I woke up on the morning of October 25 at my parents' home with a bad cold, one I had probably picked up during my travels to the Las Vegas and Greek Theater shows. After downing a cup of tea, I sneezed, coughed and sniffled my way down the 5 to my apartment in San Diego. I had only a couple of hours to rest before driving to the Sports Arena and getting in line for fanclub tickets.
After waiting two hours, I received my tickets -- Row 4, seats 2 and 3, far right side of the floor. I admit to having had some concerns over the ticket distribution this year, but having been a member of the fanclub for 4 years, fourth row seats seemed right. Plus, my seat offered a perfect view of Stone mouthing the chords and doing his little pigeon-head dance.
Killed a few hours, found my friend Hope, who was going to be sitting with me, and then finally entered the arena around 6:45. I hadn't really watched Supergrass the first two nights, so I decided to relax and take in their set. Enjoyed their music, though I only recognized a couple of songs. And I was close enough to see Gaz's sideburns.
Finally, after Supergrass's set ended and 30 minutes had elapsed -- time which included a random encounter with a former co-worker and her sister -- Pearl Jam took the stage to the now-familiar strains of a classical version of "Baba O'Riley". I admit my heart dropped a little when I saw Ed pick up a guitar, as I was hoping to hear "Release" or "Oceans," but then I was glad to hear the show start with "Long Road". I think that song always takes on extra meaning in San Diego, since it was inspired by the death of Ed's high school drama teacher. And it set the tone for an evening in which Ed would speak fondly of the town he had lived in for so many years.
After the mellow opening of "Long Road," the concert took on an incendiary pace, with "Breakerfall," "Corduroy," and "Whipping" following in short order. In between songs, Ed would blow his nose; I empathized deeply with my fellow cold sufferer. I felt that Ed's voice sounded a bit off due to his cold - though to be fair, it might also have been the Sports Arena sound system -- but the passion and conviction was not missing and the band was its typically great self.
When Ed first spoke, it was to question why it's the San Diego Sports Arena (I yelled out, "Hey we have the Gulls!" -- a minor league hockey team -- but he didn't hear me), noting that both he and fellow San Diegan Matt Cameron had often attended shows at the Sports Arena but had never seen a sporting event. That night was my third show at the Sports Arena -- I had seen Pearl Jam 5 years earlier and the Who in August of this year. In much worse seats, in both cases.
The rest of the set included the pairing of "Rival" and "Jeremy," as Ed bridged the songs with brief mentions of the inspiration behind Stone's and his lyrics, and a surprisingly early appearance for "Rearviewmirror". After barely an hour, the band left the stage, leaving Hope and I to wonder if we might end up with a very short show. However, Ed surprisingly returned alone to play "Soon Forget," in the middle of the first set. Noting that this was the closest the band would get to Hawaii on this tour, he said he felt it was appropriate to play the ukulele. I had been delighted to hear that song at the Greek, as it was one of my must-hears, but it was even more fun to hear it and be able to see just how small the uke is. Toward the end of the first set, while the band played "Immortality" -- featuring Ed flubbing the second verse -- a banner was held up behind the stage reading "Ned, Will You Marry Me?" Ed glanced at the banner but made no comment. Whether Ned said yes remains a mystery.
The first encore again opened with Ed solo, sitting on a chair. He told us that he had talked to a friend about how rough a year it had been and how he had turned to this next song for comfort. A few people were hooting and Ed stopped and said, "Could you stop screaming for just a few seconds? . . . I'm talking about deep, deep depression and they're going 'Yeah!'" He started to sing a song that sounded vaguely familiar, though I couldn't place it. I had a hunch it was a Cat Stevens song, based on the lyrics and melody, and was glad to see my hunch confirmed when I returned home and read the setlist on 5H. Mike, Stone, Jeff and Matt returned and played "In My Tree," which I had never heard live before. I loved Matt's drumming on the song and was reminded once again about how thankful I am, and always will be, that he was there for Pearl Jam when they needed him. He'll always be my tour MVP.
Drawing again on his San Diego roots, Ed gave shout-outs to the cities (or, in this case, small towns) of Poway, Fallbrook, and Chula Vista before noting that the first Pearl Jam album was "all about teen angst," and that on the second album he wanted to write about the angst of older people, leading into Elderly Woman. Ed once again thanked San Diego, noting how lucky we are to live there and hoping that it would be warm enough to surf the next day, since unlike Matt, he doesn't enjoy surfing in 45-degree water. Though I'm a native of Southern California, I've only lived in San Diego for 3 years but I'm completely spoiled by the weather, hard to imagine living anywhere else.
The second encore began with Ed hilariously pointing to different sections of the arena, saying things like "I have to thank the people in 9A...can't forget those of you in 16B...can we get a hallelujah for the folks in 15C?" If you didn't know how much it meant for Ed to be in one of his hometowns, it was obvious then. The show ended, naturally, with "Yellow Ledbetter". While normally this song is not one of my favorites, it was a wonderful, warm-hearted rendition, with the lights up, Ed taking Polaroids, Mike playing a powerful solo, and everyone waving during the appropriate lines. What I had feared might be a short show ended up being a little over 2 hours long.
I've seen Pearl Jam in San Diego 3 times, and while the shows in 1995 and 1998 had their special moments, I don't think they come close to the emotional power we witnessed this time out. Can't wait to see them again here, and hopefully both Ed and I won't be as ill. But if you hear a cough throughout the boot, you'll know whom to blame.
© 2000 Laura Egendorf