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naked eye, live from the vera club, 11/5/96
February 24, 1994: I've been back in the country for exactly two months after six years abroad. I borrow my dad's 1960's tuxedo jacket, put on a long black skirt, and take the train into NYC, headed for Carnegie Hall. It's the second night of the "Daltrey Sings Townshend" concerts at that venue, to celebrate Roger's 50th birthday. Last night I was in the third balcony, but tonight I'm second row center, courtesy Roger's management. In the 80's, I ran a Who fanzine called "The Relay" with some friends; one friend had kept it going, and when they heard that fans got shut out of tickets (and I stood in line for many, many hours in the freezing New York cold trying to get a ticket, ANY ticket), they called my friend, offering up as many tickets as she could handle - all in the first ten rows!

It's an unbelievable experience, and I didn't leave my seat for three seconds. We brought flowers for Roger, and threw them onstage at the end of "Love Reign O'er Me," a rendition that had me sitting there silently sobbing. But, we made sure to keep one back for the person we were most anxious to see, aside from the members of the Who: Mr. Eddie Vedder.

Eddie's set the previous night was a surprise to most people; it wasn't filmed or recorded, and he came onstage after the intermission, barely any lights on the stage - many people were still outside in the lobby, and I hate to say it, but he was greeted with more than a few boos. However, he soon won the crowd over with his wonderful, heartfelt performance. Tonight, everyone knew to be back in their seats in time, and he was greeted with a generous round of applause.

We sat there, transfixed, watching and listening as he worked his way through a wonderful set, my friend saying, "Don't throw the flowers until the end, we don't want to piss him off!" After his beautiful rendition of "Sheraton Gibson," we sat there, listening to a few notes, until my friend said, "Ohmigod, I think this is 'Naked Eye'" and we had the quietest freakout we could possibly have, hanging onto each other for dear life; I would swear that Eddie shot us a look that said, "How on earth do you girls know what I'm about to sing?" and then he went into none other than the legendary, rarely-played "Naked Eye":

Take a little dope and walk out in the air
The stars are all connected to the brain;
Find me a woman and lay down on the ground,
Her pleasure comes falling down like rain.
Get myself a car, I feel power as I fly,
Oh now I'm really in control:
It all looks fine to the naked eye,
But it don't happen that way at all,
Don't happen that way at all
11/5/96: The day before Pearl Jam are scheduled to play the RAI Parkhal in Amsterdam, the Fastbacks, openers on the tour, play a small club, the Vera, in Groningen, Holland. (PJ played at this small [200+] club 3/1/92). The Fastbacks show is notable for an unusual opening act: the first appearance of the now-legendary "The What": Kurt Bloch and Mike Musburger of the FBX on bass and drums, and none other than EV on lead guitar and vocals. Eddie explains to the crowd that since The Fastbacks supported PJ for the whole tour, it was only fair to repay the favor (and that actually he just wanted an excuse to come back). The set consisted of I Can't Explain, The Kids are Alright, Lukin, Not for You, Rearviewmirror, and finally, once again, "Naked Eye".

In the entire history of Pearl Jam, there are very few performances I have found as compelling as this rendition of the Who classic. Heart-felt, passionate, almost bone-chilling in its intensity, Eddie's performance perfectly captures the essence of this song. "Naked Eye" was one of a few songs Pete Townshend wrote after the Who's incredible success surrounding "Tommy," which catapulted them into a level of stardom they hadn't seen before. Dave Marsh, in his excellent Who biography Before I Get Old, tells us this about the song:

"Townshend didn't write much in this period, but the songs that did get finished were a reflection of his anxiety... Then there was 'Naked Eye,' the one song of these which was integrated into the stage show, the one that sounded like a Who song, the one that rocked. And told the truth:
You hold the gun and I hold the wound
And we stand looking in each other's eyes;
Both think we know what's right, both know we know what's wrong
We tell ourselves so many many lies
We're not pawns in any game, we're not tools of bigger men,
There's only one who can really move us all.
It all looks fine to the naked eye,
But it don't happen that way at all,
Don't happen that way at all.
Those lines are about guilt, the attempt to shirk duty, feelings of deep inadequacy. 'Naked Eye' is a great song because the lines are so frank, because they are delivered with such solemn, moody strength, because the music is full of parallel turmoil. It's hard to believe that no one could see that the man who had written them was beginning to crack."
A tall order, perhaps, but Eddie gets it, you can FEEL it, even just listening to a recording. You can hear from this performance that it's in his blood, it's in his bones, it's a song he's been singing and thinking about for years. Just like diehard PJ fans are obsessed with songs like "Breath" or "Hard To Imagine," start playing "Naked Eye" and the diehard Who fan will come running. It's a song that differentiates the obsessives from the casual fan; it's a rocker, but lyrically it's frightening. It's not a little pop song about cars and girls, it's one of Townshend's deeper, questioning lyrics. With the turmoil in the history of Pearl Jam over the past few years, it's easy to see why this particular number resonates so strongly with Eddie.

The What sound like a Live At Leeds era Who, creating a sparse yet huge, loud sound, Mike Musberger flailing away in a manner that does Keith Moon proud, Kurt Bloch anchoring the performance just like John Entwistle does for the Who, and Eddie's vocal delivery with all the power of Roger Daltrey's best performances, combined with the passion and intensity that are hallmarks of a Townshend vocal - ideal for a song on which both Townshend and Daltrey share vocal duties. And it absolutely captures the feeling of this track as performed live by the Who; on record (only found on the outtakes album Odds and Sods) it's almost overproduced; it was live that this song really delivered.

In the middle of this incredible performance, as we head into the last verse, it's just Eddie and the guitar, some idiot feels the need to yell "Fuck you". Ed, to his credit, replies, "Yeah, you too. It's no big deal. I mean, I don't have to be here. I'm just gonna finish the song and watch The Fastbacks," and that's just what he does. Listening to this song, you will want to go and find this jerk and beat him senselessly for interrupting something so intense, so personal, so close to perfection.

Go listen.

Addendum: Just for the record, "Naked Eye" was also performed in soundcheck by PJ in New Orleans, on September 17, 1995. Only a handful of people actually got to hear it, although it was taped (and exists, mislabelled, on bootleg cd's of that show). Knowing PJ has performed "Naked Eye" as a group, we remain hopeful that it may pop up on a setlist during the 98 tour.

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