[ATTENDED: August 7, 2016] Pearl Jam
After the excitement of seeing Pearl Jam at the Wells Fargo Center, we were psyched out of our minds to go to Fenway. I didn’t realize that Fenway has a regular concert series. I’d assumed that Pearl Jam were the first band to play there–they weren’t–but that didn’t detract in any way from the coolness of the venue.
Neither of us are baseball fans, although when I lived in Boston two decades ago, I did attend a couple of games at Fenway because it is a landmark (and when I was a kid I loved baseball, so duh). But we knew that the venue would make the show even more special.
We’d have loved to have gone to both shows, but unlike some people, we couldn’t get tickets for both nights. However, through a small piece of luck, I won tickets to a screening of Friday night’s show on Saturday night. What? Well, each night is filmed. So the film crew filmed Friday night, then edited the footage together and had it ready on the next night as a really nicely edited package at the House of Blues (across the street from Fenway) on Saturday night.
It seemed kind of dumb to go to a music venue to watch a movie. And Sarah and I were skeptical about going. But we did and we had a great time. I’ve watched live DVDs and it’s always an okay thing to do–fun, but never like you were really there. But this was different. Having a group of some 600 people in a club–with bars and good lighting and excellent sound–it made it feel (almost) like a real concert. And even though we laughed at the people who were clapping and cheering (as if the band were actually there), and taking videos of the screen (my battery died or I would have grabbed a few screen shots too), we were caught up in the excitement on several occasions as well.
Since we knew our seats in Fenway weren’t great (or even good), it was fun being able to see everyone up close on screen. And since the show was from the previous night and people around Boston were talking about it (seriously)–it felt really special.
The one thing we were concerned about was getting fatigued by the show–either over-exposure to the band or, worse yet, learning that they played all of our favorite songs already and were unlikely to do so at our night. But neither of those things happened. Rather, it just served to get us more pumped for our own show on Sunday. As it turns out, while the Friday night show was good (lots of great moments), the Sunday show was even better, so the film was like an ideal appetizer.
Some notes on Friday night: I happen to not like when a band plays covers in their set (okay one or two are fine), because I’m there for that band’s music. On Friday night, the band played 7 covers, which is just too many. Having said that, their cover of “Comfortably Numb” (something I didn’t really care all that much about) was pretty amazing (and I’d forgotten how good that song can be). And Sarah was beside herself with excitement that they played a Beatles cover! (and such a great and unexpected song, too).
There were a few songs that I know Sarah was really bummed to have missed. Songs that she never imagined they’d play–primarily in the mellow acoustic portion of the show: Just Breathe (a particular favorite) and Sleeping by Myself (an Eddie solo song!). And the version of “Black” (with special guest baseball player Bronson Arroyo on acoustic guitar–I’d never heard of him) was pretty spectacular.
But aside from those, the set was just a typically great Pearl Jam set. And it was fun to see and hear it (while standing with other fans).
There were rumors that the band might show up (some insane people even imagined them playing an acoustic show–yea right). But evidently they were spotted having dinner in the North End while a huge contingent of their fan base were sequestered far away–genius. There was a Q& A with the film team after the show, but we didn’t stay for that.
And then we spent Sunday morning on a whale watch before prepping for the Sunday night show.
We got to Fenway and had a great time walking around the venue. It would have been awesome to have been on the turf for a bit but instead we were near the green monster, which is still cool (except that we couldn’t see most of the stage). I also didn’t realize the set up of the venue. The band would be playing in deep center field and, this was interesting, the infield was off-limits to everyone. The capacity was around 37,000, which is probably the largest event I’ve ever been to. And, after a few songs, Eddie told us that after the Friday night show, the grounds crew removed all of the plastic sheeting and all of the chairs and fluffed up and mowed the lawn before setting it all back down again for the Sunday night show. Wow.
Pearl Jam is known for not duplicating songs much between nights (they’re not as strict as Phish about the no duplication rule, but they really do try to mix things up). Saturday’s show had started out kind of quietly (unlike our show in Philly, which burst forth with “Once”) so I expected some real rockers to open. But, while they changed the songs, they kept the format.
They opened slowly with “Pendulum,” a moody middle of the album song from Lightning Bolt (they had hardly played any of Lightning Bolt when we saw them, so that was cool). And Mike did my favorite thing–he used a bow on his guitar. Then they played “Off He Goes,” a somewhat rare song that I was pretty delighted to hear. Then they played the opening notes of “Nothing As It Seems.” After the Wells Fargo show I made a list of songs I’d love to hear at this show. Of the fourteen songs on that list (not including a couple that I correctly assumed they wouldn’t) they played 9 at our show and three at the previous show. So that’s pretty awesome. “Nothing As It Seems” was near the top of that list.
I hadn’t even realized that “Nothing as it Seems” was a rare track these days, so I was especially lucky to hear it. They followed it with “Nothingman,” a song I never expected to hear and a great surprise. Sarah and I both hoped they’d follow that with “Betterman” (something they used to do) but instead they played “Wishlist.” They played that for us in Philly and Sarah was ecstatic. She never thought she’d hear it again, and she was beyond thrilled.
They started playing a familiar non Pearl Jam riff, that I was guessing was The Who until it settled into Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive” which was a lead in to “Corduroy” (on my list). That was amazing to hear live. They followed it with “Animal” which we had seen in Philly, and was great to hear again. And then they launched in “Hail Hail” (on my list) and hearing those open note was a major jolt.
I don’t know if fans like Lightning Bolt in general. We were surprised that they ‘d only played one song from it in Philly. Sarah and I have listened to it a lot so it was great to hear the title track–which I thought was kind of unexpected. But far more unexpected was when they played “In Hiding” (on my list). A rarity and a real crowd please.
And then it was time for “Even Flow.” This is typically a vehicle for Mike McCready to do a lengthy wailing guitar solo. On Friday night, he began the solo by playing behind his head and walking down to the crowd. He even seemed to get the head of guitar out to the crowd (the film of this was great as I never would have seen it live). It was a pretty impressive thing to watch. Our solo was definitely less exciting than that–no behind the head stuff–but still a good jam. And we got a slightly longer Matt Cameron drum solo, which was kind of cool since MC is great.
Who knew what they’d play next, and we were super psyched that they played “Sirens.” It’ s such a beautiful song and we were genuinely bummed they didn’t play it in Philly But man, it sounded great here in Fenway. The sound was surprisingly good for a big open air stadium.
This was followed by the first guest. When he introduced the blond guest it seemed like it might be the baseball player to do “Black” again, which would have been really cool. But instead, it was Tom Hamilton, bassist for Aerosmith who was joining the band for “Draw the Line.” There’s a small part of me that would have loved them to do a different song since they played “Draw the Line,” the night before, but I love that songs, and man it sounded so good–that bass line is great especially to get Tom and Jeff playing it together.
Ed asked for a uke (the previous night he did this and baseball player Kevin Youkilis brought him one from backstage). Tonight, he asked fora uke, and Youkilis came out again. But this time, he tells Eddie that the only way to play Fenway is if you wear a Red Sox Jersey. I didn’t quite get this part, but I see that Eddie began to unbuckle his pants saying “just a Red Sox jersey?” “Youk” introduced the next song. On Friday it was a mellow song on which ed played the ukulele. But tonight it was “Lukin.”
This hardcore song is one I’d always wanted to hear but didn’t even put it on my rarities wishlist. I just never assumed they’d play it. It was a great minute of noise and fun with the crowd pumping fists at the end as it led into “Not for You” (a great song that was totally unexpected). I liked that they ended it with a tag from Sleater-Kinney as well (that’s the kind of “cover” I like–a few bars acknowledging a song). Incidentally there was a busker in the subway station playing “Not for You” as we entered the station. Did he know it was played? Probably, I’m sure you can hear the whole show from outside the venue..
We got a huge rarity with “Immortality” and then one of the few songs from Ten that we didn’t hear in Philly: “Deep” (the night after our show they played the whole album, but we had 7 of the 11 songs on our night). They followed that with “Jeremy.” This was the only song I wasn’t that excited about because we’d seen it in Philly and I would have loved something else. But it is really great live and the crowd was really into it and it quickly won me over.
It was a surprise to get “Unthought Known,” one of only two song from Backspacer they played at our Philly show. But it’s a great live song and did not disappoint. As they headed in to the encore, they had played “Porch” at our Philly show as well as at the Friday night show. But they mixed it up by giving us “Rearviewmirror,” one of Sarah’s favorite songs (which we also saw at Philly). It’s a great song and even more amazing live. It was a perfect song to end the set with. Incidentally, the video screens for the show start in black and white and as he sang the end part of the song “some thing were clearer” the screens all turned to color. Cool.
The band went for an encore and we were exhausted and satisfied. It hadn’t even been all that long of a set, but it felt like a complete show. Hard to believe there was still at least an hour to go. When they returned, Eddie had on all kinds of baseball gear: “I’ve got my hat and my glove and my ball. I ain’t leaving until I play some ball.”
After the encore, the band typically plays a small “unplugged” type mini set of a few songs. After the songs they’d played the night before we couldn’t imagine what we’d get. So a huge surprise that the first song was a mellow one from Lightning Bolt, “Yellow Moon.” Eddie introduced the song by saying it was written during the Boston Marathon attacks, which made it all the more poignant. They followed that with the major breakout that everyone as so excited about: “Angel.” It’s a song I just don’t know–released as a Christmas single in 1993 and unplayed for more than 20 years until earlier this year. I am honored to have heard it even if I don’t remember it at all. They ended this middle set with “Footsteps,” a treat that I was happy to hear and hadn’t even imagined we would get.
Our second cover of the night was The Ramones’ “I Believe in Miracles,” which was fun to hear (it’s interesting that bands tend to repeat certain covers a lot and almost make them a part of their repertoire), but it was especially great as a lead in to “Mind Your Manners.” This song is outstanding live. We were lucky enough to get it in Philly and they played in the first night at Fenway as well. Of all the songs I wanted to hear a second time this was one of them. The song rocked out, we shouted the chorus and just as we settled down, Eddie started the chords of “Better Man,” the one song that Sarah hoped, hoped, hoped they’d play.
The crowd went nuts. We sang along and even got Eddie to appreciate our singing as he paused to listen to us. It sounded amazingly clear in the open air of Fenway.
That ended the second set and I was a bit surprised that the set felt kind of short (the previous night’s middle section had about three more songs). But that proved to be fine, because they were building up for the final encore. When he came out Eddie asked us to sing Happy Birthday to guitar tech Simon. Someone wearing a trump mask brought out a cake (it was surprisingly the only political moment of the night–aside from him to encourage everyone to vote for the legalization of marijuana in Massachusetts on the ballot this fall).
The second encore began with “Smile,” a song I never ever would have guessed they’d play–it was a really fun lurching song which they made extra fun by having Stone Gossard play bass and Jeff Ament play guitar (inducing the solo). Jeff was thrown a Boston Celtics jersey which he put on for the end of the set. Earlier
But it couldn’t hold a candle to “Go.” “Go” was probably the song I wanted to hear most–those loud fast opening chords, that rumbling bass line–it was amazing and sounded fantastic live. What a great encore to throw in there.
They followed it with The Who’s “Love Reign O’er Me,” which I took to mean the show was ending. I’m may not be a huge fan of covers but this is a great song and Eddie and the guys do it perfectly. And again, it was great to hear 37,000 people singing it to the skies.
It seemed like the show was coming to and end, so imagine my surprise that they squeezed in “Do the Evolution.” This is one of my favorite PJ songs. The studio version is kind of weird and slow, but live, it is a monster song–easily one of the best short songs they play. I would have been a little bummed not to hear it again (they played it in Philly and on Friday), so I was incredibly psyched that they stuck it in near the end like that–a huge rousing singalong and an excellent lead into the biggest surprise of the night for me.
“Breath” is a song that I have loved forever. It appeared on the Singles soundtrack and it and “State of Love and Trust” were two of my favorite PJ songs when I’d worn out Ten. I loved everything about “Breath” but in recent years, I haven’t really thought about it because it’s not on any albums, (except the greatest hits). I would have totally put it on my list of songs to hear but I had forgotten about it. Oh my, when he sang the “if I knew where it was I would take you there” part, a line that goes through my head every time I can’t find something, I nearly lost it.
And then Stone started playing the opening notes of “Alive.” “Alive” is such a great song–a huge crowd sing along with the lights up so everyone can see everything. But it also means the show is coming to and end for real. And yes, it would have been great to hear say Release or Black instead, there is something amazing about a giant room full of people singing along to something so uplifting.
As he song was ending I said to Sarah what if they played “Rockin’ in the Free World”? (of all of the closing covers, it’s my favorite) and there it was.
But even more amazing was when he told us that they would be joined by …J. Mascis! I had just seen Dinosaur Jr a few weeks ago and there he was up on the screen doing a blistering solo during the Neil Young song. It was a really long jam–lots of solos and sing alongs. Matt Cameron’s son Ryan came out to jam on guitar as well (un-introduced, but lots of people seemed to know who he was). It was a romping amazing ending. And I was sure it meant the end of the show. But as it rolled to a close, I saw Mike strap on another guitar.
And then Eddie called out someone from the staff of Fenway (I think) to give him a round o applause. I don’t know who the guy was–he seemed like a regular guy–and older guy–who worked there, and Eddie had a whole stadium of people applaud him, and it was pretty moving. As I said last time, he may be full of it, but Eddie always seems like the most sincere guy. The previous night he dedicated the Beatles cover to a fan whose father had recently died and Eddie seemed genuinely choked up about it. Incidentally, Eddie was full of great stories about watching the Red Sox and loving Fenway park. He retold the story (which was much more funny and dramatic than this 2 minute clip will show) of Big Papi’s grand slam. On the previous night he also told some great stories about sneaking into Fenway to get pictures and how 25 years ago they stayed in a hotel across the street and it only took them 25 years to go a block. It was really fun to be part of all of that.
And then Mike played the opening lick of “Yellow Ledbetter.” This is a song that they end many of their concerts with. I never exactly understood why it seemed to be such a favorite because it’s kind of a weird song–who even knows if there are actual lyrics and it was never really released as anything other than a B-side. But in true, you-have-to-be-there fashion, it was a lot of fun live. Eddie had on a mitt and started throwing a ball to people in the crowd. He was throwing tambourines to the audience. The lights were on an it was chaotic fun. And Mike was soloing and soloing and he ended it with a squealing “Star Spangled Banner.” It seemed especially appropriate since we were in a baseball stadium (and the cameras projected the flag on the screen).
It was a an amazing night. And an amazing show. Even the sound was really terrific. One extra touch that I liked was that every time Eddie spoke, it echoed around the stadium just like in a baseball game.
There was something really fun about being part of something so huge. Our hotel was just chock full of people in town for the show. We met people from New Jersey and New York and a super nice family all the way from Minnesota (Hi, Kaylo) who are also going to Wrigley Field (how jealous am I?). And taking the T to and from the show, there were simply thousands of people in the same frame of mind as me.
Aside from our lousy seats (but we were just happy to be there–next time, we must get floor seats!), our only disappointment in the whole shebang was that we didn’t get the best of the 6 available tour posters (it sold out really fast). But we did get some other cool stuff. And we were lucky enough to bring the kids and Sarah’s mom for a proper vacation that included sightseeing, whale watching, souvenirs and a delicious meal in the North End.
Thanks Boston. It was good to be back.
And how’s this for karma. As soon as they started playing “Alive,” we saw some people leave. I’m always amazed at people who leave a show during the encore, just to save some time getting home. Anyhow, we took a shuttle from our hotel to the T and back. It was waiting for us when we got off the T and the (very drunk) woman sitting in there said “ugh, we left the show early but the shuttle driver just sat here for like 45 minutes waiting you.” Don’t leave the show early!
8/5/2016 (Ten Club Screening)
|8/7/2016 (Fenway Park)|
|“Master/Slave”||“Baba O’Riley” (The Who song)||Pendulum|
|Once||Release||Off He Goes|
|Animal||Long Road||Nothing as It Seems|
|Gonna See My Friend||Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town||Nothingman|
|All Night||Low Light||Wishlist|
|Mind Your Manners||All Those Yesterdays||Corduroy (with “Interstellar Overdrive” intro)|
|Low Light||Given to Fly||Animal|
|Wishlist||Mind Your Manners||Hail Hail|
|Love Boat Captain||Why Go||Lightning Bolt|
|Given to Fly||Daughters (with W.M.A. & Another Brick in the Wall)||In Hiding|
|Evenflow||Even Flow||Even Flow|
|In the Moonlight||Faithfull||Sirens|
|In My Tree||Grievance||Draw the Line (Aerosmith cover) (with Tom Hamilton)|
|Jeremy||I am Mine||Lukin|
|Education||Down||Not for You (with ‘Modern Girl’ tag)|
|Unthought Known||Black (with Bronson Arroyo)||Immortality|
|Do the Evolution||Do the Evolution||Deep|
|Lightning Bolt||Masters of War (Bob Dylan cover)||Jeremy|
|Porch||I Am a Patriot (Little Steven cover)||Unthought Known|
|Picture in a Frame||encore||encore|
|Oceans||Strangest Tribe||Yellow Moon|
|Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns||Society (Jerry Hannan cover)||Angel|
|Why Go||Just Breathe||Footsteps|
|Got Some||Sleeping by Myself (Eddie Vedder song)||I Believe in Miracles (Ramones cover)|
|Rearviewmirror||Wasted Reprise||Mind Your Manners|
|Encore 2||Life Wasted||Better Man|
|Save You||State of Love and Trust||encore 2|
|Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town [to the back seats]||Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd cover)||Smile|
|State of Love and Trust||encore 2||Love, Reign O’er Me (The Who cover)|
|Alive||Draw the Line (Aerosmith cover)||Do the Evolution|
|Indifference||I’ve Got a Feeling (The Beatles cover)||Alive|
|Baba O’Riley (The Who cover)||Rockin’ in the Free World (Neil Young cover) (with J Mascis)|
|Yellow Ledbetter (with “The Star-Spangled Banner” Mike McCready guitar outro)|
These were the songs that I had said I hoped they’d play this time and if/when they playe dit
Corduroy [BOTH NIGHTS]
Hail Hail [OUR NIGHT]
Unlikely songs that would tickle me:
8/5/2016 (Ten Club Screening)
|8/5/2016 (Fenway Park)|