I wake up relatively early Tuesday morning, feeling that excited feeling in my stomach that I'm not that used to - it had been four years since I had seen Pearl Jam; I completely missed the "Yield" tour for reasons that seem stupid to me now. But ah well... Little did I know that what I would experience at the show that night would more than make up for the past ten years of listening to PJ, and hoping to see them again.
It's 10 AM, and off I am to college registration. I was getting an earlier start than I had originally hoped - and that made me incredibly happy, since I had fanclub seats for that night's show. Fifteen minutes later (I go to a really really small school, so nothing really takes long here :) ) I'm ready to get on the road. I'm going to say that it's usually an hour and a half to Mansfield - but of course there was construction, so it took close to three hours to get there. The day was not starting well and I was definitely not in a good mood when I got to the motel I was staying at in Mansfield. I got something to eat, took a very short nap which left me feeling more tired than I had been before, and headed down to the venue to pick up my tickets.
It was probably about 3:00 by the time I got in the tenclub line (which was not very long). Finally got up to the window, and the woman handed me two seats in section 2, row B (center section, second row). Okay, so now I'm finally excited :) I had never been that close at a concert before. Especially not at a concert by my favorite band in the entire world. Any feelings of guilt that I had felt over skipping the first two days of school subsided right then and there. This was going to be a great night.
7 PM - I get to the venue and buy a couple posters and a t shirt, and find my seats. I really enjoyed Sonic Youth's set even though I'm not a big fan of theirs. Fast forward about an hour - PJ comes out. They go into "Of The Girl," a wonderful opening song, in my opinion. This was one of the songs that I didn't like when "Binaural" came out, but after hearing it live, my opinion on it totally changed. It just builds and builds and creates a great energy.
In fact, all the songs from "Binaural" sound amazing live. "Breakerfall" was next, and now I'm totally just bouncing around, singing along, forgetting that anyone else except the band is in the room with me. "God's Dice" is another one of the songs that I usually skip on the record - but live it is incredible.
A nice version of "Given to Fly" was next. Then Ed lights a cigarette, and probably says something, although I don't remember what :), and then "Nothing as it Seems." It was tolerable - I have to say that I don't really care for this song that much, although Mike's solo redeems it.
"Grievance" is next, and I'm totally singing along again. "Have a drink they're buying." This is my favorite song from "Binaural," maybe even my favorite Pearl Jam song period. Mike is totally playing with the crowd, pointing people out, and posing for pictures.
"Untitled" leads into "MFC" next, and I am just loving life right about now. :) "Rival" is an absolutely incredible song live. My favorite live song from "Binaural." Ed's doing a little twirly kind of dance before the song.
I hear the first notes of "Sleight of Hand," and my heart skips a beat. Someone (Stone I think :)) messes up, and Ed laughs it off saying, "One more try." The second time through they just nail it, and Ed throws his hands up in the air and laughs again. This is a beautiful song - one that I wasn't sure they would be able to pull off live. But they are, and it's amazing to see.
An absolutely wonderful version of "Insignificance" is next - and then, "1, 2, 3, 4." The person I'm sitting next to kind of nudges me, because he knows that "Porch" is not one of my favorite songs. But I can't help myself, I'm singing along, eyes closed, just feeling the song. I think maybe one of the reasons that I don't care for older versions of this song is that it seems so out of control - like the band is not controlling the song, but rather the song is controlling the band. But now the song seems shorter, more focused. (I'm not sure if that makes sense :)) At the end, Mike smashes his guitar and hands it to a little kid in the front.
That's the end of the first set. After a few minutes, just Ed comes back out. He says something about the election (big surprise :)) and then says something like, "I'm only saying this cause you're such an intelligent crowd... I won't even bring it up in Philly." Then he goes into a (kind of) sloppy version of "I am a Patriot." (It was still beautiful though:)) The crowd is clapping along, and that makes Ed lose his place in the song a couple times, but he just picks it right back up where he left off.
Just before "Mankind," Stone says something along the lines of, "I messed up before, so this is my punishment." I'm really glad to see this song live for the first time.
Afterwards, Ed says, "We only play the next song when there's a cow in the audience." So I turned around, and sure enough, there was a person dressed as a cow. I don't know how I had missed him. :) So then the band goes into "Crazy Mary," and the woman sitting beside me started freaking out, which of course made me more excited for the song. Somewhere in the middle of it, Ed walks to the edge of the stage and hands his wine bottle to a kid in the front row.
Next, the band starts playing a song that sounds suspiciously like "Last Kiss." Uh-oh. But then the person sitting next to me says, "Is this Soldier of Love?' " I recognize it, and nod, feeling kind of relieved.
Okay, I absolutely cannot describe how wonderful "Rearviewmirror" was. This was one of those songs, along with "Porch" and a few others, that I really didn't care for. But this version was absolutely beautiful, ethereal, mind - blowing. The solo in the middle of it was kind of pulsating, rythmic, and wonderful. (I also have to say here that i LOVE the lighting for this tour. It's so understated, it's totally not overdone, and I think it really adds something to the songs. Especially "Insignificance.")
They come back out for a second encore and I know they're going to play "Yellow Ledbetter." And then, just when I think the show is over, the houselights come on, and the band goes into "Fuckin Up." It seemed like kind of a last minute decision to play it, but that was just fine with me, I love this song.
I really don't think the band wanted this show to end (I know I didn't). There was just so much energy - both on stage and off. I think Ed said something about how this had been the loudest crowd since Europe. This was hands down one of the best concerts I have ever seen. It was magical. The set list was wonderful, my seats were unbelievable, the band was AMAZING.
© 2000 Megan Hamilton
photos © S.A. Cripps