We arrived at the AmSouth Amphitheater around 2:45 pm. Like the good sheep we are, we saw a line of cars parked waiting for a side gate to open at 3 pm and took our place in line. By 3:15, the gate had not opened, and we were all melting in the heat. I decided to call the venue to find out when the gate would be opened, but couldn't find the phone number in any of my Auto Club literature or internet printouts, so Darlene dug out her mini-guide from 5H. Voila! The phone number! The woman who answered told me the gate we were at wouldn't open until 5 pm, and told us to go to a different gate so we could pick up our fan club tix from the box office. We thought it only right to share that info with the others waiting, so Darlene told the people directly ahead of us and behind us what the scoop was, and asked them to pass it along. One by one, all of us tore off for the right exit, and took our places in line at the box office.
While I was in line, Darlene went around the corner to see if those guitar twangs we heard was the PJ sound check. I picked up my tix, glanced at them, put on my best poker face, and found Darlene. Perhaps there is such a thing as karma, because our tix were for Row A, Seats 13 & 14. Front row right in front of Jeff!
We returned to the venue later, and endured a search at the gate that was about one level away from a full-on strip search. Milled around, chatted with some friends, paid sporadic attention to Sonic Youth's set. Time for PJ to come on! We claimed our spots at the barrier and I got my cameras ready.
It's difficult to write a review from a front row perspective, because it's so mesmerizing to focus on the band's actions and interactions. You end up using your eyes more than your ears to experience the show. The intensity of the experience is almost overwhelming.
The guys started their set with "Sometimes." It was over 100 degrees out, and with each song, Eddie became more drenched, sweat flying from each shake of his head. The heat didn't detract from the performance nor the crowd's enthusiasm. Throughout the set, Mike was interacting with the audience, fingerpointing, mugging, and tossing guitar picks by the handful. When Red Mosquito started, Eddie starts right in singing, prompting Stone to laugh and shake his head "No, you're waaay too early, dude." The look of "whoops" on Eddie's face was priceless.
Let's just say we definitely had an incentive NOT to pass out from the heat and excitement. It happened quite unexpectedly actually. We honestly didn't expect it, but earlier in the day, Gina discovered her Ten Club tickets were in the FRONT ROW!! We were stunned to say the least, expecting fairly decent seats but nothing near like these. I'm not sure exactly HOW hot it was, at least 90 degrees…just that if anything, after the show ended, it was STILL hotter than hell. Ed definitely had it right.
As the anticipation started to build after Sonic Youth's set, we got to know a few of our seatmates (always a good idea), and people start guessing the opener. It turned out to be Sometimes, which the crowd seemed to embrace. They immediately kicked into Breakerfall and Corduroy which changed the dynamics considerably. God's Dice was up next and I'm thankful for hearing this live for the first time, even with Ed fucking up the lyrics a bit. After DTE, Ed came up with the perfect quote to describe the evening: "Hello Tennessee... if it was three degrees hotter, you'd think it was hell... at least it ain't Arkansas."
Just a weather related note: Although the rest of the band was wearing shorts probably because of the intense heat (well, Jeff had ¾ pants), Ed amazingly came out with a long button-down sleeve shirt over a t-shirt and black jeans. Eventually he lost the over-shirt (revealing an inside-out t-shirt). But I don't think I've ever seen anyone generate that much sweat! Actually, all the guys were just drenched (along with the crowd of course) and at one point when Ed shook his head the sweat was just flying. I'm sure the onstage electric fans did little to help, although Ed would occasionally stand behind one sending his soaked hair flying back.
Right before Red Mosquito, Ed acknowledged some of the signs in the crowd, getting huge approval when he laughed and said "we're going to play them all". This must have distracted Ed a bit cause he started singing the words to Red Mosquito before he was supposed to, resulting in Stone (who was in an awesome mood ALL night) shaking his head "no" in amusement. Right before Wish List, an "Eddie, Eddie" chant started, prompting Ed to snarl a quick "don't piss me off!" before he laughed. During Wish List, Ed smiled and smirked after the "fortunate as me" line.
Next, Elderly Woman became the usual sing along and I was very excited to hear the start of Untitled, a song I had always hoped for, so it was a double pleasure since it meant we would most likely also get my favorite concert song from Yield, MFC. Of course it WAS up next and damn just like '98 I'm wishing it went on about 5 minutes longer at least. The band seemed pleased when it pumped up the crowd.
Another highlight was when Ed, changing the pace after Evenflow, said "now we're going to do a ballad" and they started into Present Tense, such a beautiful song for a steamy night. Somewhere around this time there was some trouble, both with the drum set and the lighting (which prompted Ed to flip off the offending light that was shining too brightly in his face).
Up next was Animal changing the mood 180 degrees and featuring Mike taking off his shirt so we could all check out his new tattoos. At this point Ed chucked the mike stand and got a new one. And Mike spurred on by "his" section, threw out a fistful of picks right as they went into Once, which sent everyone scrambling. Next we got Of the Girl for the 2nd night in a row (for those of us who were in Memphis) and I'm thinking yes, this is soooo right…it fits the night. And thankfully they played Insignificance too which hopefully will be part of EVERY show this tour. The set ended with a thundering Rearviewmirrow with the strobes as Ed furiously swung his guitar back and forth.
The first encore started with Ed jumping down from the speaker as the band came back and started into Last Exit and then Go. And Jeremy was the usual crowd pleaser. At this point Ed started grabbing his throat and seemed to want help from us as he got the crowd to do the woos at the end. After which Ed said "I visited the Memphis 3 yesterday, in Tucker, Arkansas; my mind is not here, it's in prison."
One thing about Ed, he seems to notice all when he looks into the crowd. Sometimes it's hard to know exactly what he is focusing on, but he DID keep looking about 4-5 people down from us where there was a guy in the front row. But unlike the rest of us against the barrier he was propped up with crutches against his seat. At this point, Ed started pointing at him and after a little discussion and a few gestures, Pete brought him up on stage to everyone's amazement. It appeared at first that Ed wanted him just to do a 1, 2, 3, 4 before the next song. Ed shared his wine bottle with him as he talked to him (while Mike is playing riffs that sound like "I'm Losing You" during this time) and the guy is introduced as "Andy". Ed told him to "have more wine". The crowd then started chanting "Andy, Andy" and at first Ed looked pissed until he realized we are doing an Andy chant and not an Eddie one. This pleased Eddie mightily by the smile on his face. Andy fucked up the 1, 2, 3, 4's and Ed then decided instead to let him sing the first verse of Smile, as Ed played the harmonica! Ed and the whole band (and the crowd) were just cracking up. Andy and Ed eventually ended up trading verses as everyone was just losing it. At one point Ed even took and held Andy's crutches as Andy attempted to dance. The song eventually became a sing along between EVERYbody. Ed is pogoing at this point. And Andy got a HUGE response from the crowd and the band (Ed shook his hand) as he left. Just a classic moment. I don't think I can ever think of Smile again the same way. The smiles on the bands' faces and their enjoyment is by far the highlight.
And then, finally (after Leatherman and Soldier of Love), a song I have been waiting for absolutely ages for…PORCH!! Damn, it had been so long. At some point during the song, Ed was looking exhausted and of course he is wringing wet and he sat down on the speaker in front of us (of course I am nudging poor Gina to take pictures, not that she needs any prompting). In the middle of the song, Ed added some new lyrics… "It's 23 degrees in here and pointed to his head, if I offend anyone I'm sorry, burning, burning." Towards the end he walked over to the speaker by Stone, leaned on it, and laid his head on his arm and just watched Mike. Porch is an awesome way to end the night, but of course we are hoping they will come back out and they don't disappoint. Ed seemed to be searching for requests in the crowd and mentioned signs for Hungerstrike ("Chris isn't here"), and Mankind (Stone doesn't look enthused). Some people are obviously saying Yellow Ledbetter, which they started into, signifying the end of an amazing evening!!
© 2000 Darlene Patten and Gina Gillman
photos ©: Gina Gillman