Night three. Expectations running amok in the parking lot, absolutely out of control (in a good way). Will we get "Breath" tonight? Will they play [insert incredibly obscure or underplayed song here]? How long will they play? Etc., etc., etc. Call it Random Musings Of A Pearl Jam Fan While Waiting In Line On A Beautiful Summer Day.
Tonight I'm one section closer; I'm happy to see. I'm happy to be closer. I'm closer than I thought I would be before I got here; one of those last minute "Oh, I have an extra in [incredibly good section]" happenings that we've all run into every so often. Really, I'm thrilled. I don't need to see the whites of their eyes for it to be a good show for me. Thrilled if it happens, equally thrilled to be there if it doesn't. I'm even uncharacteristically center for me for the second night in a row.
I catch Sonic Youth's set but am somewhat in a daze. I'm tired, I'm jet lagged. It's all overwhelming. Night three. I can't even let myself think about it any more. I'm just going to roll with it tonight.
Before I know it, there's "Baba" again -- my god I will just NEVER tire of this as the intro music! -- and it's clearly another quiet opener. The audience settles into silence: "Large fingers pushing paint..." Oh yeah! "Sometimes"! This is a wonderful opener, it's so challenging, it's a signal, it's a warning for what lies ahead. This is great, it's like a big gift. "Grievance" next -- okay, that elusive 'something' is back tonight. Mike, for one, is far more animated. "Corduroy" starts with an Ed jump, Stone has to switch guitars; Ed moves out in front of the monitors at the instrumental bridge, checks the crowd out, drops back; they're all four gathered around Matt, the sound builds, then the solo is punctuated by a soaring jump from Jeff. Wow. Breathless.
"This next one is dedicated to New York City," a reference to the Nile mosquito virus, Ed also then gives his nightly shout out to Sonic Youth, mentioning that only about 300 people were there for their set and it was one of the best shows he's ever seen them do. And then it's an incendiary "Red Mosquito," soaring, solid.
Oh man. "In Hiding." This brings me back to 98 and that wonderful tour every time I hear this. Then, that lovable staple, "Even Flow" -- Ed is clearly amused by something happening down front, and points and sings a verse to them. Someone else has a MIKEY IS GOD sign that pops up during the solo - no argument here. (It was a few weeks after the tour ended before I found out that I knew the sign holder.) It's a really dynamic, free-flowing solo with an innovative energy that was missing the night before. Go, Mikey!
"Alright... at this point in the evening, it's with great pleasure, that we turn the mic over to Mr. Stone Gossard," Ed murmurs grandly. We are jumping up and down. Stone: "Only once in a great while do I step up to the mic, and you people are lucky enough to have it tonight....is my band ready to kick it?" he smirks, as they crank into, doh, "Mankind". Ed's got the tambourine, and Stone and Jeff do the dorky guitar-crossing heavy Spinal Tap-ish moves on the bridge. The thing completely falls apart at the end, which just totally adds to the charm of it all.
An extended "Untitled" follows, which of course lead us to "MFC". And then -- the ideal segue! So early, too! -- "RVM"!!! Tonight's version has what was absent last night, a clearer focus and a definite direction.
Just when you thought it couldn't get any better -- I mean I don't even notice what's happening, really, I'm still catching my breath from RVM -- it's Ed, and Mike, and those ringing notes: "Present Tense". It's a weird crowd tonight, while my perception is that it's more active than the night before, definitely more vocal and affectionate down front with pockets of the faithfull everywhere, even up on the top deck. (I know other folks who would vehemently disagree; I know all too well how your show experience can be shaped by those sitting around you.) PT unfortunately is the song that the late comers behind us decide is the get-up-and-go-get-beer song, and then come back and have a loud conversation about running into Cousin Guido at the pretzel stand (I'm NOT kidding, this is verbatim. I wrote it down!)
"Present Tense" then soars into a great, uplifting, energetic "Given To Fly." Afterwards, some fans down front are clearly clamoring for some of Ed's wine. "Get your own goddamn wine," EV growls affectionately, and then proceeds to pour half the bottle out into outstretched cups.
The mellow section: "Thin Air," "Off He Goes" and then "Black". It's such a great feeling and a great vibe that when Ed introduces the next number by saying, "Well, we're gonna try this one but we need your help," I really don't know what it could possibly be and really do expect the unexpected. I have to laugh when instead we (the audience. we the audience. in case you were confused. sorry.) get "Jeremy" -- couldn't get much less unexpected than that! It's kinda "New Jeremy"-esque in flavor, in that Ed isn't singing the choruses completely. At the end, Ed comes to the front, lets the crowd sing the "ohhhhhh"'s, Mike hops on his monitors, waving his arms, exhorting us along, and it just seems to go on forever.
"Immortality" starts off very promising, only for Ed to lose his place; luckily there were enough fans down front who realized what was going on and gave Ed all the cues he needed. He finishes the first verse and then walks back over to his human cue cards to get the first line of the second verse. He nods his thanks and jumps back into the song. It was very cool.
End of set. Wow. That's a very different kind of energy than what I felt last night at this time.
First encore: they come out (much quicker than last night!) and launch into "Go," Mike soloing behind his head. Then, just when I'd again given up hope - "Insignificance"!! To my amazement I am getting goosebumps - I'm looking down at my arms in astonishment only to find my friend say, "Me too!" We look at each other, hug and laugh. It was that kind of moment.
Speaking of moments - the intro to the next song starts and I scream, "TREE???!!!!" We are jumping up and down again. Oh my god, yes it is, the dozen or so diehards in our immediate vicinity go nuts. Okay, so it wasn't the most ethereal version I've ever heard but dammit it works just fine for me. Another goosebump moment.
Then there's some discussion onstage: "Stone has the guts to come here in a helicopter tonight, but not to play 'Breath'." Goddamn it! Argh!!! (Heh! Tonight Stone really *was* the problem! =) ) "Elderly" is our substitute, Ed draws out and exaggerates the "I swear I recognize your BREATH" line just like he did in 98, nodding in the direction of a few random "Breath" signs. Much applause from all over the venue, a large shared joke.
A very solid, intricate "Betterman" goes into a long, extended "Save It For Later" that (to my utter shock) included the first verse of the song:Two dozen other dirty loversEd of course passes the 'voice test' on this song, and extends the "runaway, runaway, runaway, don't let me down" part for what seems like forever. Truly wonderful.
Must be a sucker for it
Cry cry but I don't need my mother
Just hold my hand while I come
to a decision on it
Much extended applause. Ed: "Thanks a lot!... you know, this next song is, kind of a goodbye song, and before we say goodbye, I just want to let you know, I was thinking about it last night... we had a really nice evening out here last night, and it was being broadcast on the radio, it was just, it turned out to be kind of memorable, and I was thinking back, as I was driving back to Manhattan with a friend, that New York has been great to the people up here, starting at what, the Wetlands - what's the other (to stone and mike) Roseland, Irving Plaza ('when the hell did they play Irving Plaza' I mutter to myself, resisting the temptation at that moment to pull out the Palm Pilot with the Concert Chronology on it and find out if he's right or wrong - he's wrong! unless there's a show we don't know about!) oh, CBGB's, to the Meadowlands out in Jersey, Jones Beach -- Jones Beach in 92, Randall's Island is the one I was thinking of, and then Madison Square Garden...so it's much more beyond kind of cub scout merit badges, they've all been great experiences, and that's because of you, so thanks everyone for your support," and then he mentions about his 'special' Parisian harmonica that he's been saving for a special moment, and there's Stone in Jeff's spot and vice versa, so of course, "Smile".
Another audible - guitar changes - and it's none other than Baba Fucking O'Riley. Oh man I did so not expect this! How can you not love this version? How can you not? You're dead, boring or way too fucking cynical for your own good if this doesn't leave you smiling broadly. And they're off! Again.
I honestly did not expect another encore tonight, but they're back before we know it. The houselights are on, and it's Ledbetter, of course, which seems only fitting. Tonight we get yet more Britrock references with Zep's "Over The Hills And Far Away" thrown in for good measure.
I am, quite honestly, exhausted. Truly the setlist of the gods. Most everyone else I meet up with in the parking lot can barely talk. Others are sprinting for the buses (Jessica! I didn't get to say goodbye!) I myself need to get in the car and drive to my parents' house, two hours north of here.
It was a great show, it was a wonderful show, but there's this something elusive missing that I can't quite put my finger on, again. During the drive home, thinking about the past two nights, I finally decide that what is missing is an element of joyful energy - and that I can't fault them for. I mean I honestly can't find it in me to be the tiniest bit critical whatsoever this tour. I love this band, seeing them live brings me great joy, and in the end that's all that matters. This is my last first leg show, and it's with much anticipation I await the West Coast shows. It can only get better from here, and that's saying a helluva lot.
Copyright © 2000 Caryn Rose