, when they only had one album. Most fans just keep track, and after four or five shows have a list of songs they need to hear to finish an album. For example, in the four shows I’d seen to this point, I’d seen most of Ten - all but “Why Go” and “Garden”.
I didn’t realize it, but heading in to this show, I needed to hear just two songs to finish off Binaural - “Thin Air” and “Parting Ways”. So, when they played this song tonight, I finished Binaural, my first complete album! Though, at the time, I was just excited to hear a song that I really liked and was proud to say that I knew how to play on the guitar.
At the end, as a familiar guitar lick is played, Ed addresses the crowd:
Again, if this was an experiment, you guys certainly succeeded on your part. Thanks for doing this with us.
The spiritual predecessor to “All or None”.
As the song starts, he beckons for everyone to get up. The crowd claps along for most of the first verse until our lack of rhythm overwhelms us. Mike back on the electric, though, again, I’d have loved to hear him do this on the acoustic, like I used to do in college. Well, the parts of this song that I could actually play. The electric is nice here, though, as it kind of bridges the acoustic set with the full electric set to follow.
The crowd claps along during the solo/breakdown before the final verse. The crowd sings along throughout the song, just audible behind Ed, like back-up singers, until the “I will scream my lungs out” line, which we all shout.
Thank you very much! Sleater-Kinney’s up next! See ya later.
Sleater-Kinney comes out and plays, and it’s another opener for which I had access to the bootlegs. I don’t know much about them, but they’re one of those bands I’d always meant to listen to, but never really did, so the performance doesn’t make a lasting impression on me. Of course, I could just still be in awe of the acoustic set.
All right. Let’s do this!
I know this song opens Riot Act, I’m just not sure about it as a concert opener. Of course, is this technically the opener? Main set opener? Either way, it actually works pretty well. It’s got a good groove to it, though it’s not as hard and heavy as some other songs. I’m not sure about a regular show, but for tonight it works great. I think a mellower song like “Release” would be too much like the acoustic set.
Okay, this is a song I would open with: the opening symbol crash, the thrumming bassline, and guitar vamping building up into Eddie’s primal scream would be amazing right out of the gate. It’s great here, too, though, with Ed belting it out like he’s literally on fire. The acoustic set was great, and adding that alone to a show would make it special, but the way the band really lays into this tonight is just another signal that this show is going to be something amazing.
Another rocker right out of the gate.
And then right into this rocking ode to vinyl records, with Ed belting out the lyrics like it’s 1995 again. Without the food poisoning.
A bit slower, but no less intense is this great song from Riot Act, featuring some of my favorite lyrics from a later (post-Vitalogy album):
The TV, she talks to me,
Breaking news and building walls.
Selling me, what I don’t need.
I never knew soap made you taller.
The song that tipped everyone off that Peter Gammons, baseball analyst for ESPN, was a Pearl Jam fan, as he once slipped the first line of this song, “It’s a disease and they’re all green” into a discussion about greedy baseball owners.
I don’t usually think of this as a particularly aggressive song, but the band is just in full-on attack mode tonight. It’s great.
Okay, this does slow things down a bit, but what a great way to do it, with a brilliant song off Vitalogy. Many people talk about No Code being the “weird” album because the sound was such a departure, but Vitalogy has its share of weirdness, like “Tremor Christ”, with its chugging discordant main riff running throughout the song. Digging deeper, though, you hear Jeff’s sublime bass work playing counterpoint to Stone’s riff, and Mike’s sort of minimalist approach to the lead guitar. Add in Ed’s poetic lyrics over all of this, and you have a great song.
I’ve discussed that Yield is not my favorite album, but this lead single from that album is one that I’m always down for. The message of rising above, delivered as the song itself rises in crescendo, is powerful, and even moreso when played live in front of an energetic crowd makes it even more amazing. Tonight doesn’t disappoint, especially Ed’s subtle lyric change to “First he was stripped, then he was stabbed, well, fuckers, WE still stand.”
After the song, Ed takes a moment to raise his glass, er, bottle:
Thank you. I’d like to raise a toast to Boston, show number three. We got some songs to get through here tonight, and as you do, in life, you always save the best for last. We… This song could have been played in the first set, but we saved it for this one. Mr. Mike McCready on the guitar. It’s called, “Nothing As It Seems”.
I’m pretty sure by “first set”, he meant the acoustic set tonight, which would have been interesting, given the amount of reverb and sustain Mike uses for his lead guitar part. I think it would have been another song for which he’d have to play electric. I’m good with them saving it for now, and playing something else in its stead. Mike goes a little crazy in this version, his guitar squealing and snarling through the solos and fills, elevating what is already a tempest of a song into a raging storm.
Another new one, which starts off with a botany lesson, believe it or not, then carries that metaphor through the 2nd verse, and sort of the rest of the song, expanding it into a rumination on the planet, and our place in it as humans. Specifically, our tendency to think that the planet is here because of us, and thus we can do as we please with and to it, when, in fact, it’s the opposite – we’re here because of the planet, and we should be treating it as such.
Alright. That song was written by the… Always… What’s the right word? He’s the fuckin’ greatest – Matt Cameron on the drums. Astounding! That was the word I was looking for. The always… And while we’re pointing people out, I’d also like to get a big hand for Sleater-Kinney for playing before us. And after! All right, this is one we saved specifically for evening number three…
I do have to say that when I hear songs from Yield live and on their own, I do tend to like them more than listening to the album. Whether it’s the crowd energy, or the band energy, or just that it’s a slightly different version of the song is up for debate, but this song is pretty fantastic tonight. It could just be the mood in here. Ed could probably completely botch a song, and no one would mind.
Especially when they give us versions of classics like this. A bit of a tonal shift from the much quieter “Faithfull”, but it works, as Matt counts into the song before the crash of the guitars. A short version, but still pretty intense. Love the crowd singing the “Why go home?” in the first chorus.
And then back to quiet again. I love versions like this, when he changes the “For fifty million hands upraised and open towards the sky” to “Of all you fuckers’ hands upraised and open towards the sky”. Unfortunately, his little ad-lib here throws him off, and he completely botches the next verse. Mike vamps a little as Ed tries to gain his composure, which he seems to, then botches another lyric, before getting it together for the rest of the song.
After the final verse, they play an extended breakdown/solo, and Ed apologizes while the band plays on, subtly morphing into something else:
Alright, you… You’ve forgiven me?
It turns out that what the band was morphing to is a version of a song we probably heard Night 1, “Why Can’t I Touch It” by the Buzzcocks. Ed changes some of the lyrics, singing, “And if peace is real… Why can’t the world be it? And if love is real… We all know love is real.” He sings the chorus a couple of times, then asks the crowd to sing with him.
Sing with me, alright? It would be great if you could sing. It’s not an easy part. Believe me, we didn’t give ‘em this part to sing in Atlanta, let me tell you that. Here we go…
He sings the “Why-y-y-y-y-y can’t I touch it?” line, then gets the crowd to sing it, which we do, at full throat, and it is amazing. After a few times of this, the band slips back to “Wishlist” for a minute or so to finish.
Educated and talented, what more could you ask for? Thank you.
I’m not sure what the Atlanta comments are all about. It’s not like there’s a big Boston/Atlanta rivalry, and reading recaps from the Atlanta ’03 show, it sounds like they were welcomed pretty warmly. So, I don’t know. What I do know is that I was right; Ed completely botched the song, but the crowd supported him.
Alright, we got three songs here for ya, they all go together. Just like teeth in a Georgian’s mouth. Alright, I’d just like to apologize to Atlanta before we continue.
Man, the first show it was Canada, tonight, Atlanta. Looking at some of the notes about other shows on the tour, I don’t think he really meant anything by this, it was probably just the first city that popped into his head (unless I missed something where they got booed or something there).
This song’s about an outdoorsman, in the late 1800s. He was from the East Coast. Maybe a hundred miles away from here. He might’ve even passed through your town. His name was Leatherman.
A song about the folding multi-tool with the needle-nose pliers? Oh, no, it’s about a literal “outdoorsman”, a dude who roamed western Connecticut and eastern New York in the 1880s. Ed is right, he may have wandered through the towns of some in attendance. Not mine; I live well north of Mansfield, but there are many here who probably trekked in from Connecticut, and maybe even New York. The song tells the story of Leatherman, and given that almost nothing is known about him, it tells it pretty thoroughly.
There’s a brief pause as the band changes up some instruments to lead into the acoustic intro to “Nothingman”, one of my favorites off Vitalogy, and a song that’s often overshadowed by “Better Man” from the same album. This is my first time hearing it, and it’s awesome. Love hearing the crowd sing along with it.
And, speaking of Nothingman’s “big brother”, they finish off the “-man Trilogy” with “Better Man” There is nothing connecting the three songs other than that their titles end with “man”, but it’s still cool to hear them back-to-back-to-back nonetheless.
This version also features one of my favorite things, when Eddie lets the crowd sing. For some reason, this crowd, so willing to sing along with Ed, seems hesitant to sing for him. He starts the first verse, then lets us take it away. It’s very cool. Just a fantastic version of the song, even without the “Save it for Later” tag.
This is another underrated song from Riot Act. There’s not much to it, just a couple of verses, no real chorus, but the song has a great rhythm, and gives Mike a good amount of room to play around in the second half and outro, which he does very well tonight, just going off for a couple of minutes. This is a song I’m surprised isn’t played more. It’s a little on the slow side, not as frenetic as some others, but it’s got a great groove, plus the great line from which the title derives, “Don’t see some men as half-empty, see them half-full of shit.”
I got a car,
Full tank of gas.
Let’s get the hell out of here,
Get out of here fast.
Let’s go to the ocean winds,
Where everyone wins.
I wanna go,
But I don’t want
I hope you get this message.
You’re not home.
I could’ve been there right at fifteen minutes ago.
You don’t have to pack your things.
We’ll make it up as we go along.
I wanna go,
But I don’t want
With you, I could never
This is the second time I’ve heard them do this, and I know that I said the last time was my favorite version, but I’ve had a change of heart. I liked that the previous version was a little longer, with the extra lines before the “With you, I could never feel alone” bit, but this one is just tighter, flowing a little better. I also think the band’s work in the background of this is a little stronger. They’re both beautiful.
This feels like a shortened version of the song, finishing in just over 2 minutes. I don’t know if they played it faster than normal, but it feels like it’s going pretty strong, and then Matt Cameron plays the outro drum fill, and they wrap it up.
Non-acoustic, sadly. The band rocks out, as always, but I think my favorite part is right in the middle, when everything quiets down and Eddie just vocalizes for a bit. Back in ’96, this is where they tagged a couple of covers, but they don’t seem to do that anymore.
Something weird about this performance is that the band leaves the stage for the first Encore Break. I’m sure they’ve used “Blood” for this before, but I’m used to it being “Porch”, and they played that Night 1. This is such a great show. The only thing that would be better is if they came out and played “Breath”
The band heads off stage for a bit. When they come back out, Eddie addresses the crowd, keeping it rather concise, especially for him.
Thank you, you’ve been very gracious this evening. Thank you. And as… There’s still quite a few songs on the list here, so… So, take a deep…
Certain people, when they get rather excited, emit a noise that can only be described onomatopoetically as “squee”, and the action of emitting this sound as “squeeing”. I rarely squee. I squeed as Eddie said this and the first chords rang out. Okay, I didn’t really, as I didn’t know the term back then. I was very excited though, so much so that I think I scared the people sitting next to me.
This is my all-time favorite Pearl Jam song. From the opening guitar line, to the main riff, to the lyrics about getting out, seeing the world, seeing it all. It works taking it both at face value and metaphorically. There’s so much to this world that we can’t let ourselves get caught up in the little frustrations and irritations. Get out! Step out on your porch! See the world!
An interesting version of this, as the break down in the middle features Matt Cameron going nuts on the drums while Mike makes some crazy sounds on his guitar. It really sounds like they’re going to break into a Van Halen song or something, then they break for Ed’s “Speaking as a child…” line. The audience collectively holds our breath as we wait for the ad lib, and then Eddie says…
Not even the album version, “Speaking as a child of the 90s”. They just go right into the final verse. The outro solo is great though, with everyone just having a blast.
All right, this one’s a b-side, off the last record, for the serious collector.
As the music starts, Ed shouts, “This is for Howard Zinn!”
This is a fun little song, with a catchy hook. I’m not surprised it didn’t make it onto Riot Act, as it’s a little too peppy, but it’s great as a b-side, where it doesn’t have to fit in with an “album”, and it is a lot of fun to hear live.
As the guys get ready for the next song, Ed address the crowd:
There’s a tremendous author from your neck of the woods. His name’s Howard Zinn. If you’ve been to school, I’m sure you’ve heard of him. If you haven’t, he’s a great a great school to go to, with his books… One’s called, “People’s History of the United States”. Another one’s called, “You Can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train”, which is where we got that last line in that song, but he lives around here. He’s a great friend, and a great wise elder. Someone up here has a sign that says, “Zinn for President”, and I completely agree. But, one thing I want to say that has nothing to do with the next song, or even any of the set, but, y’know, there was another couple guys lost their lives last week, one guy two nights ago, the other the night before that. There’ve been 77 people that have died since the war’s been “over”, and I just think that we should make sure that our thoughts and our actions are still with those people over there. [crowd cheers] ‘Cause you read about it, and you just can’t imagine the pain that these families are going through, and you want it to be for a good reason, so it’ll be a fine day when they all come back home. And, it’ll be a damn fine day when whoever represents us - doesn’t mean Republican, Democrat, whatever - but, it’ll be a fine day when they have the public interests at heart, and not toeing up to oil companies and other big corporations.
That it will be, Eddie. 15 years later, and we’re still waiting for it.
And, with all you here, it’s worth saying, ‘cause we’ve got the West Coast, we’ve got Seattle, we’ve got San Francisco. Over here, you’ve got, yourselves. Tremendous activists, historically. So, if we just get the middle involved, I think everything will be alright. So, be strong, and peace out.
You have to admire his optimism, of course, he did just get finished singing a song with the lyric, “Won’t let the darkness swallow me.” After a moment, he steps back to the mic:
Speaking of fine gentlemen, this next song, I’d like to introduce Mr. Stone Gossard.
Now, Stone addresses the crowd:
I’ve been waiting all tour to get the mic, and finally I have it. Feels so good. Well, since we’re playing all the songs, there is one that I sing, so… We haven’t actually rehearsed it, which is just fine by me, but we’re gonna give it a shot and see what happens.
It’s not the best Pearl Jam song, but I think fans love hearing it because it gives Stone a chance to be front and center. He seems fine being overshadowed by the rest of the band – he’s a lynchpin, writing most of the music, and holding time on rhythm guitar, but he’s the least flashy, both in terms of performance and clothing – so, to see him thrust into the spotlight is kind of fun. 2018 me would personally rather hear “Don’t Gimme No Lip”, but I hadn’t heard that song as of July 11th, 2018, so I was happy with this. This was also my 2nd time hearing it live. I didn’t realize at the time how rare it would be to hear it once, let alone twice.
What did Stone think? In his own words:
It was really sort of magic, up until just the last part, wasn’t it? I felt it. Well, the second verse was pretty good, I thought.
The crowd chants, “Stone! Stone! Stone!” much to his delight, and Eddie sings a line of “Do you believe in magic?”
Another b-side from Riot Act. This sounds bouncy and upbeat until you really listen to the lyrics. The song starts with,
Thought it was easy to fall in love/ But you, you you.
Then, there’s the chorus:
You, it’s you. It’s you, you, you.
I’m pretty sure he means this in the “It’s not you it’s me” sense, except in this case, it is you. Probably about a break-up. Possibly about his recent divorce. Either way, leads well into the next song, thematically, at least.
All right, we’re getting through ‘em here. Here’s one you might actually know. I hope you don’t relate.
I think I’ve written about this song before, and forgive me if I repeat myself, but I’ve long been fascinated with this song, and the heartbreak behind it. Around the time of this show, Ed had been asked about it in an interview, and had commented on how bad he felt that people seemed to relate to it so strongly. He still didn’t say what the song was about, only that he hoped that the people in question didn’t actually know the whole story. Honestly, that’s probably the case. I’m sure there are Pearl Jam fans who have been through worse than whatever inspired this classic song, but there are even more who haven’t. That said, the song still resonates with all of us, even though we might not bring as deep a meaning to it as Ed.
Also, maybe we sing it to share some of Ed’s pain, to somehow, in some small way, relieve some of the burden of it from his shoulders? Maybe by singing along, sharing the emotions, we let him know he’s not alone? Maybe I’m assigning too much importance to fans? I do that sometimes.
At any rate, this is a beautiful version of this song, Stone’s acoustic guitar coming through loud and clear, Mike’s lead work weaving through it elegantly, and Ed’s voice just soaring above it all. The solo is pretty amazing, and I love as it winds down, and Boom comes in on the piano with the “do do do do-do do-do” theme that runs through most of the song.
All right. That’s it, we’re down to one more song, and… (crowd boos) One more of our songs. This guy just gave me the old “one more”. One more right back to ya, buddy. (Ed returns the fan’s rude gesture) And, we picked one you know, so you can sing along with, so we can finish this thing together, all right?
This might be the tour on which Ed started using the terms “mother” and “father” instead of “mommy” and “daddy”. It’s the first time I recall hearing it. Lots of interplay with the crowd during the vocals in the end section of the song, and the music is quite intense. The entire group is just killing it tonight. As they wrap up, Ed thanks the crowd again, and the band heads off-stage.
A single stage light comes up, right behind Ed standing at the mic. He says nothing, just starts vocalizing, recording his voice, playing it back, layering it nine distinct times. This is a beautiful song, and amazing to experience live, in part because it has only ever been performed nine times (at full Pearl Jam shows – I believe that Eddie still performs it at solo shows). Nine is the key, as it’s in honor of the nine fans who lost their lives at Rothskilde in 2000. While they recorded and released it on Riot Act, something about the way Ed performs the song makes it impossible to record live, and so it doesn’t even appear on the bootleg. A truly ephemeral song and moment.
Not technically the 2nd Encore Break, but Ed doesn’t address the crowd until after performing Arc, so we’re calling it the 2nd Encore Break.
Thank you. Thanks for everything. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. (Crowd starts chanting Eddie! Eddie!.) Yeah, it’s just me up here. All right, I just wanna… You know, we talked earlier in the evening, I know most of you were here, we talked about pacing ourselves. And, I think you’ve got more stamina than we do, and we applaud you. (Ed applauds the crowd)
I’d say we’re doing the easier job, but go on.
So, we’ve got a few interesting things and some covers. Now, in order to do this, we’re gonna aggravate these people who live nearby. We’re never gonna be able to play this place again. (crowd cheers, chant starts again) So, it’s not a deliberate act of disrespect, but we’re just trying to finish the setlist and the songs that we had set out to do. And, it looks like next time that we see you in the FleetCenter, and that sounds like a nice change of pace to me. And, I will say, we were all there, so, on behalf of the band, I will say this: it’ll never be like the Garden. That was… (crowd cheers) Or the Orpheum Theater, for that matter, that was really… All right, this is a song by the Ramones!
This is probably some sort of sacrilege, but I’m not super familiar with the Ramones. This song does sound familiar, though, and on top of that, it’s awesome.
Another confession – I’m not super familiar with The Clash, either. This is a fun little song, but probably my least favorite of the set. It’s fine, but the chorus reminds me of the “new” Nirvana song that came out a few years earlier, “You Know You’re Right” (and yes, I fully understand that Kurt Cobain had probably been aping The Clash when he wrote the song, but as I am more familiar with the Nirvana song than this one, that’s where my mind goes). Also, while I fully respect The Clash, and their influence on rock music, the style isn’t a great fit for Pearl Jam.
Know Your Rights? I'd have sworn these were from Given to Fly, but the photo numbering puts it after Arc, but before Fortunate Son, and I think Ed plays guitar on I Believe in Miracles.
A brief pause as some guests come out on stage, and Ed introduces them:
All right, we’d like to continue, with the help of some wonderful women. From Sleater-Kinney, Miss Corin Tucker on vocals, Miss Janet Weiss on the drumkit, and Miss Carrie Brownstein on my guitar. On her guitar. And you on vocals, any time you want to sing.
The song starts with Ed and Corin briefly battling for lead vocals on the first, but Ed cedes the stage after just a couple of words, and holy crap Corin Tucker is amazing, just belting out the lyrics, and it's just mind-blowingly powerful.
At some point, Ed brings a kid up on stage, and gives him a tambourine to play. As the supergroup jams out, Ed lifts the kid up in a sort of fireman carry across his shoulders and spins him for a bit.
That’s one of your neighbors. That’s Doug, local kid.
Ed takes the first verse here, in what just feels like a more intense version of this song. Corin on the second verse isn’t as bombastic as in Fortunate Son, but still very powerful. I have no idea why I don’t listen to more Sleater-Kinney. Probably because it’s 2003, and there’s no streaming services, so to listen to music you have to go out and buy it. At this point, too, Sleater-Kinney had such an intense following that I felt like I was a poser to start listening now. Flash-forward 15 years, and I don’t care. SK is definitely on my playlist now.
If you look hard, you can Janet and Matt playing the drums, and Carrie rocking out with Stone and Mike. Even Boom is visible! Also, while it looks like Stone is shirtless, he is, in fact, fully clothed (his shirt is very similar to his skin tone). Even still has that stupid visor on.
Ed was Kiley turn on the house lights and starts the third verse with,
Now you’re a thousand points of light,
for the soldier man.
Tell him to come home soon.
Come home while he can.
The group rocks out for a bit, then winds down. The amazing women of Sleater-Kinney thank Pearl Jam and head off stage while Ed wish the crowd a good night. Or, tries to, anyway:
Thank you, Boston, for a memorable evening. Thank you. Thank you and good-night. One more? All right, there’s one more that we haven’t done… That one! Actually, we did it once in Birmingham, Alabama on this tour, and if you’d like to hear it, we’d love to play it for you.
Like any Pearl Jam crowd is going to say no to more Pearl Jam.
Matt counts off the tempo, and we sit in rapt attention, wondering what song this could be. The band bangs out one chord/note, Ed give a shout, and they all drop their instruments and scamper off stage.
The crowd just stands and stares, mouths agape. Did they really just do that? Are they really going to end the show on that one single note?
Of course not!
Well, they might have, but the crowd isn’t having it. We cheer and holler until Ed and the guys come back out on stage.
We’re just trying to play every song we played on tour, and we did play that one. (the band congregates, trying to figure out what song they’re actually playing) All right, we got it.
They play One Note again, but a different note this time. The crowd grows restless. And then…
Honestly, I didn’t think I would hear this tonight, as they’d played in on Night 2, and there were no other repeats across the 3 nights. It’s such a classic closer, though.
Instead of “I know I’d never see that place again” Ed sings, “I don’t ever have to play this outdoor place again.”
Mike lights his guitar on fire again (figuratively) for the solos, and even slips a little “More than a Feeling” into the outro solo. For a moment, I thought they were going to break into another song, but no, he transitions back to the outro, and the song ends, a fantastic way to end a fantastic show. A fantastic SET of shows.
Thank you, Boston. Thank you for everything. Thank you for two nights… Three nights! Thank you for two guys. Thank you for one great feeling. Thanks for the experiment. Peace. Thank you, good night! Love ya! Be safe. See ya next year.
In the intro to my last post, I posed a question: did I need to see Pearl Jam twice at the same venue, on the same tour? The answer is a resounding, “YES.”. The crowd was amazing, and the band was on fire (again, figuratively). I wish I’d been able to see all three shows, but that just wasn’t feasible. All told, they played 82 songs over the three nights, with just one repeat. That is astounding. Three encore breaks is crazy, too. This also marks the only show I’ve been to (even looking ahead into the future of the next 4 shows) where they did not play Even Flow, so I guess I’ll retire that running commentary.
There was a strange finality to this evening. I’d seen an Epic Show, and even though that wasn’t quite a thing at that time, the Internet was, and you’d hear people talk about amazing shows they’d been to, like Atlanta in ‘94, or the Orpheum/Garden shows that same year. Or Randall’s Island in ’96. One thing all of the discussed shows had in common was that I’d not been at them. Sure, Hartford ’96 was great, and has special meaning to me as it was my first Pearl Jam show, but no one talked about it years later. This show, people would be talking about, and every time they did, I could say, “I was there.” Did I need to see Pearl Jam again?
Well, yes, of course I did. The bigger question was, would I ever see them again? I had a little money, but I was out of school and working as an unpaid intern. Even when I got a full-time job the following year, I wasn’t making much money. I moved out of my mother’s house, and had an apartment that I could just about afford. I spent most of what little disposable income I had on college hockey, cable TV, and a cell phone. If I’m being entirely honest, I spent more than what I actually had on that stuff. After just a couple of years of being in the club (and before they’d announced their next tour), I let my Ten Club membership lapse.
What better show to have as my final time seeing Pearl Jam, though?
Next time: I see Pearl Jam again! Which shouldn’t come as a surprise! This is a nine (soon to be eleven) part series! What changes? Come back to find out!