First let me say that the Ten Club ticket tent was a sheer joy. I walked right up to the table, showed them my letter, and my I. D. and the lady looked at my number and said "You've been in the club for awhile haven't you?" I said "yes" and she looked at my tickets before giving them to me with a big smile saying, "third row orchestra, you got good seats." So with a big smile and suddenly shaking hands I set out to find my seats.
As I kept walking down the stairs of the pavilion towards the front, the stage kept getting bigger and bigger, as did the smile on my face. I sat down three rows back and what I knew would be between Eddie and Stone. Holding my head in my hands I had to take a deep breath. I couldn't believe that I was this close. After the initial shock wore off, I started talking with everyone around me, since I had an hour or so to go before Sonic Youth was to start and I must say Pearl Jam people are the best people around.
I was paying pretty close attention to what was happening on stage, and as a stagehand set a guitar and stool up in front of the microphone in the middle of the stage, everyone's first thought was "Eddie is gonna do a solo set!!!" Everybody around me kept talking about this, telling my uncle and me to stay seated, Eddie was definitely coming out.
Sure enough before too long Eddie walked up and said "good evening" and instantly started playing a song at the time I did not know, but which I loved. There is still a certain aura around Eddie that's hard to explain, especially when you are this close. Eddie was sounding great in both his singing and playing, and my uncle who I thought might not enjoy this show was also very much into it. The girl next to me did not recognize Eddie when he first came out because he had a beard. I had to tell her "that's him." To which she replied "No it's not." However, after he said "good evening" and began talking it was obvious that it was Eddie. No one has a voice like that. After playing "Dead Man" second, Eddie was tuning back up and everybody was yelling and he was getting frustrated cause he couldn't hear the notes. Then three guys from Sonic Youth came out and they and Eddie played "Parting Ways" and before I knew it Eddie was gone. Even my uncle was asking Eddie not to leave.
I feel I must explain why my uncle was with me, when he might not like the show. I had originally given the second ticket to my best friend as a wedding present, but he couldn't get off of work, and my girlfriend gets freaked out around crowds, and my friend from Boston was going to go, but she couldn't swing a ride down, so my very cool uncle who grew up in the area of the pavilion, and was driving anyway, got elected. Needless to say he loved the show, in fact he started to wear his Pearl Jam shirt to work the day of yearbook pictures. Did I mention he is a teacher? Chalk up another Pearl Jam fan.
The next thing that happened was a guy came to the microphone and said that for personal reasons Sonic Youth wouldn't be playing, and that Pearl Jam would play as soon as the stage was changed and the crowd got in. At this announcement several people started clapping which I thought was horrible. I'm not a fan of Sonic Youth but that's just in bad taste.
Pearl Jam's first set was actually quite a blur but I will hit the highlights that I can remember. I do recall Eddie seemed to be quite pissed at Mike about something for the first few songs. It at least looked like he threw 2 different things, which might have been picks, at him. It wasn't the throwing that made think Eddie was pissed, but the looks Eddie flashed at Mike would have killed an ordinary person. Looking back Mike had a rough time most of the night. He seemed frustrated for a good portion of the night, and at one point when he broke a string he was shaking his head and looking very upset causing (maybe) his guitar tech to give him a little slap on the back to make him feel better. I know he didn't look too happy when Eddie went into the first tag for Daughter. In fact he looked right at Eddie and rolled his eyes, when it started. Most of this fighting, or whatever it was, seemed to disappear as the night went on.
A lot of these bad feelings seemed to come from whatever had happened to Sonic Youth, as Pearl Jam was not in a particularly good mood. Eddie said if it wasn't for us (the audience) being there they probably wouldn't have played, but our presence made that impossible. However he went on to say that they would have probably just listened to music to get through it anyway so here we are. Truthfully I think it worked, everybody seemed better by the end of the night, especially the band. The night seemed to be a lot about healing.
As far as songs go "Grievance" and "Insignificance" are so much better live than on the album it's scary. Maybe it's that in comparison there is a lack of energy on the album. There were moments during "Rearviewmirror" when I thought the song was falling apart everybody seemed all out of time and the sound was all jumbled up, but it soon got to the point that they were doing this on purpose and put the song back together and at the end I thought my head would explode from the intensity of the sound being put out. Another thing they did that made for a good show was during "Insignificance" when they would be rockin' along and after the line "Let the song protest" the music would just stop, the light would all go out, and you couldn't see or hear anything on stage. The pause seemed to last forever, then it they would start back together perfectly. The "its OK" tag for Daughter was probably a highlight for me. Eddie grabbed his notebook and sung out of it. It made the performance seem very personal to me and I'm sure to a lot of the crowd. I don't care how many times he has done this during the tour, it made the performance seem personal to D.C. Eddie also kept trying to get Stone to quiet or slow his playing down with hand signals for a few seconds while doing that. There are times when I think the "Daughter" tags are kind of out dated since it's not the early Nineties anymore and I think the audience has lost some patience, but this show has wiped all of those feelings away.
After the first almost one and a half hours of straight music Pearl Jam left the stage when I looked at my watch, I couldn't believe that much time had gone by, and they had played so many songs. When the band came back out they went into "Leavin' Here" my jaw dropped. I heard this back at Charlotte, NC in '96 and never thought I'd here it live again. Also before "Wishlist" Eddie said something about this being for one of his friends, and I took it to mean that he was referring to Kim from Sonic Youth. Whoever he was talking about, he said it was one of her favorites, and then the mirror ball came down. I think the effect of the mirror ball is very cool and creates a great atmosphere, especially for this song. I realize that a lot of people are tired of this song but I am not one of those people. Even though there was nothing particularly great about the version of "Crazy Mary" it was still cool to hear a kind of unusual song. "Porch" came out of nowhere and picked the pace backup, and even my uncle was very impressed. People who say Pearl Jam have lost something obviously haven't been to one of their concerts. Porch was just as good now as I have ever heard it live.
Again, the band left the stage and I was still breathless. The next part is my very favorite part of the show. Only Eddie returned this time by himself and showed us the Ukulele, and stared talking about voting. Before basically endorsing Ralph Nader, he talked about the importance of voting, which I know he has done for awhile, and talking about registering people to vote, he said if people don't think there is a reason to vote "then they just aren't seeing it, because it's there sort of all around you, and it even has a name, it's things like Nike, and GE," but then he paused. So I yelled "MICROSOFT!!!" not thinking that he would actually hear me. To my disbelief Eddie stepped away from the microphone and was looking right at me and said, "what's that?" So I yelled "MICROSOFT!!!" again. With everybody in my vicinity staring at me, Eddie then said, "Microsoft??? You mean from Seattle? No, Seattle's just full of pure ethical people...hell, yeah, Microsoft." At this point my mind kind of goes blank being lost in the moment but I know that he wound up saying that Soon Forget was kind of written and dedicated with Bill Gates in mind right from the start.
Soon Forget was played and everybody was completely quiet and then they played "Indifference" and I was so afraid that this might be the last song. Somehow despite everything to the contrary, I felt like something was missing, Eddie said something to the effect of "thanks for everything in the past, and we'll see about the future, but thanks for the present", then I heard "Keep on Rockin' in the Free World" I was so happy, this brought a great end to the show. I got a smile from Stone when I gave him a "thumbs up" as he was totally rockin' out while singing background vocals.
Speaking of Stone, while Eddie is pure intensity and can bore through you with his eyes, Stone has his own way of being very entertaining. He has such a wry smile and is very reserved for the most part, but when he cuts loose its all the more impressive. Stone is like a metronome, he never missed a beat, and besides breaking some strings, I don't think he screwed up all night. Before the song ended Eddie gave a guy in a wheelchair his tambourine, which proved again to me that Eddie is the coolest guy on the planet. At least ten times I could swear that Eddie was staring right at me while singing, and my uncle got the same feeling. This, to me is proof of Eddie's greatness at performing. I know that sounds odd about him, but he truly is great at making you feel like you are important to him, at least when you can read his face. Jeff, Mike and Matt never made over to my side of the stage and other than the possible spat between Eddie and Mike I can't comment on how they performed other than the songs seemed really focused and tight. Maybe to get the night over with to deal with whatever tragedy was going on.
My only hope for more music was that I saw a guy bring out the Polaroid camera, but I never saw Eddie use it. Looking back on the show I wish the band had been in as good a mood the whole night as they were by the end of the show, and the thing about "we'll see about the future" has me a little worried. Besides that, the songs were tight, and Eddie screwed up very few lyrics, and the sheer volume of songs that they played was amazing. The ability to be 10 feet from the band and read facial expressions and see some kind of band communication was awesome. It's really hard to put into words how this show made me feel, but I was very glad to be at this show.
© 2000 Aaron Currence
top photo © Michelle
other photos ©: Aaron Currence