Oh a night to remember. Greensboro, NC ... the Greensboro Coliseum ... Sonic Youth ... Pearl Jam. We arrived at the venue early to pick up our tickets and hopefully get some upgrades. In the process we caught the last two songs of the soundcheck, 'Evacuation' and 'Rival', and met up with some other fans I had met in Charlotte and the previous night at Sonic Youth's show in Chapel Hill. Security proved difficult, at first not letting my camera in. They eventually straightened the camera policy out and I made it through with no problems. Sonic Youth's set doesn't disappoint, it took a couple of shows, but I'm finally grasping some of their material.
The lights dim and the anticipation escalates a hundred fold. Out stride Matt, Ed, Jeff, Stone, and Mike. At first I had my doubts as to how 'Of The Girl' would prevail as a live song, but having heard it once in Europe quelled any fears. Hearing it again tonight sets a definite tone for the show, its intimacy somehow seeming to shrink the size of the venue. The band is obviously ready to let loose, Mike marching in place, Jeff low and grooving. Up next is 'Corduroy' and the boys are obviously ON FIRE. So much power so much energy.
It was surprising to hear 'Insignificance' so early in the setlist. In Europe it had occupied a spot later in the set, but tonight it works well building on the energy put forth during 'Corduroy'. 'Brain of J' and 'Evacuation' follow, 'Evacuation' a noticeable strain on Ed's voice. Ed notes that 'Evacuation' was written by Matt and that drummers traditionally don't like singers, so maybe that's the reason its so hard to sing. "Of course, I wrote the lyrics, so maybe I just don't like myself." Ed continues to address the audience with "It's nice to be in North Carolina; it's been all of two days but it seems like two years."
'Nothing As It Seems' brings out Jeff's stand up bass, and the spotlight on Mike. For me Mike's solos are so wrought with emotion that I usually stand there eyes closed, my mind's dancing with images. But tonight the other half of me prevailed and my eyes are fixed on Mike and his guitar. Spotlight on Jeff and 'Jeremy' is next, a definite crowd pleaser. The 'Daughter' tag is most likely an improv as Ed reads from his notebook. Some of the lines include "I wish I could ride the tide that leads to the state of normalcy. I wish, I wish, I wish that I could light the path, I wish that I could light the path to keep you from the danger." 'MFC' and 'Whipping' lead to 'Wishlist' in which Ed manages to flub the lyrics of the first verse. "I'll get the next one" he tells us ... but he messes the second verse up also and the song ends after the Ebow solo.
For me 'Leatherman' is always a fun song to hear, quick, powerful, and a genuinely interesting story. Ed takes a sip of wine "for courage" as the band jump into 'In My Tree' with a very moving 'Black' close on its heels. Again Mike steals the spotlight and I'm off into my own little world, eyes closed, head swaying, knees weak. The first set ends with powerful versions of 'Spin The Black Circle' and 'Rearviewmirror' after which Ed tosses his guitar high above him and successfully catches it. Off the stage they go, Ed and Stone waiving to the crowd.
After the conclusion of 'Light Years' Ed notes that he's had his eye on a couple of people all night, most notable a guy holding a tape recorder over his head in order to get a better recording. Ed says that the next song is a love song and that he'll need both arms to put around his girlfriend, afterwards offering to put the recorder on stage. Before placing the recorder near his mic, Ed says a few words into the recorder much like he did in 1998. I half expect 'Crazy Mary' to end 30 seconds in, but we're treated to a full version while Ed fittingly totes around his wine bottle, even pouring a cup for a lucky fan up front.
'Do The Evolution' is a whirlwind. Mike, shirt off, is running around wildly. Ed dancing side to side. 'Last Kiss' has Ed shaking his hips to Matt's drum beat and finishes in a moving sing along. Stone straps on his Rickenbacker and its into 'Breakerfall'. After breaking two strings Ed rips the remaining four off at song's end barely restraining himself from smashing the guitar. Off they go again, Ed saying "See ya in ten years."
Out comes Ed alone, hiding something behind his back. Seemingly reading my mind as to whether or not he can finish 'Soon Forget' without screwing up the lyrics, Ed asks the crowd not to clap or make noise so he at least has a chance. The audience doesn't oblige and claps along anyways. Ed doesn't make it, flubbing in almost the same way as in Bellingham, but hey, we still love ya Ed. The band returns and I'm thinking "OK, here comes Yellow Ledbetter." But I'm happily surprised when Ed whips out his harmonica and the band leap into 'Smile', "I miss you already" a fitting way to end the show.
In light of the past month's events, the show exceeded any expectations I had. The band was so animated, so full of energy, so happy. I left thinking "Wow. What a treat." For those of you whose shows are yet to come, I hope you enjoy your treat as much as I did mine.