Oh Memphis ... a two-hour drive from home in Little Rock. Not bad! Pearl Jam at the Pyramid. You know? I've never even been to the Pyramid. I've driven by it literally hundreds of times since it was built, but never actually gone inside. I got off work around 11:30 Tuesday morning and headed that direction. I usually travel alone and this was no different. I got behind an SUV with California plates that had lots of cool Elvis stickers on it and one right in the middle on the back glass that said "I 'heart' Mullets". That cracked me up, but then, I passed a Nissan with a gray Pearl Jam Stickman on the back. I have a stickman on the back of my car as well as a Pearl Jam hat in my back dash, so I KNOW this couple is on their way to see Pearl Jam and I honk and wave. They don't have a clue. I'm sure the girl in the passenger seat was like "who the hell is that chick honking and waving?!" Later, they speed up and it is evident they finally saw my sticker or my hat because they're passing me with thumbs up! :)
Naturally, it's very hot in Memphis. I go get my brother up from his nap and we head down to the Pyramid to find out where his Fan Club seats are. The security at the Pyramid are already trying to show their stuff. Instead of letting us stand in line inside, they send us to line up outside in the sun. Oh well... I'd say we're about 30-40 people back from the front of the line. That's about how far back I was in Greensboro for my Fan Club seats and ended up Front and Center. I was sure we couldn't get so lucky again. The windows open around 3:30, so I leave Blake in line and I go inside to see what kind of tickets people are pulling. So far so good! A few front row, a few 3rd row ... Blake finally gets up to the window and he comes out with a grin on his face. Front Row! yay! Seats 18 and 19. I figured judging from the seating chart we would be on Mike's side which was FINE with me! In Greensboro, I had seats 8 and 9 and they were center. We ran across some guys outside the Pyramid that were Security and we just had to ask how many seats were on the front row. They said 38!!! 38 divided by 2 = 19! Oh my gosh! We have front and center!!!!!
We park our cars downtown, hooked up with some friends and had some drinks and snacks and hopped on the trolley and headed to the Pyramid. Sure enough, we get there feeling criminal for missing half of Sonic Youth's set. But they were still rocking when we got there. But the crowd wasn't. Nearly everyone was in their seats. I couldn't sit down as excited as I was. Kim and Thurston can hypnotize you with their sound. Sonic Youth's set ended and the lights came up.
We took a look around the Pyramid, found our friends who were just a few rows up on the lower level. The Pyramid seemed pretty empty. I know it wasn't show time yet, but I was surprised. This wasn't a sold out show and it was looking obvious. But I know that this is going to be great night for us and Pearl Jam. We talk with Jake and Sweeney, some of the Pearl Jam security. They each say (NOT verbatim) that last night in New Orleans was pretty laid back... The crowd wasn't very into it... Pearl Jam prefer playing outdoor shows... This is going to be a dull show... it didn't even sell out... We told them no way! However, at 8:42, the whole crowd was still seated. We knew it was almost the magical time and we turned around and faced the audience and motioned them to stand up and started the "Pearl Jam! Pearl Jam! Pearl Jam!" Soon they obliged and within minutes, the lights went down ... and the crowd noise grew! We were going to show Jake and Sweeney how good a show Pearl Jam would play in Memphis!
"Of the Girl" was a nice opener. I had heard this as an opener in Greensboro and enjoyed it there and it brought back the memories and the reality that here I was again... same spot as before ... same excitement as before ... sharing it all with my brother. The song has a nice tempo that makes you want to sway. It fascinates me that Ed is so into this song with his eyes kind of rolling back, deep in the music, and yet Stone wrote it. Blake elbowed me and said "Eddie just looked at me!" I told him that this was only the beginning!
"Last Exit" and "Animal" sped us up and from this point, I knew the crowd would not disappoint Pearl Jam, nor would Pearl Jam disappoint the crowd. "Grievance" is a great one from Binaural and Ed flubbed the lyrics at one point and kind of threw up his hands like "oh well". My favorite line in this song is "champagne breakfast for everyone ..." "Corduroy" was next and has been a staple for most shows it seems.
Time to slow it down a notch with "Tremor Christ" ... wow! three of the first six songs are from Vitalogy. Jeff has a stand up bass now and they begin "Nothing as it Seems". This song is really much better live than the radio/studio version. It seems a little monotonous on the studio version, but there is a point in the song that you feel it climbing, and you wonder if you'll reach the top... and hearing it live, Mike brings you to the point that you can FEEL that you've reached the peak in the song ... then it slows back down. "Wishlist" is next ... not one of my favorites, but tonight it's very special. As usual the disco ball comes down and sets a nice ambiance for this song. The people around me seemed to do a pretty good job of raising their arms during the "fifteen-million hands upraised" line. When Ed gets to the line "I wish I was as fortunate as fortunate as me", I raise my hands and on the "me" point to my brother and me and Ed smiled and pulled away from the mic and chuckled. He knew how fortunate we were with the seats we had!
Mike is very playful tonight. At the Greensboro show, I motioned for him to show me his tattoos, and he shed his jacket and couldn't get his long sleeved shirt up high enough and eventually shed it to show them off. I feel like he remembered part of that, because he kept turning towards me and playing at us. Posing, winking and making his crazy facial expressions that he enjoys.
Now it's time for a extraordinary moment in the show. Ed says that he'll need a jacket for this next song "something nice" ... A crew member brings out a hideous red white and blue striped blazer. Ed starts out solo with just him and his guitar "Wise men say ... only fools rush in ..." "Can't Help Falling in Love with You" then the rest of the band joins in and speeds up the tempo for a punked up version of this Elvis classic. I should have known.... that jacket just wreaked of Elvis circa 1960's. Being "Elvis week" in Memphis, I had hoped for a subtle Elvis reference, but I never dreamed we'd get to hear an entire song. I still couldn't help but laugh my ass off during this song and sing along with the rest of the crowd who seemed to know every word. Ed looked hilarious in his brownish t-shirt, black jeans and buttoned Elvis blazer! He was having a ball up there and we all knew it. Applause like you wouldn't believe. Pearl Jam had this audience now. Not that they didn't before, but now, we were theirs for the taking.
Ed got rid of the jacket and his guitar and I could hear the first notes to "Given to Fly". Eddie bent down and handed me his guitar pick! Not only do I have a guitar pick, but I have the guitar pick that Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder played an Elvis cover with in Memphis the night before the anniversary of Elvis' death! "Given to Fly" was a beautiful crowd pleaser. "In My Tree" ... wow... this is the second time this tour I've been lucky enough to hear this song. I couldn't believe when they played it in Greensboro and it seemed a little rough around the edges, but they had all the wrinkles ironed out tonight. "Evenflow' was next and boy did the crowd love this one. Mike is unbelievable. I finally bow to him during this song and he cracks up.
Next we hear the opening riff to "I Got Shit". I'm so proud that they have been including this song at so many shows. Poetically, this song one of their best. Up next is "Betterman" enhanced with a "Save it for Later" tag. Then "Black", beautiful. Did I say that Mike is unbelievable? Well, his solo on this song is fantastic.
"Insignificance" ... this is my favorite live from Binaural. From beginning to end, this song is IT. The "bombs dropping down overhead underground" just gets me jumping. but of course, my favorite part is "Turn the jukebox up he said .. dancing in irreverence ... play C3 ... let the song protest ..." (((((((PAUSE-LIGHTS OUT))))))) seconds of silence pass and then: Guitars back in along with the lights in perfect time. "Rearviewmirror" is a crowd favorite. It used to be one of my favorites, but at this point, it is a marker to me that the first set is over... so soon? It feels like they only just began...
Encore opener is the Binaural opener, "Breakerfall". Yield is probably my favorite album, but I'm really starting to embrace Binaural. "Do the Evolution"... oh my... Ed has been to Graceland! He's wearing the plastic gold souvenir Elvis glasses! Eddie is digging being "Elvis" and changes the lyrics to "I'm a thief, I'm a liar, I'm the king now sing in my choir" and throws his arms up and head back and we sing Hallelujah! This is great! Before we knew it, Ed was doing Elvis karate chops and was close to the ground chopping and kicking at Stone. What a moment!
"Thin Air" is next, and to me this is the prettiest song from Binaural, followed by "Nothingman" which is great and the crowd really sang along. Then they were really singing next on "Elderly Woman ...". I still just love to hear the crowd sing "helloooooo"... "State of Love and Trust" is next and Pearl Jam is enjoying playing this song. Eddie is messing up the lyrics, Stone is really grooving. I was "pogo-ing" and Stone caught my eye and he started mocking me and doing his head side to side like I guess I was. He was laughing and smiling too. They close the encore with "Go" and Ed puts the Elvis glasses back on. There was such a good vibe going, we knew it couldn't be over yet.
After lots of noise from the crowd, they came back out with a beautiful "Footsteps". I've heard the harmonica on this song, but I didn't remember how beautiful it is. Ed kinda warmed up with it away from the mic and we could hear how beautiful it was going to be. But when he played it in the mic, I was completely mesmerized. "This next one is dedicated to a friend I'm going to meet for the first time from West Memphis" and they rip into "Baba O'Riley". Being from Arkansas, I'm just sure he is dedicating this song to one of the West Memphis 3 and all I can figure is that he must be going to drive an awfully long way to go to the prison. "Baba" is awesome and is a perfect lively, sing-along closer for this totally energetic show.
We are left, but are not wanting to leave. It's so hard to walk away from such a perfect show. This show had every element of my idea of the perfect concert... beginning with the front row seats thanks to the Ten Club, the awesome interaction between the crowd in the front and the band, the Elvis tributes, the wonderful mix of songs from all their albums, the absence of Jeremy, Last Kiss and Daughter (which would have been welcomed, but weren't really missed), the second encore of Footsteps (with harmonica) and the closer of Baba.
I still have Nashville to go, but I don't see how any show this tour can beat this exhilarating night in Memphis.