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[Pearl Jam at Great Woods; nite 1]
"come to Boston, now here's the choir ..."
Great Woods Center, Mansfield, MA | 15 September 1998
review by Jim Fitzpatrick
photos by Nick McNulty & Jason Bennett
It's been two years since Augusta, a show that, for me, will live in infamy. But there's something about seeing Pearl Jam in your hometown. It's about jonesing for a show, itching to feel that live Pearl Jam experience one more time. Let it suffice to say that over Pearl Jam's two night stand in Boston, (Mansfield, actually, but whatever...) my itch was scratched far more than I had ever hoped.

First off, props to Ben and the Innocent Criminals for a job well done. It's tough to get the crowd going, but they did a great job on both nights, particularly with "Voodoo Child." I look forward to seeing them again.

My setlist begins with "Sometimes," and it's a better version than I had ever heard. That isn't to say it's my favorite, but it was good. Played with much more authority than on the No Code tour, and Matt really held the beat well. Mike seems to be going to his pedal board a lot already, and I wonder if this isn't reminiscent of the tech problems that have been around all tour.

Next it's "Corduroy," just as pulsing and powerful as I expected it be, a wall of sound with the three guitars. This is too early in the set, though. There hadn't been enough time to build up to it. Although Mikey's already running around the stage like crazy, and he played a nice solo, the rest of the band hadn't seemed to catch on. I did notice, though, that Ed's voice was FLAWLESS.

"Hail Hail" really starts to turn the set into high gear. This version is tight. Really tight. Everything stays together all through the song, pushing it with an intensity that I haven't heard. I notice that Jeff is finally getting some attention in the mix for this song. Ed is belting it out like crazy; tonight he's clearly come to play, and he inserts the "I refer to those in front" line at the end. Tight, powerful. "Animal" next, crowd counting along, Stone grimacing, Mike playing a searing lead. The first two McCready Scissor Kicks of the night showed up here, as the man seemed off the wall with energy.

Three words: "Given to Fly." I wish Mike could just take the intro by himself here, but the drums were behind him the whole time, almost distracting. This song is very emotional for some reason, the better version of the two nights, with 19,900 pairs of hands reaching high, wide, and whole.

Next song, Jeff grabs the standup, Stone the acoustic, and they're into "Daughter." If they're going to play song, it should at least have a tag. =) I understand that the hits are going to show up most every night, that doesn't mean they can't be interesting. No tag, "the shades just went down" on the song. Ed dons Gibson SG and starts "Immortality." Wow. It surprised me so early, and changed the set's atmosphere quite abruptly to a darker shade. Ed's guitar work on the chorus is great, and Mikey's solo lights the stage ablaze. When the jam at the end kicks in, it's clearly Matt and Jeff who are the driving forces. Everyone did their part here, and the result was beautiful.

Then a familiar riff, but slower, and it builds into "Rearviewmirror." Fantastic trippy jam in the middle, and Stone's background vox at the end are really cool! (I got to stand in front of Stone all night, and he is a great show in himself.) This song has redeemed itself as a live number for me. Ed switches guitars to the black Tele, and sticks an E-Bow on the mic stand, a dead giveaway for "Wishlist", preceded by a bit of "Crazy Mary." Unexpected, but cool. "Living being" instead of "alien", and "radio song" chorus at the end, Ed by himself. It was really beautiful, believe you me.

It seems that the show has been going quickly so far, it has. We got a "thank you" here and those were the only two words said to the crowd in the first set. Ed hadn't even put his guitar down when Jeff started "Jeremy." Standard stuff, really, but still nice to hear at least one of the two nights. At the end, Stone's guitar really starts to kick in with that high doublestop that's the main riff in the new Jeremy. All's well that ends well, I guess. And then we have the small matter of "Evenflow." I shouldn't even have to say it, but Matt's lifting this song with fills that Jack never tried. It's a different beast. Mike's solo is reminiscent of Augusta, with this insane tremolo picking thing at the end. The BEST version I have ever heard, bar none. Ed stuffed the words a little bit in the second verse, leaned away from the mic, and screamed at the top of his lungs. Yowza. He was pissed.

Standup and acoustic again, and "Once divided, there's nothing left to subtract...." "Nothingman." Again, Ed's the man here. Jeff lends the song some warmth with his standup. The whole delivery is incredible, and it was a good wind down from "Evenflow", which still had me reeling. Unfortunately, I had no time to rest, because Mike switched guitars and they slam into "Brain of J", a great, GREAT, live Damn. Ed's dancing, Stone's insane on the rhythm and the solo, and Matthew. Matthew Cameron. Hell yeah.

Mr. Gossard. "In Hiding." Mr. Vedder. "In Hiding." Mr. McCready. "In Hiding." Mr. Ament. "In Hiding." Mr. Cameron. "In Hiding." Perfect placement. Perfect vocals. GREAT song.

The next song, in the words of Dr. Frankenstein, was "ALIVE!! (mischievous laugh)", and was it EVER. If there was ever a song that they could play every day and no one would ever tire of it, this would be the they walked out and played one song every show, this should be the one. It's an anthem, everyone's singing, and it falls just short of a religious experience. In the words of Jeff Ament, "It's like going to church, if you're into that." End of set, lights on. We hoot and holler like they won't come back. Ed straps on a hollow body Rickenbacker-type deal, and finally speaks. He speaks about Lollapalooza and having played Great Woods with Soundgarden in '92. He speaks about the Orpheum show in '94, and of course, playing "the Gahden." Smile, Boston. Eddie loves you.

"Small Town" starts the encore, a song I've always wanted to hear live. Next up is "Not For You", a surprise that's only been popping up here and there on a setlist. It seems a little slow, but it's really intense. Ed drapes himself over the monitors at the end, wailing away on guitar, and then sits back up the ending jam. He also successfully managed to insert the word "fuck" into the song more than usual.

As if this encore couldn't get any better, Matt starts "Last Exit", and I'm thinking, "Hell, this is more like it!." Mike is awesome on the little solo part, and Stone really does well on this song. I can't say enough about it. One of my favorite songs of the night. Stone steps to the mic and says, "Before I start this next song, I want to thank Ben Harper." I'm thinking "Mankind", but instead it's "Evolution", baby. And holy hell, this song is SOOOOOO tight. It's perfect, and it's got this intensity and urgency about it that I never knew existed. The lyrics are changed to, "Come to Boston, now here's the choir." The crowd chimes in on the hallelujahs. Stone blows the solo away, he's beyond words tonight. Abruptly we stop evolving, and Stone starts "Black." The people who say that's Mike's off his rocker on this song are right. It's so good it hurts. The solo is a burning, raging entity, a musical catharsis that Mike seems to be feeding off of. The band turns him loose for an extended solo at the end. Tear-jerking.

Ed introduces the next song as, "a Neil Young song. Let's hear it for Neil." They waited, and I almost shat my pants because I thought they were gonna bring Neil out. No dice, but instead we get a nice "Fuckin' Up." Ed dances on the speakers on both sides of the stage during the break. End of encore, but the crowd's clearly not accepting it. They come back for one more, and Ed says, "I hope none of you have tickets for tomorrow, 'cause we're gonna be tired as shit." (Bullshit, Ed. If that's the case, play tired more often.) McCready. Ledbetter. Aw yeah. It's great. I'm talking worlds better than even the best live versions I've heard. Cready goes to the whammy bar on the solo, and takes another solo on the outro, which just jams out into space. The stage belongs to the blond man, who takes us out on a high note, specifically an E. I can't wait for tomorrow.

Impressions? The band was really on and passionate, especially Ed and Mike, but the setlist was badly organized, with too many speed changes. About an 8 out of 10, largely due to the FANTASTIC encore. Definitely cool.

for another perspective: review #2