It is only so often that one gets to see his three favorite bands within the span of 11 days, two of them for free. And of course, starting off this rare occurence for me was PJ's two night stand at Great Woods (no self respecting Bostonian calls it that corporate name, but I digress), a venue that holds many good memories from past shows, be it PJ or otherwise.
In 1998, my expectations were way too high. I really didn't know what to expect so I guess you could say that's why I set them so high. The fact I also ended up going alone the first night and with my boss the second (and not finding out about the second night until 3pm day of show) probably didn't help matters. This year, though, was going to be different. I had met people who shared their love of this band, and two of them were coming here to chill with me and my friend Mel.
Our journey started Tuesday morning, as I picked up Mel and Steph and went to the airport to get Sheri. Traffic was tame for noontime in downtown Boston, and we got to the airport about 12:45pm, exactly 11 minutes before her flight was to arrive. I ran inside to see if her flight was on time, and was shocked to see it had already arrived. We ran upstairs and found Sheri, giving hugs all around. It was then that I spotted Sher's sign: "Will work for Pearl Jam fan club tickets." =)
We headed back to Waltham to drop off her stuff and pick up two more people. Soon, we were on our way to the venue. We got there about 3:15, and I literally ran to the fan club windows, leaving the other 5 people in my group in the dust. I was discouraged to see a rather long line ahead of me. "Fuck, I wish I could've gotten here earlier," was the only thought running through my head. I wasn't concerned, I had been in the club since 94 so my seniority standing had to be pretty good. I got to the window, threw my confirmation and ID at the lady behind it, and she gave me my seats.
Excitedly, I looked at my tickets. Section 2, row K. Hmmm, not bad. I waited for Mel to get hers, and as soon as she got her tickets she started jumping up and down. I was kind of wondering what the commotion was all about, after all, she had only been in since 97, she couldn't have had better seats than me, could she? Turns out she did, section 2, row D, center stage. I quickly admitted to her that I was happy for her (hell, after the seats I had for the Garden and Orpheum 94 shows, like I could POSSIBLY complain) and we went to kill some time. I met up with some fellow jammers who I had only known through an email or a screename. Finally, around 6:30pm, we headed inside. After scoring posters (note on posters: get there EARLY!!!!), we headed for our seats. Turns out Row K wasn't bad at all, like 6th row or 7th row, and our seats were more towards Jeff and Mike's side of the stage.
Finally, 7:30 hit and Sonic Youth came out. I had seen these guys in June to know what to expect for these two nights, and I have to say, I liked this set better than the full set they did. Granted, Kim had all sorts of equipment problems, but the energy seemed to be positive.
It's now 8:45, the house lights have just gone down, and the orchestral Baba has started. The whole place is going absolutely insane, and I can already tell this is going to be a great crowd tonight, and therefore, a probably a hell of a show too. The band walked out, and I didn't see a guitar in Ed's hand so that eliminated just about every possibility besides Release, Oceans and Of the Girl. (Barring something really odd). Sure enough, Matt started the kick drum, and Of the Girl was soon caressing my ears. I have to say I never gave this song it's fair shake, although I blame the band for that, as it was the band who put it in between Insignificance and Grievance dammit. =)
The crowd seems to be really digging this song, and you can tell, right away that this is gonna be McCready's night. But it also seemed Eddie wasn't in a very jovial mood to start the show. As soon as OTG ends, Ed grabs his guitar, and the band absolutely rips full on into Breakerfall. Jesus christ does the band sound good. This song is just too damn good to be too damn short. Immediately after Breakerfall, Ed starts the intro to Corduroy, and it's obvious by now he's loving the crowd and his mood has completely changed. I was telling people leading up to this show that I had to make my peace with this song. I won't get into it, but I'll just say in 1998 my experiences during this song weren't the greatest. Well, the whole band seemed to love this song on this night, as at one point they all gathered around the drum riser to jam it out.
I can't imagine what's next and then that drum intro hits me and I'm floored. Fucking GO as the fourth song of the set? Holy shit! This was a sure-fire crowd pleaser, and it's obvious that McCready is every bit the "rock star" that people have him pegged as.
God's Dice, one of my personal favorites off of Binaural, ruled. I jumped up and down as soon as the band tore into it, and I don't remember much of it, probably because I was just having too much fun during it. Once that song was done I saw Mikey reach for the beat up brown strat, I whispered to Sheri "Even Flow" and sure enough, that song was upon us with a vengeance. Of particular note is Mike's solo here. After his normal solo, he did this bluesy type solo. I have no idea how often he's been doing this (I know he did it at Pinkpop) but it is amazing!
Ahhhhh, Given to Fly. I love this song, absolutely one of my favorites. The first thing I noticed was the variation Matt had done on the drums, and the next thing I noticed as Eddie hit the first pre-chorus was that tears were streaming down my face, I tried to snap pictures with my crappy disposable camera but it just wasn't happening. By that time I was just so emotionally drained, and it was only the seventh song of the set. Ed chose this time of the show to speak to us. He started talking about Europe and Roskilde (never actually mentioning the festival, but making obvious references), and then called us the "liveliest crowd since Europe." He also told us to "check the bootlegs to be sure." =) He then actually made mention of the band's 10th birthday, which was sparked by a sign that was only about 4 or 5 rows behind me. It basically said "We hope you are OK" and then it also said something about the ten year thing, but I couldn't make it out. Ed then said it was amazing, and then he congratulated Sonic Youth on their upcoming 20th birthday next year. He then intro'd NAIS and Mike immediately started it.
When Ed started the notes to Untitled, I screamed and started jumping up and down again. This was the only way I wanted to hear MFC this year, with this in front of it. This is extended now, like 3-3 and a half minutes, and it's great stuff, even if the clapping obviously annoys Ed.
Habit then Wishlist. I won't get into these songs much because they were two songs I could've done without this year. I will admit I was wrong about Habit as that completely kicked my ass. Perhaps the best part of Wishlist is seeing just how absolutely fucking BORED Mikey is during it. He steps up with a cigarette hanging out his mouth, plays his solo, then goes back towards his stack of amps and finishes his cigarette. Classic stuff.
Full on roar of 20,000 people as the intro to Better Man starts. I was kind of disappointed, as I really wanted to hear that "Romanza" intro that Ed has been playing before it at some shows. My disappointment quickly went away when Ed went into SIFL 98 style, doing the entire first verse and unleashing a classic "runaway!!!!" Ed screams. Even after this the band continued to jam this song out for what seemed to be another minute, they didn't end it right away after Ed was done with SIFL like they usually do.
Matt starts the drum beat to "Rival" and Sheri literally digs her fingers into my shoulder and starts jumping up and down. This was the one song off of Binaural she wanted to hear, so I was happy for her. That song kicks some major ass live, and is completely a different song from the album version.
Ed intro's Sleight of Hand and Stone fucks up the guitar part. Whole crowd laughs at Stone. The song starts again, and let me say that this song is so beautiful live, in an outdoor setting, the cool night air melding in with the complete atmosphere of the song. It was truly an amazing experience and something I hope to experience again soon.
Insignificance hits and now I realize we're in the home stretch. Yet another song that just blows the album version out of the water. There actually seems to be a pretty big sing-along going for this song, which surprised me. The lights going out was also twice as cool as I thought it would be.
"1,2,3,4...what the fuck is this world," yup, definitely in the home stretch now, no doubt about it. This wasn't an extended version by any means but it still was pretty damn good. Mikey smashed his guitar up good. Ahhhh Mikey. Sure, Stone was doing his duck walk and his head bob thingies, and Jeff was jumping up and down, and Matt and Ed were wearing huge smiles most of the night, but this was all about Mikey tonight. He had to of made eye contact with everyone in our section at least 4 times each. He is such the "rock star" of the band, it's not even funny.
Time for the encore, and I start my usual wondering aloud if this will finally be the night I get to hear my favorite band do my favorite song of all time, Baba O'Riley. Ed walks out alone with a guitar to start the encore, and I'm a little confused, not exactly knowing what to expect. He starts talking about the election, even getting in a potshot at Philly in the meantime. ("The only reason I bring it up here is because I know you're a highly intelligent crowd...we won't even bring it up in Philly") And then he says he's had this song in his head all day, and I still (stupidly I might add) have no idea what he's gonna play and then he starts Patriot. I admit, I was one of those people who fell in love with the punky version from 1999 with C Avg. But this version was just so perfect, so beautiful, and so FITTING seeing as it was Massachusetts. Granted, the clapping got Ed peturbed again, but if anything, it even lightened the mood even further. (And on another side note, I seem to be the only one who thinks that it wasn't Release Ed was teasing, I happen to think it was Elderly Woman, as Eddie riffed the exact same notes before playing Elderly Woman in 98.)
The rest of the band joined Eddie on stage after Patriot, and immediately we've been flown into overdrive with Evolution. This song is not quite as fun as it was in 98, but it's still obviously going to be a staple of setlists for years to come. The whole band just has too much fun with it, and the highlight came when someone threw a Red Sox hat onstage, Ed put it on and did the "Eddie shuffle" with it on. =)
Jeremy starts, huge ovation. From what I had heard, this song was positively awesome this year, but it really didn't do anything for me still. Once hit my ears and this was definitely a nice surprise. It didn't seem as intense as prior years' versions, but it still was a great rocker that got a huge rise out of the crowd.
Stone then got on the mic and said this was our "punishment" for laughing at him about him screwing up Sleight of Hand. Sure enough, Mankind starts. I've never been a huge fan of this song, but in a live setting, it works so well. The backing vocals by Ed are perfect. Most notable though was Stone pointing off to Mikey for his solo, and then Mikey pointing back to Stone at the end.
It's then time to loosen up a bit more, and Soldier of Love starts. The whole crowd sang along to this one (and quite scary was the fact that some lady next to me said she didn't even knew PJ covered this, she just remembered the original!) and it was just so obvious the band was loving every minute of this. Some people seemed to think that Ed didn't do the "cha cha cha" at the end, but he did, just not into the mic.
RVM starts up and it gets a positively enormous reaction from the crowd. It seemed the band could do no wrong on this night, and they just seemed to keep this song going on forever (even though I know that's not true, and that it really wasn't that long in reality), but I have to admit, this song is hazy to me because I knew this was it for the first encore and I eagerly awaited to see if Baba was in my future.
Of note for the second encore was the fact that one of the band's crew members put the ukelele out and then took it back. The band walks back out, and Ed thanks us over and over, and he points to Mikey and Mikey starts Yellow Ledbetter. I have officially made my peace with this song. It's just too nice a song and too perfect to not like, especially since Mikey is throwing in bits and pieces of other songs into the end of it. Call me crazy, but I knew the band had one more up their sleeve. When I saw that Mikey wasn't changing guitars, I knew Baba wasn't happening, and sure enough, Matt started the pounding beat to Fuckin Up. This song kicked the shit out of the version of it they played in 98 at Great Woods, the band sounded so much tighter and more cohesive.
And then the night was over, just like that. It was by far better than either of the two 98 shows, and even though it fell short of the 94 shows, it still was a fantastic show, and easily one of the 5 or so best of the first leg of the 2000 tour.
© 2000 Matt Aucoin
photos © Andrew Lenz and Reuben Kabel