"It's nice to rock out with your house key in your pocket ..."
Key Arena, Seattle, WA
5 November, 2000
After all this time, you would think that I would know better to not be in my seat before the opening band starts. You would think. I was never going to be one of those people who missed an Ed solo set. Not me. Uh-uh. So explain, if you will, why I was still standing up at the poster line (only TWO merchandise stands open on the main level) when this roar goes up from the crowd (and I think, "Chili Peppers already?") and then I hear that voice and I run over to my friend, smack him with the poster tube and yell, "It's EDDIE!" We haul ass (along with a few dozen other intelligent folks) down to our seats. We missed the speech but got to stand there and watch him sing: "Throw Your Arms Around" me! Luckily (or not), I am too flustered and out of breath to bawl my eyes out, which is what this song always wants to make me do. He finishes, walks off; I want to do nothing more right now than sit in my seat and have that cry, but Gaz is walking onstage and I'd already decided I'd seen Supergrass enough by the time I got to Vegas.
Back to the poster line, finally success, and then back to our seats to not move from them again until the show is OVER, dammit! I'm not missing anything else. Finally, my show! My show in that this is finally the show where I get to use my Ten Club seats. I am as excited as a kid on the first day of school. I look up and realize that I am right in front of John Frusciante's wall o' amps; although I rarely wear earplugs for PJ, I still have several pairs in every single bag I own. Thank goodness, because we needed them, because the Chili Peppers were FUCKING LOUD! They take the stage to this huge roar from the crowd; I am not usually impressed with Seattle PJ audiences but perhaps this one will be different.
They were, of course, fantastic. It dawns on me that I have not seen them in concert since, erm, 1988. (Electric Ballroom, Camden, London. Socks were worn at the encore.) God, what was I thinking?! I am completely bowled over by their non-stop energy and their stellar musicianship, as well as their humor. "So I hear that Patrick Ewing has the biggest cock in Seattle," says Flea. "Oh really?" replies Anthony. "But I'm here now," Flea responds. You gotta love it. John Frusciante sings "Tiny Dancer". We wonder if that means Cameron Crowe is in the house.
While it's great that PJ don't stick us with whatever lame baby band their label wants to foist upon the youth of America, I am struck by how different the energy is tonight. Supergrass are a fine band, but the Chilis kind of raised the bar with their performance, a bar that PJ were then of course going to have to beat. An affectionate competition, if you will. The encore included their kick ass cover of "Search and Destroy" by the Stooges, but no PJ members. (Of course everyone and their mother was predicting "Dirty Frank" at one of these two shows.) Well, maybe later.
The crew sets up the stage in record time (it was already very late) and before we know it there is "Baba" and we are on our feet screaming, urging everyone around us to stand at attention, HERE COME PEARL JAM. You would think I hadn't seen them as many times as I had, that I hadn't seen them just three days ago. My heart just stopped. It continues to amaze me that this band has the power to continually move me in this way.
Ed, guitar. As soon as they hit that first chord, I was just struck with this perfect sense of cosmic completion and rightness and just bust out crying: "Long Road". What else could it be? This year more than any other year, too: it's been a long road for them *and* us. "And the wind keeps roarin', and the sky is always grey," Ed sings. I smile big. They're home! They haven't ended a tour in Seattle since 1993 and again, there's this sense of rightness that they end this one here. This version of LR is perfect, almost pristine.
I watch them change out guitars and see the Rickenbacker and before I know it, "Breakerfall" tears out at this breakneck pace, opening with this gutteral scream from the bowels of the earth. It's a Stoney night -- he is out there, in front, in fine form. We're right there, too, pogoing madly, frantically, singing along at the top of our lungs. I can see the people behind the stage and the first rows aren't even STANDING, they are sitting: "Here we are now, entertain us." I can't judge the rest of the crowd, we're too far forward.
"Corduroy" rains out majestically, if this doesn't get them going nothing will. I am nonstop pogo like I have never pogoed and having the time of my life. I look around and I actually see people sitting in the first few rows of the fan club section SITTING DOWN and I am dumbstruck. A jet-propelled "Whipping" follows next; I want to watch Matt on this one but I have the usual Cameron Viewing Trajectory problem (damn ride cymbals)! Listen to him on the bridge of this song when you get the boots, he is just letter-perfect each and every single fucking time and tonight is no different! God! I had so worried about these shows, feared that they would just end up being anticlimactic, and now I am just so proud, they are playing SO WELL, end of the tour or not they are playing so fucking well!
"God's Dice" next, a song which I feel like I haven't heard enough this tour, and that they haven't played enough for it to have created its own organic groove. Watching Jeff sing harmonies. Stone at the front again. "Animal" is rousing. Wow.
"Hello, Seattle," Ed greets us, "I don't know if you in your lives get to get yourselves in situations where you're gone from home for a long time, but if you do, you know how incredibly good it feels to get back... get back to the cold... and the clouds... and the rain," he continues, as the crowd cheers each force of nature separately. "We'll just let you know that even in places like Phoenix, where we were, and Las Vegas, and San Diego, it was shitty everywhere we went, we were taking the cloud of Seattle on tour... which-- we were willing to get away from it, but what was nice was, you got to see, a lot of people out there just can't handle it!" The crowd cheers. "And it's good to be back where everybody knows what they're doing. So this next song, this next one's about a guy who, after just smoking one small thing -- well, it was a joint, he wakes up with wings and he gets to fly above the clouds, and after he sees the light up there, he comes down and he's nice enough to tell everyone about it, and it's called 'Given To Fly'."
Ed, kind as he is, turns sings a verse to the people behind the stage (who then of course all stood up). "This one has Mike McCready," Ed announces as the crowd applauds warmly, "and it's called 'Nothing As It Seems'". NAIS is fairly smokin', and I finally put my finger on it: the last chord. Doh! "Day In The Life". (Well, not quite the same but it certainly evokes it.) "Daughter" has both "Bull In The Heather" (!!!) and the Beck tag, transforming the moment from standard to something else. Then, I lose all sense of sanity as they go into "MFC", Ed spitting out, "C'mon!" after the intro lines. Ed with that beloved beat-up duct-taped guitar, watching him play. This song is "Going Mobile," this song is about the journey, this song is after the escape, this song is freedom, I love this song more than I can ever express. "Lukin" starting and thinking "Oh shit!" "Wishlist" following, me questioning the wisdom of the segue but appreciating that it gave us time to breathe.
The extra verse tonight is telling, but we wouldn't understand until tomorrow just how telling:I wish I was the mayor of this town
I'd let the kids run free
I wish I wish I wish I wish...
The kids'll be fine without me
"Betterman," and Ed holds that last note so loud and so long the place breaks into this huge cheer; we're waiting, we're hoping, it's sounding like it... but no "Save It For Later," dammit. "This one's something about a lamprey," and I REALLY WANT TO KNOW THE MEANING OF THESE RANDOM EVENFLOW TITLES, DAMMIT! Anyway, "Evenflow," and this is the height of the Vedder vs. Ament jumping competition. Ya know, you go to a few shows and you know where they generally tend to launch themselves, it's not that hard to figure out & remember -- "Evenflow" being the prime candidate. And while we know that they are not sitting backstage with a choreographer, they both catch air simultaneously so many times that you start to wonder if they don't try to do it on purpose. Tonight it happened so many times I started to shake my head and during "Evenflow" it became really obvious - watching Ed almost launch himself more than once only to fake it out and then crack up at Jeff - that there's this lovingly competitive quasi-athletic thing going on.
So while that's going on, I'm watching Ed, again, while I'm listening to Mike. Ed drops back to his amp. Picks up his jacket. Finds the cigarettes. Lights one. All the while, never taking his eyes off Mike. Him and Stone nodding approval. Jeff keeping watch and keeping rhythm. Waiting for that little rhythmic break of Matt's that transitions out of the solo back into the song.
"Alright, thanks a lot. Again, Mike McCready right there..," he gestures and waits for our applause. "Not to mention Matt cameron, we're so fortunate to have him in the band..," Ed trails off again into more applause for Matt. "We're gonna try one that we tried just once before," and I think, no, they said they wouldn't play it again... Not-- "And I'll just say that it's a song that's older than me." One chord and HOLY SHIT! AGAIN! I thought they said-- "Crown of Thorns"! Oh my god, I don't get to hear it once but twice??? We are screaming with joy, jumping up and down, high-fiving each other; I lean over and hug my friend Danny, who came over from Germany for the show: we started the tour together in Lisbon and we're finishing it together tonight. This version was not as overwhelmingly emotional as Las Vegas; for one, I could actually pay attention to Mike's solo -- and musically it was incredible. Ed is not sick for one thing and his voice is this fluid, warm, wonderful, soaring thing. This is about tribute, this is about memories, this is about history, this is just -- everything in one moment.
"Black" next, with a searingly sweet solo, followed by your favorite dance number, DTE, which thunders through the arena. And then Ed dons a guitar and speaks: "Hey, one of the last times that we were here, or at least I was in the room, Ralph Nader rallied; some of you may have been here...but you know, the last show is on Monday, which is perfect timing, to just sit and do nothing but watch the election on Tuesday, it's never been more interesting, but anyways... I'll dedicate this to the two people who tried to hang a 'Vote For Bush' sign in the back, I thought that was really pretty comical... I thought the Republicans usually sat up front, with all the tax breaks... but not only was the banner taken down [taken down by two enterprising fans who shall remain nameless -- hey, the banner creators got what they wanted], but on this rare occasion, I hope they were taken in the back and roughed up... so if you learned anything in the last two months, as it gets heated it, it's that your vote is significant, regardless of the title of the next song, which is called 'Insignificance'." Here we go, I've got one more left after tonight so let's make it a good one! "Please forgive our hometown," and this line has never made more sense. (I could give you a tirade on local politics but I'll refrain; Ed takes care of that at tomorrow's show.)
And standing there, just completely wrapped in this song, it's me and the music and the guys and the energy and the moment, I realize that this song is for me what "Rearviewmirror" is for most people, it has the same catharsis for me that RVM provides. (Dare I risk the "Jungleland" comparison again? I'm sorry, it's the SAME FEELING, I can't help it.) It's hopelessness and despair transformed, which, if you think about it, is the same as RVM, only from a universal perspective instead of the individual one.
I spent this tour searching for the perfect "Insignificance" and it would be easy (and predictable) to say that this one was it; I'll just say that while I haven't found it yet, and look forward to pursuing that dream on future tours, this version came damn well close.
Speaking of RVM, this was next, seeming to last forever, the jam focused and intense, just soaring all over the arena. One of those moments you want to freeze in your mind. Wow. Just wow. End of set.
Many pieces of paper are brought out and taped to the stage and we're wondering wtf is up here, maybe that "Dirty Frank" thought could happen, hell, *anything* could happen right now. The band strolls on and Ed has the Rickenbacker, and we're all wondering. Ed steps to the mic: "Well, we all thank you -- friends, neighbors, and all alike; it's nice to rock out with your house key in your pocket every once in a while. We should really give a big hand to the band that -- even though they don't live that far away from -- Los Angeles -- what they did do was, they hadn't been playing for like a month and came back into form to play tonight, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, playing..." The crowd applauds wildly. "For free! They ain't being paid shit! Flea and Anthony will get nothing from this gig! And speaking of 'right cunts'..." Me down front: "WHAT did you say??!" The British slang goes over like a lead balloon. Unplussed, Ed continues: "See, that's something that an English person would laugh at; these are Englishmen called Supergrass from Oxford, England, as I've mentioned before, they've just been great on this tour, and we've been trying to work up a song together and we finally did it this afternoon, so we're gonna try one together, it's by another English band called the La's, so we'll see, so we'll ask for the presence of Danny, Gaz and Mick from Supergrass to play this."
Now I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this song, I heard them soundcheck it in Barcelona but aside from that I never saw it live until Phoenix, so to get it now is such a treat. Has this band ever pulled out a bad cover choice? Ever? Anyway, Ed and Gaz trade verses, and sing the choruses together. I think of my friend Simon, who loves Supergrass and tried all tour to foist tapes upon me (I had no bandwidth for anything new, but I'll sure try now), he must be going nuts. There are hugs and handshakes when it's over; you can see that there is genuine affection here. (In San Diego Ed threatened to take them surfing, I wonder if that happened.)
"This is worse than a Sonics time-out when they're losing.... Boise was better than you!" Ed says half-jokingly. (He was right. Aside from isolated pockets of out-of-towners, the crowd was dead.) "And I've got a bigger cock than Patrick Ewing and Flea put together... but I don't wanna brag, or nothin'," he continues with that wicked grin. Mike is leaning on his sidestage monitor, and at that statement holds his hands out shoulder-width to illustrate Ed's point, and nods knowingly. I hurt myself laughing. "But seriously, this one goes out to someone who I'm sure would have been a really good friend of mine, and it's called 'Light Years'." Now, I call this song the "Wishlist" of Binaural, except that I never get tired of hearing it and I miss it when it's gone. I think it's the vocals; gently lilting, wistful -- it's just perfect. I miss the modulations he was doing in Europe, but I'll honestly take any version I can get. (I also remember in the pre-Binaural madness, when some rocket scientist uploaded Ed's little ditty about leaving all his stuff to the Who to Napster, and called it "Light Years". That was funny.)
"Alright, this song goes out to Fife!.. Poulsbo... Wenatchee...," he pauses, thinking. "Chehalis!", I interject. (I broke down there once. Longest afternoon of my life.) He hears me. "Chehalis! Enumclaw... even West Seattle.... it's called 'Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town'". It's warm and loving, affectionate, although any random show this summer had a better "Hello" than the one we just got. (Okay, it was really late at this point... the show *ended* at 1:30am, and it was a school night.)
"Last Exit" on a Stoney night! Yeah! And then "State"! Before I moved here six years ago, "State" was the song that said "Seattle" to me more than anything else, probably yeah because of "Singles" (which is still such a PJ fan touchstone, no matter where you go -- I was trading lines from the movie when I was in Spain and Portugal with fans from those countries, Germany, Australia and the U.K.!) The pogofest continues with STBC (ACK!!!) and then just when you're frantically scanning your brain trying to figure out what could be next, Ed steps to the mic.
"Speaking of old songs, or old records, or old ways of listening to songs which were records, this last song came about just from one afternoon in the Fremont Antique Mall," he says, and the locals applaud. "And...picked it up for either 75 or 95 cents, and then, well, then it raised a lot of money for charity, it's amazing how things work sometimes..." Ed pauses, and continues: "And thanks again for the money that's being raised tonight, I mean I know it would be -- you gave it to us and we gave it away, but it's really your money, and it's going to all things that maybe somebody you know it would affect, or maybe it someday it will affect you or your kids, but it's your money... thanks... for coming! And your money is just as good as theirs, I just want you to know... this is 'Last Kiss'". "Last Kiss"??! Trainwreck! I amuse myself by watching various fans' interpretative dances in the seats next to the stage. (The same section would get a verse of "Porch" sung to them later.)
"1-2-3-4," Ed counts, and we're now thankful for the pause they gave us after STBC, as this we're in the pogoing semifinals now. I love these versions of "Porch," it's no longer this frantic manic thing, it's solid but it has just as much power and conviction. Ed wanders a bit during the bridge, checking things out; and then he comes back and improvs a bit, singing a few random lines; then he moves into vocalization (which the crowd should have picked up on but didn't). "Porch" ends with this weird repetitive chord and then closes. Oh my god! These 9 song encores! They're off, but we know they're coming back. They have no choice! (We're already so far past curfew, what does it matter.)
I'd seen someone carry a violin across the stage before the show, so when I saw two people start setting up sidestage behind Stone, we all knew what was likely to be happening. "Well, this is really it, this is not bad... to know that we're close to home, and our families, and speaking of -- you know, we were really fortunate to have two great musicians record this song with us in the studio off the last record, and that's April Cameron and Justine Foy, right there," Ed gestures behind him in their direction; they wave. "We tried to get them to tour with us, they said, 'Fuck that shit, we have real lives to attend to,' but we have 'em here tonight and we're going to try this song with them... and it's a sad song called 'Parting Ways'."
Oh, this is so wonderful. I can't even tell you. It was big and full and overpowering and overwhelming and just plain BIG. Expansive. It filled the room. The strings were audible, not audible enough but enough to add texture and atmosphere, and lend a grace and a dignity to this song, while still making it lighter than some of the full band versions I witnessed this tour. Those seemed much darker and foreboding. But you know we can't be far away from the end now, and it is a sad song, and it is the end of the tour, so there's this dichotomy.
They finish and without prompting, Mike moves into "Ledbetter". Ed gets pissed at the security guards a few rows back, they were probably beating someone standing one centimeter into the aisle. And now I know I really did start crying again because it was over, and at the same time smiling -- by the end of this show, my face hurt from smiling so much. Mike goes into the solo, and I've never seen this before: Jeff falls back onto his stool, and grabs Ed's bottle of wine, which was resting on the drum riser; he takes a swig, and then passes it over to Matt, who was waiting with outstretched arm. He takes an equally big swig, and I think it got passed on to Stone. Mike had had this Jimi Hendrix photo, torn out of a magazine, taped to his amp, and when he moved into this lovely, graceful "Little Wing" tag, it all just made sense. The crowd goes fucking nuts, and rightfully so.
And that's it! That's all. One down, one to go. It's 1:30 in the morning, and I have to gather up people, get home, get the setlist up, and then I have to work on the presentation due tomorrow at noon that I will now not be at work to present (having decided round about RVM that there was no way in hell I was going to work tomorrow). What a solid, powerful show. What a fantastic thing, to be a fan of this band. Still smiling, I went to sleep thinking of the show still to come.
copyright © 2000 Caryn Rose