Not surprisingly, right from the beginning, the subject of Elvis came up when my friend and I decided to go to the Memphis show on Leg I of Pearl Jam's 2000 tour. I mean, how could it not, when it was Elvis week ... the anniversary of his death. Knowing how Ed seems to know and remember details about local events/musicians of the cities where PJ tours, I think it would have been MORE of a surprise if he hadn't acknowledged Elvis in some way. Many of our friends had even discussed possible songs or tags. I'm sure Elvis was in the back of the minds of most of the 12,000 or so of the fans who were at the Pyramid, but still when it happened, when Ed asked for that jacket and you knew something special was about to happen, I doubt any of us were quite prepared.
Starting with Of the Girl was perfect to setting the tone for this evening. I have to admit, that I was not enamored of this song immediately upon hearing Binaural and that it took awhile to hook me. But if I had any doubts, the live version of this song nailed it for me completely. What the HELL was I thinking before?? And I was happy to get a trio of my favorites that always kick a PJ show into high gear, Last Exit, Animal, and Corduroy…I hope they never stop playing them and they were definitely enthusiastically received by the Memphis crowd. Grievance early in the set was also welcome news (even if Ed did fuck up the words…it just makes it more memorable), since I was really hoping to hear several new songs. And I believe it pumped up the band even more that the crowd was into the new songs. Even Wishlist, in which Ed acknowledged the crowd with a fist pump after "our" hands were raised simultaneously, sounded fresh since I hadn't heard it in awhile.
But then it happened. Almost unexpectedly at that early point in the show. There's always a defining moment to every show that you will always remember and this definitely was IT. When Ed said "I need a jacket for this next song ... something nice," and put on that striped jacket, I don't think anyone knew what was to come or expected that it would be so special. And then those familiar lyrics with Ed's incredible voice "wise men say, only fools rush in, cause I can't help falling in love you". The crowd singing along, sharing the moment, at first thinking Ed was going to sing it straight. Then, all of sudden things unexpectedly change. At the "take my hand, would it be a sin" moment, the whole band turns it into a punky, but oh so more relevant version. Just amazing, beautiful music from the past which the band connected to the present. Who other than PJ could/would do it this way. It was just incredible! Hell, worth the price of plane tickets, admission, and then some for just that one moment! I later found out that this was performed at the soundcheck and I will be eternally grateful to NOT have known about this in advance! What would have Elvis thought?? Dunno, but Memphis loved it.
But it was FAR from over. There were many more highlights to come. I mean who expected In My Tree?? Or for Matt to completely nail it!! I mean, I was among those who wondered if only Jack could do it justice but Matt left no doubt. It's almost easy to take Matt for granted because he IS so much a part of this band now. And, as a lot of us were hoping, we got the Save it For Later tag with Better Man right before an always amazing Black, in which Mike finished the ending turned around facing toward his amp. I had really been waiting for Insignificance all along too…the one new song I absolutely HAD to hear live and I was not disappointed. Rearviewmirror with windmills by Ed, an extended middle, and a pulsating strobe was a fitting ending to the main set. Jeez what the hell could they do for an encore after what had already taken place.
Then, it seemed like forever. At first I almost thought we were in for a new song since it took a LONG time for the band to come out and Ed took a long look at his notebook. But no one was disappointed when it started with a blistering Breakerfall! The first encore was an awesome mixture of Thin Air (which Ed said the big E in the sky would have probably liked), mixed in with a couple of my personal favorites, like DTE and SOLAT in which at one point Ed went over to stand next to Mike as he sang. During DTE, Ed did a karate move, ala Elvis, aimed at Stone during his solo and then put on Elvis-style sunglasses during the "hallelujah's", changing the words to "I'm a thief, I'm a liar, I'm the king, let's sing in my choir"! Ed definitely seemed to enjoy being Elvis for the evening. But it wasn't over quite yet…the Elvis moments OR thankfully the show. Go ended the set, culminating in a flurry of yet more Elvis karate moves! Ed must have definitely been practicing.
Just a couple of notes: The Pyramid was an impressive venue. This was the first time I have ever gone to a concert in the South and I must say I was much impressed. The Memphis crowd was awesome ... very into the show and Ed earlier even gave the crowd props for the great reception they gave Sonic Youth. And I just have to say it's amazing how much Mike seems to be interacting with the crowd ... pointing, smiling, (I actually have strutting in my notes), posing for cameras. The boys were definitely ON ... feeding off the crowd reaction…much energy all around. Just an incredible, almost historic night!