No matter how many times my husband, Donny, and I see Pearl Jam, they still surprise us, excite us and leave us feeling as if nothing else matters in the world except the sound of those guitars, the beat of the drums, and Eddie's voice. I'm sure most of you reading this know that indescribable feeling…a peaceful calm but also an inner bubbling…as well as how lucky we are to care about a band that cares just as much for its fans as we do for them. Thanks to the Ten/Vitalogy club, on August 7th, in Atlanta, Donny and I ended up on the front row, just a smidge to the left of Eddie. And I think we both agreed that it was our best experience thus far.
We didn't arrive until the middle of Sonic Youth's set, and when we finally made it to a door that they would let us into, we searched for a T-shirt stand. By the time we got to our seats, glowing, PJ's crew was setting up. So I can't say how good or bad Sonic Youth was. We recognized a few faces, others who have been fans for the past decade. (God - has it really been that long already?) And before we knew it, the house lights were going down. Matt sat down at his drum kit first, followed by Mike, Jeff and Stone, who were trailed by Eddie…sporting a faded army green jacket, cream-colored jeans, a beard, and carrying a black and white composition notebook with tattered pages hanging over the edges. Not having to fight a mosh pit this year, we just entered a zone and enjoyed the show.
They opened with Release, a song that starts with a promise of building and exploding…a great opener. So we were all ready for Corduroy. Then came Insignificance, the first of their new ones, and one I was hoping for. Eddie was getting that fire in his eyes by this time, and I was snapping pictures. We were glad that we had brought a disposable, not being sure that we were allowed to take pics, but there were flashes going off from all directions.
Then they jumped into Animal, with Ed counting the "five against one" on his fingers as I'm sure a lot of us were doing. Hail, Hail especially got the band going, and Ed clapped the band along during their guitar solos. Instead of "hail hail to those in love" it was "to those who f*" with a little bump and grind.
Then the gears were switched as Mike took the spotlight with the haunting beginning of Nothing As it Seems. Ed, as usual, retreated over to Stone's side of the stage to let Mike do his thing. Rival was a nice surprise. As often happens after a show, I have a new appreciation for this one. Lots of energy from Ed. He seemed to love doing this one.
Given to Fly was followed by Light Years, with Mike acting out the lyrics, pointing to the sky with every "your light made us stars." The more attention Mike gets from the audience, the more animated he becomes…like a kid. I saw him "pose" for more than one picture when a camera would go up on the front row.
Do the Evolution was a whirlwind, as was Even Flow, an old favorite of Donny's. By this time, Ed was taking sips of his red wine and smiling from ear to ear. In Hiding offered up the best picture-taking opportunity as Ed threw his head back and whaled "I'm in hiiiiding…" Daughter was tagged by REM's The Wrong Child, just like in Atlanta two years ago. "not supposed to be this way…but it's OK," with cheers of support from the crowd.
Betterman and Nothingman were concluded with what other than Leatherman. "Might as well do the trilogy," Ed said. I never thought I would hear that one, but always wanted to. Ed was a little rusty though when it came to the words of some of the older tunes. At times he laughed at himself, other times he scowled and shook his head.
Grievance, which I've always thought was even better live, made Donny's night. Matt really goes crazy on the drums…it's a sight to watch. Then another old favorite of PJ's to play, Rearview Mirror. The break in this song has everyone crowded around Matt's drum kit, deep in concentration. Then the finale, with Mike, Jeff, Stone and Eddie lined up along the front of the stage (the closest Jeff ever gets to the audience) playing faster and faster under the strobe lights.
"Good night," Ed said. But no one was leaving. They came back to a resounding cheer and played Once, a surprise. Breakerfall had Ed and Jeff moving, and Mike jumping up on the nearest amp.
Immortality took a while to get started, though. Ed drew a complete blank as they played the intro several times, while he tried to get a clue from the audience as to what the first word was. Stone started yelling from his side of the stage, "Vacate!" He finally had to come over and tap Ed on the shoulder. "It's vacate is the…" That had everyone laughing, the band most of all.
Next, Donny and I were shocked to hear the beginning of Crazy Mary. By this time, Ed had his jacket back on (I can't remember when it came off). "... take a bottle, drink it down, pass it around…" And with that, he climbed down off the stage, with security on both sides of him, and started pouring wine into the mouths of the people on the front row. Still singing, he got closer and closer to me. I had never seen him on my level before…he seems bigger than life up there on stage, but he's a really small guy…my height. I watched him pour wine into Donny's mouth and got ready to take my own. But he stopped, looked me in the eyes, smiled, raised his eyebrows, and offered me the bottle. "Thank you," I said with a smile, and took a huge sip of the best-tasting red wine I've ever had. I gave him the bottle back, he poured wine to someone a couple of seats down, and then he was gone. Back on stage. But he's never seemed so real to me as that night, strange as it sounds. (And, no, we didn't have any film left at that point.) Next was a crowd favorite, Elderly Woman. Drawing toward the close, Ed took some Polaroids of the crowd, starting on Stone's side and panning the audience. He laid them in front of his mike, belted out Porch and F*ing Up. The crowd was more fired up than ever. What a fun song to hear, and obviously for them to play. Ed had punched a hole in his tambourine by the end, and after slamming it against the mike, he tossed it into the crowd. And then they were gone again. No one moved of course, because as we all know, Yellow Ledbetter is their goodbye. The house lights were up, Eddie was smiling. The whole band acted as if they were just hanging out in their living room. So laid back, having a great time.
And that was it. They all walked toward Mike's side to exit. Mike threw his jacket out to someone, again just to the left of me, and Stone waved as he crossed the stage, tousled hair and all. Eddie was the last one off the stage. "Have a good night," he said to the front after he left his mike.
Now certain things happened, or were said, and I can't remember exactly where in the set list they came, so I'll add them here. Mike and Eddie both broke a guitar string once, and periodically threw picks into the audience, just to the left of me of course. Eddie shared a cigarette with Mike. Once before they started a song, Ed ran over, grabbed his pick, ran to the mike, and realized he'd forgotten his guitar.
When Ed first greeted Atlanta, he talked about how scientists have found this new planet, something like ten light years away…nothing compared to how far away the galaxy is on the cover of Binaural, he said. Makes us realize that we are really "this small", he said, using his fingers to demonstrate. "But, I heard that Ted Turner has already put in a bid for it." Laughter.
Later, he compared the skyboxes on his left to a prison. "All these people over here (motioned to his right) are free. But all these people are in prison, it looks like." He said something about Ted being right in the middle, the king's crotch, and started unzipping his pants, laughing. I think it was here when he said, "Well Ted might own Philips, but he don't own us!" Loud cheering of course.
At one point, Ed talked about how much time they've spent in Atlanta, recording albums…and that they are starting to recognize street names, gay bars. Mike raised his hand as if to say, "Guilty."
At the end, I think right before Yellow Ledbetter, he laughed at the big bright PHILIPS advertisements everywhere. "PHILIPS…Making things better…ha-ha." What a great concert! A combination of their maturity and easy-going natures of today, and their intensity of yesterday. They are very much "together" and strong. Ed looked at Mike several times for direction, and vice versa. A cohesive unit.
So, now I'm writing this review at work instead of working, because I can't concentrate on much for a couple of days after I see Pearl Jam. And I know I'm not the only one. Basically, I guess this is my "thanks" to the fan club, but most of all, to Pearl Jam.