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Jeff and Ed

MFC: Mc Fuckin' Cready *
Cox Arena, San Diego, CA

A wonderful venue; small, intimate, not a bad seat in the house I don't think, even behind the stage. PJ walk out and take the stage, one strum and I know it's "Long Road" and entire audience is on their feet screaming. A good portion of credit for the fact that this show was so incredible goes out to the people in the audience; they were insanely crazy and the band just fed off that energy.

Anyway, so, "Long Road". I haven't heard it yet this tour and it does not disappoint, Ed's in wonderful voice, Mike is already in a trance, head back, playing away. "Corduroy" next, an extended lead-in led by Matt, lots of tension and precision and then place exploded, I mean just a nuclear blast of energy and enthusiasm from the crowd, reflecting off the band, back to the crowd, again and again. It's a total, loud, raucous, joyful sing along, and the band is just on fire. Mike's got his head back, Stone is just up front, totally out there, slicing viciously away at his guitar. I am so not used to the Stone Gossard of this tour, I am used to the quiet, reserved, playing-facing-the-band Stoney of previous tours, and I gotta say, I really like this one. I saw it a little in the Midwest, but it was nothing like how he is now. As the drums head into the intro, Ed is strumming these sharp, noisy little chords, it's just perfect. I am just standing there, mouth agape. This is going to be a hot one.

"Last Exit," Matt starting it off with almost military precision, just hitting those drums for all they're worth, Ed finally free of the guitar, grasping the mic like he's hanging on for dear life. Again, this song has really come into its own this tour, and this was the best example yet. "Brain of J" peels in like a roadster in a drag race, Stone's solo blistering, again at the front, practically falling off the edge of the stage.


And then, "Do The Evolution" in the fucking set and I just give up all hope of rational thought and hang on for dear life. It's like a rollercoaster except there are no downs, only ups. Eddie is spitting out the words with amazing venom, the delivery totally cocky, like he's acting out the character in the song. Mike is running from one side of the stage to the other. "Given To Fly" slows things down just a tad, but it is finally hitting its stride, none of the roughness of the early shows, it's as powerful and anthemic as it was in Oakland, tumultuous during the "waves came crashing" lines. AhhhhhhhhhH! It's during this song I realize that Mike is wearing an old school Rolling Stones shirt, I point it out to my friend Teresa (who I know from the Rolling Stones mailing list) and we grin widely. Ed has one arm around himself, like he's hugging himself, Matt is totally anchoring the end of the song.

Those chords, those chords, echo...and yep, "In Hiding," wow, wow, wow, not as intense as St. Louis (the best version I've seen so far), but still, just too incredibly solid and loud and powerful for words. Jeff and Mike are over on their side, facing each other, it's like they were having a conversation, only through their instruments instead of talking. Ed is once again nailing the lyrical delivery, this isn't tentative like it is on the album, it's triumphant, he's a survivor. But we knew that.

Again, one note, my eyes get really big and I turn around and yell, "Rearviewmirror!!!!" to the guys (HUGE fans, really really into it all night) behind me, and damn, sure enough, there it is. Now, I am not one of those people for whom this song is the holy grail, I love it, but tonight I can totally see why this song has its own little cult of worshippers, and I am screaming the words with every ounce of conviction I have. I mean, I had no choice, it wasn't a conscious decision, it was just where this song was taking me. The jam is wonderful, beautiful, extended, the band silhouetted with a purple light providing shadow down front, a lovely lemon yellow light on the backdrop.

a smoldering stage

And it is during this song that it comes to me, why these performances this tour are just so powerful and compelling; the guys are totally confident, it's not the raw energy of the early days, or the resigned, Sisyphean, world-weary responsibility of the last two tours, they are just out there having fun, I don't want to say that they don't care - I think they care very much, but they are just out there having fun, they are not afraid of performing, they are not afraid of standing at the front of the stage and wailing away. They own the energy now and control it instead of it controlling them. And it's an awesome thing to witness.

Finally, Eddie addresses us, noting that San Diego is Matt Cameron's home town. Doh, I'd forgotten. A small break, as we coast effortlessly into "Immortality," even if Eddie messed up the words, it didn't matter, because of one Michael McCready. His solo in this song defies explanation, it was here that I wrote down "MFC: Mc Fuckin' Cready," because the man just wailed and wailed and wailed, eyes closed, head tilted back, channeling who knows what into his guitar and creating these incredible sounds coming out of his guitar. Ed is over jamming facing Matt, who is once again driving the jam, laying down a solid background for Mike to wail over.

"Wishlist," the crowd goes nuts at the mirror ball (ah, I told you I was a sucker for those arena moments!), Ed telling us, "I wish I was as fortunate, as fortunate as you," and yeah, I think he'd really enjoy seeing the show we were seeing. He's playing with the melody a bit, not afraid to vary it a little, I think it's that confidence thing again. The end of the song, there was no reprise like we heard on Letterman and during earlier shows, and Eddie sings, "I wish I was a mountain, wishes can come true, I wish I wish I wish I wish...if you ever want to, do" and I can't help but think that this has something to do with it being San Diego, the place where the whole PJ dream started for him. Then again, I could be way wrong. =)

Once again we are treated to "Nothingman," getting to hear this song so often these days does not stop being an incredible, wonderful present, Eddie's voice just soaring, warm, vibrant, emotion-laden. And again, like "In Hiding," this was not a lament, it was almost a - fuck YOU! to fate, to inaction, to inability. This feeling was probably why it worked so well when they careened into "Spin The Black Circle", Mike slicing and dicing, Matt, again, crashing and bashing, and once again, Ed's working the melody of the song, just playing with it a little, and this is just probably the best version of the song I have ever heard outside of the studio version, totally true to the studio energy. The end is a little extended, Ed is holding up the mic stand's base (which is, if you haven't noticed, a big heavy black circle - he's done this at a few shows this tour).

"Evenflow," and this song never fails to please. If this groove does not get your butt moving around, I don't know what will. There was a slight fuck up, Eddie starting the chorus early, but he laughs it off and just slides right back in. Stone and Jeff are working it out, laughing their asses off at each other, and then Ed murmurs, "That's Mike over there" and hang on to your seats, it's the McCready Experience again, I am having a cardiac arrest, I swear, I'm just holding my head and pointing at Mike and not taking my eyes off him for one minute. He plays part of the solo to the audience behind the stage, Eddie is on the side of the stage, as entranced with Mike as we were, just softly shaking his head and bopping around a bit.

Stone to the front

Stand up bass, and it's "Daughter," another enormous sing along, and as we come into the tag, Eddie is standing there, arms out, in the Jesus Christ Pose (please, please, don't hit me, it's the best way to describe it and it is what my notes say!), he's doing these little hand motions and does this strange (for Eddie) sort of shimmy that didn't make sense until later, and then he starts speaking/singing, "Roam if you want to, roam if you want to..." and starts counting on one hand over and over. I'm trying to figure this out, I know what this is, come on, come out of my brain, but I am so completely overwhelmed with this show that it's hard to think straight.

Eddie toasts us, and takes a swig out of his beer. Loud cheer. "Are you applauding us, or are you applauding beer?" and then says that living in Seattle is nice, but that a cold beer tastes really good after a hot day. He then proceeds to tell us that the lines he sang in "Daughter" were a B-52's song, "one of the deepest secrets they've hidden in their songs besides 'tin roof, rusted'. Once you grasp the meaning of that, everything changes." (For the uninitiated, 'tin roof, rusted' is what Cyndi says in "Love Shack". I didn't know that myself until I saw a MTV rockumentary on the B-52's a few weeks ago, and when we were at the St. Louis show, there was an airplane flying around the venue with a banner that said, TIN ROOF RUSTED, advertising the B-52's/Pretenders show that was happening the next Wednesday. Coincidence? You tell me.)

He then says, "If you gotta get out, get a small car," and we're going mobile, yep, it's "MFC". Something I have noticed, but haven't noted so far, is the fact that Eddie has been leaving out the "spilled like wine" line. He sings, "She can remember a time denied/stood by the side of the road/now she's out on her own and line high," dragging out the "now she's out" part, or singing "out, out on her own". I don't know whether because the phrasing is difficult and he doesn't want to fuck it up live, or whether there's some other reason...but anyway, this is probably my favorite Yield song live, and this version does not disappoint.

There are those now-legendary chords, lights on the crowd, and yep, it's time for "Alive". And it's great, it's always great, it's one of the old songs whose place in the setlist I never question. So I'm standing there, singing along, when it suddenly dawns on me: this happened HERE. San Diego. I mean, all songs are archetypes, I don't believe there's only one meaning, everyone's personal interpretation is also valid (Eddie's even said so), but this is one story that we know is true, and it happened HERE. And I couldn't sing any more, I just stood there watching Eddie, and thinking just how much he gives away, how totally personal some of these lyrics are, how can he get up every night and share that stuff with us, they give us so damn much. I just stood there kind of quietly respectful, everyone else going nuts (and rightly so - it was an incredible version, but then again I always think it's killer live), but me just thinking, kind of with this lump in my throat.

Eddie walks over and says something to Matt, and then - "Hail Hail". Whaaa? Here?? Now?! Whoa, talk about blowing things out of order, not that I'm complaining. Stone is at the edge of the stage again, I always think of this as his song, he's the one I watch the most during it (and Eddie during a few key lines - I love the gesture he's doing now for "bandaged hand in hand"). The song ends, really drawn out, spotlight on Mikey, noodling a few last notes over and over.

And before we know it, it's the encore, no announcement, they all must have just quietly left the stage while Mike was finishing up. Crew is scurrying around setting things back up, we're catching our breath. After a bit, they return: "To quote Madonna, it feels like I just got home," says Eddie, and something else about it feeling like they'd just woken up, and we're into "Jeremy" - as an encore?! First time that's happened. And I like it, I do, I understand the need to play it, but this feels like the right place for it, not in the main set, but here in the encore. Wow. This is so surprising I give up trying to guess or expect what will be next, and it's a good thing, because they thud into "Go" and I'm screaming the words, I'm just on my toes with anticipation for Mike's solo, and yet again he does not disappoint, delivering yet another in a series of blistering, dead-on solos.

Next is "Lukin," and I am just beside myself with delight at the way this setlist is falling out. "We take you now to a suburban tale," sez Eddie, and names a bunch of SD suburbs, "take your pick," and it's "Betterman," a wonderful, moving performance. Matt's drum rolls before the "she loves him" verse are nothing short of powerful and compelling. "We're just making this up as we go along," Eddie tells us, and at this point, with this totally unpredictable setlist, I am completely ready to believe him.

When they launched into "Leaving Here," I abandon any disbelief I may have had and just dance and scream along, Eddie tossing his guitar up at the end and catching it (thank goodness). And then those chords, the whole arena an echo chamber as they go into "Black," my whole body on edge anticipating another legendary McCready solo, and it is indeed another McCready/Cameron performance, I just want to make everyone stare at Mike (but then again that'd probably make him nervous, so who cares if most everyone stares at Eddie), hell, even EDDIE is staring at Mike - and a flash of realization, maybe that's why he does it, I mean, I think it is totally genuine on his part but it also kind of gives people who don't really know any better where they SHOULD be looking (and when Mike is playing the way he is these days, you should be looking at McCready when he is playing out of sheer RESPECT).

Once again, another one out of nowhere, I'm thinking "this can't be..." but it is, "Rockin' In The Free World," I cannot believe my luck. Jeff and Stone are doing these cheesy background vocals, almost giggling at each other while they do it, Mike's solo is dead-on Neil (usually it's kind of improvised, but I was listening to a lot of Neil the week before the show so the solo for this song is stuck in my mind), and we get this incredible speech from Eddie, we elect our representatives to go to Washington, "you and I voted 'em in, nice offices, homes, I'd like to know they have a clear head about making decisions, but once again, they are talking about the big problem concerning our nation" (me thinking it was going to be the abortion bill that's on the Washington state referendum for next fall) "the burning of the flag." And then he just goes off, he is clear and direct and he did not say "um" or hesitate once, I swear the man could run for office himself: "If there's one thing that pisses me off every day, it's those flags burning everywhere! This is the biggest fucking problem we have! I can't go get a paper and a cup of coffee without seeing flags burning everywhere! Flags burning here! Flags burning there! I mean, the environment is getting ruined, you can't go surfing without getting sick, and they are worried about FLAG BURNING!" It was electrifying, it was inspiring, and then the rest of the guys come bursting in for the end and bring the whole show down to a joyful, raucous close. Or so we thought; "Sleep well; have a nice night," Eddie says as he picks up the red-bound journal, and they're off.

And before we know it, there they are again, and MIKE comes up to the microphone and says, "this is for my dad" and the house lights come up full on as they go into a great version of "Yellow Ledbetter," one more sing along around the PJ campfire to bring this amazing show to a fitting close, it's the song Teresa most wanted to hear, and I myself have made my peace with this song, because Mike is playing so fucking well on it (hell, I am even finding moments in "Dissident" that I love), Eddie and Stone are leaning against the amps on Stone's side of the stage, drinking beer and laughing, watching Mike; Jeff behind his amps, staring at Mike respectfully; and Matt, just waiting, sitting there, watching Mike, waiting for him to finish.

They leave, and now it really is over. The lights are up, everyone around me kind of stares at each other, dazed and confused, sweaty, grinning, babbling variations of: "oh my god, did you just see that? did you just SEE that?"

Yeah, we did. And right now, I need a beer. Badly. I am not much for rating shows, there is something I love in just about every show I see, but the one conviction I have walking out of this show was that this was the best show I'd ever seen them do. There are shows I still love and always will, that will always be dear to my heart, but I do not think I have seen them so powerful, so compelling, so focused, so on fire. In St. Louis, I talked about the musical precision displayed; in Kansas City, it was all from the heart. Well, tonight was the best of both of those worlds, and I can say now with perfect objectivity that PJ in 1998 are probably the best live band around right now.

On to Vegas, baby.

* props the person on the 5h message board who posted that acronym last week. =)

oh, and i have been updating my tour journal for the miscellaneous non-show tales and details...

Copyright © 1998 Caryn Rose