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Pearl Jam in Boondall, Brisbane, Australia
3/14/98 Brisbane Entertainment Centre

review by Oliver Sharwood

The first impression of my return to Boondall for a concert since the previous Pearl Jam gig there three years earlier, was how little had changed in this city. Except the vibe was different, as last time was my first PJ live experience, and this my fourth in the past seven days. From the drunks on the train trying to sing Yellow Ledbetter on the way, to the police at the station with just one gate open, checking all 3000+ train tickets. What seemed bad at the station, five minute walk would reveal that security at the venue was even worse. It was a case of bags were to be cloak roomed, fair enough, but the room was outside the security check, which was a detailed pat down of everybody and every second person was scanned by metal detector. Officially it was drugs and knives, apparently there had been a few deaths from overdoses and stabbings in Brisbane City nightclubs in the previous few months. That doesn't explain the signs on getting down to the floor which were laughable -- "Moshing is a dangerous practice. Stage-diving (if anyone is lucky enough to get onto it :) is prohibited at this event." The night was hot and steamy, the temperature inside on the floor was probably higher than the 33 (90) outside and we punters had no patience for anything except the music.

Shudder To Think were received as best they could be, given the circumstances, and thanked the crowd for moshing. A joke, as clearly no-one was allowed to, and I saw one person in the back floor section being threatened and rough-handled by security for trying to mosh during their set. They also felt the need during the main show to walk through the crowd, headsets and radios to relay any untoward behaviour such as smoking and over-zealous dancing. Luckily with the lights out, there was nothing going to stop us once it started. This was a crowd who were devoted enough to get tickets and sell-out the 15,000 venue in as fast as they could be processed -- less than an hour. All we were there to do was rock out to our favourite songs, and the best live band in the world!!!

And rock they did! Tonight's show was slightly subdued compared to others in the stage antics, but the music was the centre piece and it eclipsed the other shows. The venue and its rural setting meant the sound was a few notches louder, the stage was much smaller than last time they played here, and there were no curtains as is usual from the stage area, the seats were filled all the way around the back of the stage. That didn't stop the people in them from being just as bounding with fun and moshing. It did mean that for those of us on the floor, the coloured lights display was less intense and prominent as in Sydney, but this crowd wasn't there to watch lights. The band were having fun, and that element was relayed with great crowd interaction throughout the show, even if they didn't jump and move around as much.

Release was the opener and the crowd took the full impact of Ed's vocals to the high notes. It set the scene for the music to take over everything. Ed said his greeting to Brisbane and then it was non-stop moshing, as they belted out Hail Hail, Animal and Do The Evolution. The pit was wild, and no bastard security people could stop this lot. The only break was provided by the first half of Faithfull, as we caught our breaths and listened to the harmonies in this brilliant song. Ed said they were just warming up, and played a few teasing licks and then launched into Corduroy which started the mosh going wild again, especially during the extended jam at the end, which was sufficiently long to wear some out.

Ed exhibited his taste in beer, showing off his VB and stepped up for Wish List. Brisbane was outdone by Sydney for lighters, but the crowd was more enjoying the lyrics and tune. A bit of dancing was the go, as Jack played bongo style drums, and In My Tree was simply brilliant. More rocking and faster than the album version, the melodies were incredible.

From the surprise, the crowd was calmed as Ed told a story for playing that, about, "... not so much in a tree, but i was sitting under a tree out on the grass last night, just watching the moon, the stars, saw a few fruit bats and then I was startled by hearing a movement in the bushes, and it was an animal indigenous to these parts making some sound, hang on, let me do this, it was like Coooooo," and the crowd screamed with laughter and cheers as Ed let out a big crowing animal noise. Personally I have *no* idea what he was trying to sound like, but everyone else seemed to, unless they like me, were just laughing at him. It was likely a possum or bat. He then continued to say, "... we're having a great holiday and surf here, and the next song was a surfing song, sort of a surfing song, but not really but it was written while in the surf." It took but one note and everyone knew it was Alive. The song rocked out with Jeff and Ed trying to do jumps toward the end, Mike's solo was incredible yet again. The vibe was definitely positive, and the next song was introduced as "this one's about a man." It was Nothingman, and the crowd appreciated every note of it. The emotion was simply amazing, the moment moving. But after this, the band's energy needed releasing, and they had the mosh going wild again with Brain Of J.

Many hands were upraised and opened wide during Given To Fly, with a majority of the crowd singing along, and Ed was magnificent in being their leader. The singalong continued with Daughter, which was slightly unusual at the end, with Ed not going into any song in particular. Instead he started to make "oh" and "ah-ah" grunts, and after a few had the crowd repeating them after him about 10 times until the sound closed out. He gave us a little clap and got his guitar for the very cool MFC, which got the mosh going off again. It was slightly slower but still raging during I Got ID. There was such emotion in the music during this, show-casing the band's extreme live power, I've never taken drugs, but somehow felt high during this. Immortality kept the high, and for the main set this was the highlight. Ed's powerful vocals were overshadowed by a brilliant Mike solo, then a brilliant Stone solo, crescended by an incredible display by Jack, eclipsing his Sydney solo on this song, and thrashing away for what seemed like hours, with tons of energy as Jeff, Ed and Stone stood in front of him watching and encouraging, Mike also playing to him, but too lazy to walk over there. The only way to continue on from the energy and emotion of it, was to play Black next. It finished with the "We belong together" excerpt for the first night crowd, something last time they played the second night in Brisbane. After respecting the band's skill, it was again time to rock out for a final assault with an extra rocking version of Even Flow. During this was the time that Ed took to run around the stage, jumping a few times, and going behind the backdrop to wave to the people in the seats behind the stage, who rushed down to the balcony, but were forced off by security. While he was doing whatever antics behind there, the band (except Jack of course) had sort of turned around to play to those people too. He then ran around the side and down to the front barrier to sing a few lines. All the while Mike was playing a brilliant solo, and Jeff bouncing everywhere, Stone ending up on Mike's side for a bit.

The set could easily have ended there and we would be happy, especially the girl that managed to get up on stage and give Ed a hug and kiss on the cheek. But they still could unleash Porch on those of us rearing to mosh, and off we went, as it lasted about eight minutes or at least seemed to. It couldn't have been better, or more rocking, Ed joining in for some jumping although he seemed worn out from Even Flow, also wandering around the stage in a daze, chilling with the music and looking very happy. The set was greeted with rapturous applause and cheering and chanting for more.

The treats were just about to start however, as when they came out, Ed said they hadn't played the next one for a while but a girl had requested it so they'd play it for her. It was Footsteps. WOW! I couldn't quite believe it at the time, but they did play it and it was incredible, right down to the hand motions of Ed scratching all over his arms. I was so happy at seeing them play this live, something I thought I'd never see, and they played it with so much emotion I was on the brink of crying. Then Ed reached for a guitar and there was a funny false start. Ed said, "This is about boys and girls." He tried to play, said it again, then a guitar tech had to come out and plug his guitar in for him. Everyone laughed at him, and Ed said "Oh yeah, right.. try again... this is about boys and girls." It was Leaving Here and it was time to rock out again. After Footsteps, the show was just non-stop fun, and this had everyone going and loving it. Betterman was next and the crowd reacted as you'd expect, singing every word at the top of our lungs. They ended it with the Save It For Later excerpt which was cool, and seemed to define the evening of great rock music ... gonna live forever. And for a blasting rock ending, it was Spin The Black Circle, with an awesome and longer jam in the middle and end, but who could stop moshing?!? :)

As for a second encore, the band didn't exactly bother going off, they just went to one side, gathered in a circle to decide the next song, and came back a minute later. Mike even still had his guitar over his shoulder! Like other shows, the house lights were put up for the duration as we all moshed out and danced to Rockin' In The Free World. It was fun for all and the band were relaxed as was the tamer but still rocking mosh, and we will keep on rockin' in the free world. This is a great way to finish a show and the crowd appreciated seeing them clearer and everyone else, I suppose its good for the band too to see the effect they have on the crowd, and to see the funny signs on the floor :)

This was the longest, loudest and musically the best of the Australian shows that I saw. The crowd loved it, the band loved it too, and a fun time was had by all.

Score 1-0 to the fans against security.

© Oliver Sharwood ... used with permission

on to Brisbane, part II