Two years and some change later, and here I am, back where I feel most at home, seeing friends that I met in 98, meeting friends for the first time that I had known prior, as well as making new ones. Whenever someone that really doesn't "get it" asks you, "so, how many shows and where are you traveling to this year?" my first reaction always, is to want to explain to them, that I'm not just simply going to see "some band" play. To me, I never have felt so in touch with another group of people, or shared a common bond, as I do seeing a live Pearl Jam concert. It is something that cannot be explained, only experienced first hand. Now I go to my fair share of shows, as I have eclectic tastes in music, but this is different. It is so much more than the average concert experience.
After the Indy show, they could have played Last Kiss, Wishlist, and Better Man 10 times each, and I would have still had a huge smile on my face (what a scorcher that show was, and that was even before the amazing encore.) We got to the venue around 11ish to check out the fan club ticket line, and the venue. There were a few people in line, so we just decided to hang out in the shade and wait until the window opened. While waiting, I got to meet a bunch of people that I've known for a while, only through email, trading, etc, so it was great to finally put a face to the name, and hear/share stories with each other. I am sure that the biggest reason I enjoy going to see PJ live, is the people that I meet along the way.
Around 3:15 the ticket window opened, I was talking with a friend of mine, while my girlfriend and her sister stood in line to pick up their tickets, and I see the line starting to move. I walk up to where they were standing and as the she hands the tickets to my girlfriend, I hear a loud shriek "FRONT ROW, OH MY GOD!!!" I hugged her and we both proceeded to freak out in unison. She was shaking so hard I could barely read the ticket, but yep, Pit Center Row A, front row right in front of Stone!!! Everyone that we had met in line was congratulating us, which I thought was really cool. We waited around to see what other people we had waited with pulled and shared in their excitement as well. After the initial shock that we were in fact going to be about 4 feet away from the stage for tonight's show, we settled down and hung out some more. There were still a few friends that I hadn't met.
Forward ahead to 5:30, gates open, we get our stuff checked and run straight for the pavilion, "screw merch we can do that tomorrow in Columbus." When we actually got down to our seats, I could not believe how close they were. (ok, so I've been on the rail at a bunch of GA shows prior, but this is a whole different experience.) We notice a friend sitting with his dad in about fifth row or so, and my girlfriend's sister was around 10th row or so (very good for a fairly new fan club membership we thought).
Sonic Youth came on, and it finally hit us, just how close we were. I really enjoyed their short set, definitely a lot more than at Indy. I think it was a little easier to appreciate everything they do with their instruments when you can see it up close. I thought the crowd treated them great, especially with the reputation PJ crowds have for opening acts.
After their 45 minute set or so, the excitement is at its peak for me. The lights go down, Ed comes out without a guitar, and I am praying for Release. The opening guitar and drums of "Of The Girl" is still a great sound to my ears, as it's my favorite track off Binaural. I'd heard a few live recordings of this song prior, and thought that it didn't sound quite as good as the album, but my opinion was about to change. This song just really needs air to breath, something that cannot be re-created on a live tape in my opinion. I just love the bluesy riffs along w/ the sort of droning bass and drum lines, and then it goes into the chorus, "now he makes his getaway ... .. getaway ... " DAMN, if I needed any second opinions about this song being my favorite from the new album, this was it. It seemed to end sooner than I'd thought, maybe its just I love it so much I wouldn't' mind hearing it stretched out a tad longer :). Oh, I almost forgot to note Stones' awesome wardrobe tonight, it definitely gave me a good laugh (see pictures).
Very brief pause, and I see Stone strap on the Rick, BREAKERFALL!!! YES!!!. I definitely enjoy this song even more live than I do on the album. Next up, Corduroy, first song that I ever heard PJ do live back in 95, so it's always going to hold a lot of emotion for me. For the past two nights mike's solo is just on fire, I don't remember him tearing it up this much on the song in 98. Without stopping for a breath, we're right into Go. I don't think I could ever get enough of this song live. I'll admit I enjoyed it a lot when they played the actual intro from the album like they did a few times in early 95 (Moore Theater 95 comes to mind), but I realized that it hits you a lot harder with Matt just pounding out the first few notes.
"It's out of my hands making your hands meeeeeeeeeeet." If there was a song that really came alive for me live, it was this song. On Binaural, I'd always enjoyed it some, but nothing like I do live. We can't slow down just yet, a very nice Even Flow with Senior McCready at the helm could make even someone with arthritis get up and rock out. I really enjoy what they've done with this song this year, the slower, moody, dark jam that builds slowly until they just slam right back into the chorus, is definitely a welcome change to me. Faithfull, I've always really dug this song live, I don't know what exactly it is about it, but it's just always been one that I love to hear live, especially with Matt on the kit. Nothing As It Seems, after hearing the bridge one, I was very curious how this song would end up on the album. Definitely not my favorite from Binaural, but Mike totally makes this song worth every second of it. The lyrics have always kind of spoiled the song some for me, but I just let myself focus on Mike's solos, and I really enjoy watching him just go off.
The first notes of Matt's toms, and my first huge pogo of the night, GRIEVANCE!!!! After the Letterman performance of this song, my excitement for the new album was tripled, if not more. This song definitely sounds a LOT better live than studio. Spotlight on Ed, and I think Better Man, but the first few notes of Untitled are heard. Ed changes it up a little "you don't have to take your things, you can use all of mine, I won't go and I don't feel, like we've got, much time ... ... . Oh come on lets go, lets go, will you be mine, its hard to ask you to be mine, but here it is baby, and I don't got no more time." Of course MFC is up next, did I really have to tell you that? :). Habit follows, and we get our only No Code treat for tonight (only to get a ton in Columbus).
Mirror ball is lowered, and they go into Wishlist. Mirror ball is pretty, its reflection looks like stars, neato! Next up is Better Man (had they announced this combo ahead of time, I would have gone for some Nachos ... .. yeah right front row? They could burp and fart the alphabet collectively and I would be in heaven). No Save It For Later tonight, too bad, because it really did "Save" it at Indy. During Wishlist (to the best of my memory anyway), Ed brings his wine bottle down front, and the two people next to us get their cup filled, so we borrowed a cup from someone in the second row behind us (thank you!!!) and Ed shares some of his wine with my girlfriend and I as well. We take some sips and pass it back to the guy who gave us the cup to share w/ the second row. I'm not a huge wine connoisseur, but damn did that ever hit the spot.
I could not have predicted what was to happen next in my wildest dreams. Matt's drums start, and the muddy distorted guitar of Rival bellows from Stone's amp. "OH MY GOD!" I proclaim, and after listening to the recording of it, I was not apparently alone in my reaction. On the album, I had always been somewhat indifferent for this song, I dug its quirkiness, but something just wasn't there. And then I heard a copy of the Pinkpop show from Europe earlier this year and couldn't put my finger on what it was that was missing, but whatever it is, it gets filled live. Without anytime to recover from the aftermath of Rival, I wanted to yell "SLEIGHT", but before I got a chance, Stone plays the opening notes, and I realize I've just seen 2 of the songs I most wanted to hear from Binaural but wasn't sure I would, back to back. This song since the first time I heard it, has always put me in a trance of sorts. The music is so spacey and surreal it just makes you feel like you are floating. And that's not even mentioning the lyrics, which to someone like me, at this current point in my life, its eerie how much I can relate to this song, as I'm sure a lot of other people have. Anyone that is unsure about anything, big or small, in their life, should be moved, possibly even motivated, by this song.
Next up, Insignificance, easily the crowd favorite from Binaural and I've had a lot of people tell me they think that it's the best song the band has ever written, and I don't know that I can really disagree. I am not going to say it is my favorite of all time, but damn if it isn't an epic. I was hoping for the Insig-RVM closer combo, but I definitely was not going to complain one fucking bit about an Insig-Porch closer!!. "Thank you, for lettin'me, lettin'me be my, lettin'me be myself, myself", most likely a shout out to Sly and the Family Stone's "Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin)."
Encore, Ed comes out by himself with his guitar, and thanks the crowd for being so great (and the crowd up front was simply awesome!). After Indy, I ruled out that it would be Throw Your Arms Around Me. He was strumming some notes to Trouble, to my delight. Just jokingly, I yelled "Kids Are Alright!" and the women behind me who gave Ed the Who bootleg vinyl definitely agreed. He then went on to speak about how he came out on stage, and said "ahh, now I remember", and talked about how the last time they were there Soundgarden was there as well. He then lowers his voice, and says "the name of the city Cincinnati came up a few times, and I ... well for some difficult reasons, I'm gonna play this next one, because of ...", and the notes of The Kids Are Alright echo across the quiet venue. If you had told me that I would hear Ed sing this song live in my lifetime, I would have laughed in your face. I couldn't believe it was happening, but after a few seconds of excitement, I realized exactly why it was he was playing the song, and why here, and I almost cried. He ended the song with a huge jump and some Townshend windmills.
The first few songs after that were sort of a blur, Given To Fly, Do The Evolution, Jeremy, it was just as the opening notes of Once played that I had my second huge pogo of the night, I must have jumped 4 feet straight up in the air (nothing like when I hear the notes of State though :). Black is up next, and I realize that they just played three straight songs from Ten. AMAZING, no let me rephrase that, FUCKING AMAZING solo by Mr. McCready at the end of Black. Soldier of Love was next, and as much as I've never particularly enjoyed this song or Last Kiss, I was pretty excited to hear it live. The crowd even got the "cha cha cha" part right at the end, Ed was impressed, as was I. Rearviewmirror, ahh yes, instead of closing the first set with it, they close encore with, that suits me JUUUUST fine. It wasn't quite as jammy as Indy, but still a very solid version. Second encore, out comes the Uke, Ed says "I left my Polaroid back at the hotel, as he films the crowd with a video camera. "This is my good friend ukulele, ukulele I'd like to introduce you to Cincinnati. I'll try this one, but its always a little difficult, so don't clap, or I'll fuck up, because you've seen how much wine has been drunk on this stage." We are treated to a FLAWLESS version of Soon Forget, with DEAD silence, you could hear a pin drop, even the people singing along were singing quietly. Ed strums on the uke a little after, a riff that sounded an awful lot like "Solace of You" by Living Colour. Now, I wasn't totally dying to see/hear that one live, but after seeing it, it was definitely a site to see :).
The band comes back out, and into Yellow Ledbetter we go. Hearing this song is always kind of sad, because about 95% of the time, you know that it's the last song of the night. Ed's lyric change caught my ear "oh and I tried and I called, and I know you gotta message, emailed him again", who would have ever thought we would hear Mr. Typewriter himself sing about email. Mike's outro solo included a snippet of first "Ain't Talkin' Bout Love" by Van Halen (to which Jeff busted out laughing behind mike's amp), and secondly, some riffs of "Stranglehold" by Ted Nugent, also much to the delight of Jeff and the rest of the guys.
My two friends that came from Montana were front row in front of Mike and Jeff, and had a sign that said "Hi Jeff, We're From Havre, MT", Jeff, who was born in Havre, made note of the sign, and after the show handed them each a pick, a setlist, and a Polaroid. After the crowd cleared out, we met back up with them, and got to see everything they had gotten. The Polaroid was of Jeff sitting on an amp back stage, with Mike in the background making a goofy face. The photo said "Born in Havre, MT" and Jeff signed the photo, also on his white shirt, had drawn "B.S.H.S" (Big Sandy High School) and drew an X on his forehead. Pretty amazing gift if you ask me, and me being from Montana, I knew even more how much it meant to them.
We ended up taking almost 5 rolls of film and they turned out great. Definitely gave us even more memories to keep of that awesome night. I would like to thank Pearl Jam, for showing the strength over the past 3-4 months. It has definitely been awe-inspiring. I would also like to thank everyone who we met on our 3 show run, and for those that we didn't get to meet, I hope to see you next time! What an amazing summer and year it's been to be a Pearl Jam fan, and I can't believe that we get to do it all again in a little over 2 weeks.
© 2000 Kyle Matteson
© photos Kyle Matteson and Molly