[ATTENDED: April 28, 2016] Pearl Jam
Wells Fargo Center is becoming one of my favorite venues. Not because the acoustics are so good (although they are pretty good), but because now I’ve seen three of my favorite concerts there: Rush, Muse and now Pearl Jam.
I’ve been a fan of Pearl Jam for nearly their entire 25 years of existence. I loved their first few albums, lost my way a bit in the late 1990s and then came back big time in 2001 when I enjoyed listening to their Live bootleg series. Their live shows sounded amazing–super long, playing different songs every night–and making all of their songs sound more alive than on record. They just sounded amazing.
And yet I had never seen them. I should probably have gone on the 2003 tour but didn’t. And then I met Sarah and Pearl Jam was one of her favorite bands, but she’d never seen them either. Since we’ve been married they’ve toured near us 6 times. We had some excuses of little babies for a couple of those tours, but we should have certainly gone in 2013.
Well, here it is, their 25th anniversary tour and Sarah and I finally got to see them. And, although I do wish we’d gone before, was it ever worth the wait.
The ticket buying process was a fiasco, with the Wells Fargo Center ticketing office taking over an hour and many of us just assuming we’d been shut out. We had planned on getting tickets for both nights in Philly, but got shut out of Friday and then just managed to squeak in with Thursday night’s show. And, more’s the pity, the tickets were going to be behind the stage. But that didn’t deter us because it’s all about the music, right?
Well, it turned out that even though we were behind the stage, we were only 20 some rows from the stage. And the band not only had quality speakers facing us so the music sounded perfect, there were video screens up in the air that we could see and the band often turned around and acknowledged us. They even played us one song on a tiny stage in the back of the main stage. So, while we may not have gotten to see every nuance, we were incredibly close and had a great view of the band. It was also pretty neat to get the band’s view of what it was like to see the audience, because we could see when they lit the floodlights, or projected lights on the crowd. It was practically like being on stage.
The stage set up was a series of lights on poles that looked old-fashioned and quaint, except that they could change color and totally change the mood. There were also some very cool riggings that rose and lowered and some giant lamps that the band swung out over the audience (and then had to duck to get out of the way of).
And then there was the music. For this tour the band has been emphasizing one album per show. At a recent show they played the entirety of Vs. For our show, the emphasis was on Ten. I know, amazing right? They played 7 of the eleven songs from that album, even opening with a recording of the strange music at the beginning of the disc (which is called “Master/Slave”). Another perk of where we sat was that we saw the band come out from the wings–walking in front of us and through the back of the stage. And as the recorded music faded, we all were totally psyched to hear “Once.” Just like on the record.
And then to our delight, they played “Animal” from Vs. And then “Friend” from Backspacer, that kept the rocking going. Eddie talked to the audience after this song. He said that 25 years ago the band played their first gig in Philly. They played 11 songs. He thought tonight they might play at least 12 or 13 or 20 or 30.
Sarah was already pretty psyched at the opening songs, but she was super excited when they launched into “Mind Your Manners.” That opening riff is awesome and the whole song was scorching. They slowed things down for a bit with “Low Light,” a song that I think has a beautiful chorus.
They played three songs from their rarities compilation, Lost Dogs. That was the one set I didn’t listen to closely before the show, so I didn’t even know what the songs were. “All Night” is a very fast song. “In the Moonlight” was introduced as being written by Matt Cameron. Eddie had been talking about legalizing marijuana and said that he didn’t know if Cameron inhaled, but he certainly must have when he wrote that song. He also commented that marijuana can’t make you forgetful since Cameron is in a ton of bands and must know 200 songs at the same time. The third rarity was “Education.”
Before the show, Tabby asked Sarah if they were to ask her what she wanted to hear, what would she say? And she said “Wishlist,” which she didn’t think they would play. Well, they did, and you should have seen how excited she was. I got a small amount of video for her for that one. They kept it mellow with a beautiful rendition of “Love Boat Captain,” which they dedicated to a boy who was there for a Make a Wish type of scenario. [The one bad sound thing about the arena was that it wasn’t always clear what Eddie was saying. He tends to mumble a bit anyhow, but it seemed especially difficult where we were].
Sarah had a few other requests in mind, and they kept hitting them. “Given to Fly” was fantastic. And then they went back to Ten with “Evenflow.” Mike McCready played a super long solo for this. It must have been five minutes. Eddie left the stage and the band just jammed and jammed–Mike even changed guitars during this solo somehow.
Cameron started playing the drum intro to “In My Tree.” It’s a song I don’t think about too much, and so I forget how good it is. And then, huge surprise, they launched into “Jeremy.” I never expected to hear this song as I didn’t think they really played it very much. Hearing those opening bass note and seeing Jeff Ament playing them was a major highlight.
They played another song from Backspacer, “Unthought Known” which has a great soaring chorus and is lots of fun to sing along to.
Sarah asked me if there as one song I wanted to hear and I said “Do the Evolution.” On record the song is okay, but having heard the live version, I knew the song was intense live. And when they launched into it, I totally freaked. Sarah admitted it was great live.
I wasn’t sure if they would play a lot from the new album since they had just done a tour of that album last time through. But they played “Lightning Bolt” which was fantastic. (The only song that I was genuinely surprised they didn’t play and was bit bummed at was “Sirens”). And they ended the first set with, completely unexpectedly, Porch from Ten.
I checked the time, it had been about an hour and twenty minutes, although it felt like about ten minutes. I had to do the math to see if it was possible that they’d played for 80 minutes–even if it felt fast, logically I new they’d played a ton of songs already.
One of the great things about the show was how friendly everybody was. On the beer line people chatted with us, and the people who sat in our row were so friendly. A guy, Joe, who was seeing them for the fourth time this tour was super nice. He told us that we had plenty of time to go get drinks before they came on (despite the 8PM ticket time, he knew they didn’t go on until around 8:30). He also took some good pictures of us with the stage behind. And they people who sat next to us were a dad and his son. The boy looked to be about ten. It was his first ever rock show and his mom had made both of them matching T-shirts that said “It doesn’t get Eddie Vedder than this” which I loved. The dad had seen them five or six times before, so after the show he said it was one of the best he’d seen.
But it wasn’t over yet.
The encore break was kind of long (he apologized for that). But he told us that he just found out that a couple had gotten married at the show. He said they were engaged when they came to the show and now they were married (after the show the DJs on WMMR talked at length about this fascinating wedding reception). When the band found out where the couple was, (the two were in a booth in th balcony), Eddie turned his chair to face them and serenaded them (Tom Wait’s “Picture in a Frame”)–now THAT’s a wedding song.
He then said they were going to play a song they hadn’t played in Philly since 1992. Someone shouted “Dirty Frank” (a loopy b-side), and Eddie scoffed saying you can’t follow a romantic wedding song with “Dirty Fucking Frank.” So they launched into “Oceans.” I couldn’t believe it. And neither could they as they messed up it totally. Eddie commented that someone’s guitar had been drinking from his bottle of wine. They did a brief interlude of The Rolling Stones’ “Angie,” while things got straightened out and then they got it right. I never expected to hear that.
Eddie started talking about Andrew Wood and the crowd got excited that they would play the two Mother Love Bone songs. And they did. I’ve liked these songs, and I think it was probably pretty special to hear them live. Although I’d rather have heard some more PJ songs, it was still pretty cool to see these two. It also made me think that if Andrew wood hadn’t overdosed, there most likely wouldn’t be a Pearl Jam (Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament were in MLB). Weird.
Sarah didn’t know the MLB songs, so I was hoping they’d reel her back in with another song she loved. They complied with “Why Go” and then a super fast version of “Got Some.” During the encore break, Sarah said she wished for just one more song. So, imagine how excited she was when the launched into an awesome version of “Rearviewmirror” (complete with really extended jam).
On two occasions, Eddie climbed off the stage and stood more or less in the audience (with the security guards holding on to him). One of the best moments on the video screen was when the cameraman caught a person’s cell phone videotaping Eddie standing right in front of her. The video cameras were pretty great, by the way. There must have been a dozen cameras all over the place. They got up close on fans, they got crazy angles of the band members, especially Jeff and Mike and of course they got a lot of Eddie.
And then they left for their second encore break.
When Eddie came back he was wearing a black shirt under a flannel shirt. It wasn’t until later that I realized it was a ROCKY shirt (being in Philly and all). And how great was it that someone brought and gave him the stars and stripes robe that Apollo Creed wore in the movie. Which he promptly put on.
Eddie said that since someone was holding up a poster all night that said “Save Me Fuckers,” so they played an amazing version of “Save You” (my favorite song from Riot Act, thank you). And then finally, they lifted the drape off of the tiny drum set that sat at the back of the stage for the whole show. Eddie said that they had to play one song for the people in the back. And the band came around to our side of the stage and played a stripped down version of “Elderly Woman….” which was pretty damned cool.
I knew that they ended their shows with covers, typically. So I wasn’t surprised that they played Victoria Williams’ “Crazy Mary.” It’s a song I liked and then got a bit sick of, but it sounded great, and the audience was really into it, especially the “take a bottle, drink it down, pass it around” part. Eddie even ran to the back and grabbed a bottle of wine which he swigged from and then, yes, passed it around to the front row. My favorite part of the song was watching Boom Gaspar on keyboards and Mike McCready switching back and forth on the very lengthy solos they played. I’d been waiting all show for the opportunity to shout “Boooooom,” and there it was.
I assumed there’d be another cover and then the end of the show, but no. They started the opening chords of “State of Love and Trust,” which has always been one of my favorite PJ songs. But it’s one which I completely forgot about while listening to their records, because it’s not any of their albums. Man, that was exciting. The only thing more exciting was when Stone Gossard started playing the opening riff of “Alive.” We all sang along to it for however many minutes it was. The house lights went on as this song started and it was pretty amazing seeing all 20,000 people there (another perk of our location).
Surely that is a show closer. But no. They started playing the memorable riff to Neil Young’s “Fuckin’ Up.” Now Sarah was wearing her Neil Young shirt, and I assumed they’d play “Rockin’ in the Free World,” but I actually prefer “Fuckin’ Up,” so I was totally stoked. And as they jammed and rocked and kept pummeling that song it was the best ending of a concert ever.
Except that they had one more song. Jeff Ament grabbed his upright bass and they played a crowd pleasing, show stopping version of “Indifference.” During the song, the props guys threw Eddie some tambourines to play. And throughout the extended jamming version of the song, he proceeded to toss tambourines to various people around the stage. Someone made a great catch and there was much cheering, and when he threw a tambourine to one guy he was so excited he started dancing around and high fiving everyone.
In total, the band played for a bout 2 and a half hours, and they never stopped moving. Mike McCready was practically doing laps around the stage while soloing, Jeff Ament has some outstanding poses, and Eddie was jumping and bouncing the whole show. I didn’t see Stone too much since he was so far away over there, but I was delighted to watch him play some classic riffs and also play the acoustic guitar for a few songs. And of course, Matt Cameron is a machine.
It was, simply put, incredible. You could feel the charisma coming from Eddie even behind the stage. He saw someone with a poster announcing it was his kid’s birthday and he wished him a happy birthday, mid-verse. And, while I’ve always thought his voice was really good, this show really showed how great his voice is. He can hold notes for far longer than I thought (one note in particular Sarah and I really were amazed) and he can roar and scream and also hit some delicate high notes.
And the best part is, we got tickets to see them in Fenway Park in August as well. So I’ve got my wishlist of songs that they didn’t play that I sure hope they do!
And for some videos from the front of the stage, check out this page.
|Gonna See My Friend|
|Mind Your Manners|
|Love Boat Captain|
|Given to Fly|
|In the Moonlight|
|In My Tree|
|Do the Evolution|
|Picture in a Frame|
|Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns|
|Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town [to the back seats]|
|State of Love and Trust|
My wishlist (notice that most of the songs are from Binaural, because they played no songs from that album!). So let’s hope the PJ setlist creators see this post and make the Boston set accordingly. And while, if they played the exact same setlist in Fenway I’d still be thrilled, it would be pretty awesome if the album they focus on in Boston is something other than Ten.
Unlikely songs that would tickle me: