"The idea was to put on a special event here in Auckland, a series of shows, something out of the ordinary in my hometown. I thought it might be possible to bring together an unusual lineup of musicians from different bands. All people I have got to know over the years and whose music I admire. We could rehearse a set, play a few shows and then break up before anything went wrong. I made a few calls, people seemed to like the idea of a South Pacific adventure. The timing worked for everyone and one by one all these good people came on board. And so along with family and a whole buncfh of support crew we gathered for rehearsals at Kare Kare beach on the West coast of New Zealand. We had to discover what we could become given only a few days and the combined will to make it sound good. Four days later we were on stage at the St. James for five concerts which turned out to be one of the most extraordinary events of my life."When Ed's participation in the week of shows put together by Neil Finn in Auckland in April of 2001 was announced, it seemed like people were more interested in what Ed's hair looked like than in the fact that this was an incredible assemblage of talented musicians, playing some of the best and most timeless songs ever written. While the live album captures some of the magic that happened that week, the DVD - finally released in the U.S. - is almost overwhelming. Being that this is a Pearl Jam web site, this review will focus (mostly) on Ed Vedder's participation in the DVD. [For more information about Neil Finn, we suggest you check out the excellent frenz.com.
Our first glimpse of Ed - looking tanned, happy and excited - is entering the rehersal space at Kare Kare and hugging Neil. Neil introduces him around, and then gets to Radiohead's Ed O'Brien: "Ed - Ed," with both Eds laughing at the joke.
We don't get to see EV again until right before "Take A Walk," when there's this hilarious interview footage with Ed and Neil, discussing how Ed was invited to participate in the shows. They're interviewed separately about the same question, and the DVD cuts back and forth between each of them, letting them individually tell the story from their perspective. Ed apparently agreed to participate right away, which surprised Neil: "No one decides on the spot like that." So much so that a few weeks after their first phone call, Neil phoned Ed again, only to have Ed say, "I said I'd be there - are you sure you want me there?" It's just so down-to-earth and human.
This is followed by Ed's first musical appearance, "Take A Walk." Having had the CD since it was released in Australia, I'm familiar with his performance, but seeing Ed's physical concentration and conviction makes it seem like I've never heard it before. He's just so into it, so relaxed: "I'll remember this… EVERY DAY!" he emphasizes towards the end, and you know he will.
"If you told me a month ago that I'd be playing with… well, Eddie Vedder and Johnny Marr…. And that I'd be playing a Pearl Jam song, I'd be [look of utter disbelief]."The one negative to this DVD is these cheesy slow-stop special effects during the songs. They don't add anything and are a real distraction. Since the purpose of this DVD is to capture a musical performance, it's unsure why they felt the need to add these special effects that don't do anything except annoy you. However, having said that, the rest of the production is great. Good camerawork that knows where it's supposed to be focused on; sound is amazing. The interview footage between songs is at just the right frequency: not so often that it breaks up the momentum, just enough to add some background and color. There's great home movie footage of Ed surfing, with Neil Finn's voice in the background, describing how these waves came in the day of soundcheck, and how Ed got in like four or five hours of surfing before the first show. Pearl Jam Surf Factor in full effect!
"Parting Ways" is the next EV appearance on the DVD. From a Pearl Jam fan perspective, it's kind of an odd experience to watch. Ed has the same stance and concentration that we're familiar with, so it's familiar, and yet different: very different guitar (this black Gretsch loaned to Neil from a local musician, that Ed loved so much he wanted to buy it when the week was over). The song is different: the arrangement is looser, more intense, more improvisational; Neil's harmonies are broad and expansive, matching the song, and at the end, he goes off on a tangent, vocalizing, showing as much enthusiasm and energy performing Ed's song as Ed does performing any of Neil's songs.
We don't see Ed again until he joins Tim Finn (Neil's brother, former bandmate in Split Enz and Crowded House, and solo artist in his own right) for "Stuff and Nonsense". People have commented on the similiarity between this song and "Can't Keep," one of the new songs Ed performed on 2/26/02. Again, what's striking about this performance is Ed's physical intensity. He feels these songs as deeply as he feels his own.
If you watch any non-Ed performance from this DVD, please make it "Suffer Never". It's unbelievable.
I'd heard for some time that Neil Finn's son Liam started his band Betchadupa because of Pearl Jam, but I never knew for sure until I watched the DVD. Betchadupa, with Ed on lead vox, rock out with a kick-ass version of the Crowded House classic "History Never Repeats," Ed dressed in Split Enz regalia:"The show is underway, sold out again. The second half I am in Eddies room, attempting to make his hair into a Split Enz mohawk ...that's the secret, during TAKE A WALK Eddie Vedder will have a (small) Enz mohawk, eyeliner, makeup and an original Enz shirt made by some girls in 1974...with THE SPLITZ on the back...Anne from the front bar had this...save dit all these years...and I tell he rit's fate as Eddie needs something to wear thats Enzish.....Even without knowing the background, it will be obvious to any fan of Pearl Jam that PJ are clearly one of Betchadupa's influences, in this genuinely affectionate, enthusiastic and respectful way. They have the energy and spirit down, which is something that the legion of PJ wannabe bands [no names] always seem to miss. As a fan, you're so psyched for them to be playing with Ed, clearly someone they admire. You'll find yourself almost rooting for them.
"Our problem is that his hair refuses to stay up....no time to do the old soap trick so I'm holding it together, he's upside down allowing gravity and eventually and tonnes of hair lacquer we have something...not what we wanted.
"But the reaction is good...Neil just grins, loves it. They do a kick arse version of TAKE A WALK......Eddie thanks Neil for SOME GREAT SEX....No No No he says , for a fantastic week.... I am killing myself so funny. I can picture Neil wondering if I have corrupted Eddie Vedder.... massive hair products, kohl eyeliner, eyeshadow, clothing, gay jokes....BUT Mr Finn it was all his own doing, I wasn't even a catalyst....honestly!!!!!!!"
--Peter Green, from Famous For 16 Minutes
We get some more great interview footage next:
Ed: Neil's son is I think what brought him to see our band… because Neil's son liked our band. So neil shows up and he has no idea his band was hugely influential on me and my songwriting and things like that… now I get to play with Neil's son and he's watching me play with his son - and so now it's just up to me to have some kids so they can go see Liam's band and - complete the circle, and then Liam will have to have kids to watch my son's band play."We then get to see Betchadupa and Ed totally bring the house down with a RAWKING version of "I See Red," complete with guest appearance by Tim Finn.
Appropriately enough given current PJ events, Ed's final contribution to the DVD is his guest ukulele on "Paradise". We get just a few shots of Ed playing along with Lisa Germano, looking like he's having a blast.
If you only care about Ed's performances, it's worth borrowing the DVD to watch them. But if you have any love for great music and songwriting, or want to learn more about Ed's musical influences, Seven Worlds Collide is an incredible experience that's not to be missed. I've watched it five times by now - the Betchadupa footage is just wonderful, I love watching Johnny Marr play, and watching the NZ audience sing "Weather With You" (imagine a Seattle audience for Pearl Jam and you'll get the idea) is warmly moving. Neil Finn is an incredible songwriter. If you're not familiar with his work, this DVD is a great introduction to it.
[You can buy the DVD here.]
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