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"Stone! Stone! I'm alive!"
Pearl Jam in Auckland, NZ
2/28/98 Ericsson Stadium

review by Steve Holmes

After spinning back down to reality this morning with a very long, sleep deprived day at work, I had to take some time out to recover. The first four songs on the setlist are in order, so is the last one and the encore, but apart from that I was just trying to stay alive in what was a pretty rugged moshpit.

Sometimes, Hail Hail, Brain Of J, Faithfull, Animal, Wishlist, Even Flow, Corduroy, Jeremy, State Of Love & Trust, Daughter, I Got I.D., MFC, Off He Goes, Given To Fly, Habit, Black, Alive
Encore: Do The Evolution, Betterman, Yellow Ledbetter

Comments, well, where do I start? The band came on to "The Colour Red" drumming, twitched and shuffled into "Sometimes" which has a hell of a lot more groove in person than it does on record. After "Hail Hail" Eddie stopped to ask if everyone up front was okay, especially "this six feet either side in front of me here. I knew you guys were going to be a problem" he said, half smiling. As "Brain Of J" got started, you could see he was getting worried and about a minute into it he just shouted "Stop!".

After a bit of crowd calming chat, something about how it must be good karma to be born in New Zealand and how it must be good karma for them to make it here, he said "Okay, for all you moshpit virgins out there, if someone falls, you pick 'em up." Straight back into "Brain Of J."

Eddie led into "I Got I.D" by saying he had really bad taste in music, only listened to three bands when he was young, and one of them was our very own Spilt Enz. He strummed the first few bars of "I Got You," then stopped and said "maybe I'll play this one instead ... it's called "I Got Shit." Even Flow was dedicated to "a girl I met yesterday. She was beautiful and I haven't been able to stop thinking about her. She was so happy, even though, well, you guys might not understand, but she hasn't had a shit for, like, ten days".

"State Of Love & Trust" was played as a request. "Habit" was a hell of a lot slower than on record, from a punk sprint to a plain rock tempo, but it worked for me.

"Daughter" was extended with a short sharp rap from Eddie, " I'm livin', what am I doin', livin', livin', what are we doin', livin', livin', livin'... Eddie stopped toward the end to say that they only play a certain number of shows for each record, so they haven't seen us for two records (five years?) and were pretty determined to give us a little bit extra.

As Mike wound up the solo in "Alive," Eddie took off stage right and started climbing up the stage rig, stopped about three metres up, then just kept going up and up and up, maybe fifteen or twenty metres, turned and waved to the crowd for about a minute, then climbed - jumped down and went for another run.

After "Evolution" Eddie started into "Betterman," stopped after the first few bars, and said "this has got to be perfect so I'll start again". After "Betterman" we had a long winding story where Ed explained how on his last visit to New Zealand he had got caught "in, aah, well, aah, yeah, a rip, that's it, a rip" and "well, you know, kinda, ah, well, almost maybe drowned" (which incidentally got more publicity than the tour"). He said it felt so good to be safe that he "ran up the beach waving my arms, yelling "Stone! Stone! I'm alive!"

Out comes a lifejacket, which Eddie ceremonially puts on, "so now when I go surfing I wear one of these, you know." He had felt guilty ever since for only saying thanks to the lifeguards instead of donating some money so he invited them to tonight's show, and hoped "that they had a good time," as well as saying that he owes the local mayor "a dollar and a sausage," which Eddie didn't seem to understand (hell, I'm a local and neither did I). And so with that he introduced "Yellow Ledbetter" as "perfect for now, cos' its a goodbye song" and then the whole band stood aside and let Mike loose. "We love you guys," band exits and so ends a flawless gig.

Maybe because we haven't seen them for so long the changes are more noticeable, but the genuine joy that the whole band had in being together was obvious and a marked contrast to their last tour where Eddies mumbled comment "that this might be our last gig" was reinforced by what was a weird and undeniable tension on stage. They delivered then, but nothing like last night where the vibe was amazing. Mike was all over the stage, Eddie was a gracious and good humoured frontman, Jeff hung close to Eddie and Jack, playing off both of them, and Stone was, well, Stone. Everything was perfect, the performance was amazing, and it still blows me away how one band can be so far beyond their peers not only musically but in their ability to connect, song after song, with a stadium full of people.

It was a beautiful, beautiful thing and I felt privileged to be there.

© Steve Holmes ... used with permission