I have to admit that I was thrilled to hear that PJ would be playing one show in Saratoga. I could have sucked it up and fought the traffic at Jones Beach. (I would have been happy to go to all three shows) Let's face it. I don't think I could have convinced my wife to go to all those shows anyway. She likes PJ, let's leave it at that. I had a feeling that the show in Saratoga would be special for some reason.
I got my tickets from the Emperor ah.. Ticket master. They even tried to proposition me for a t-shirt and the place/date book. Shameless. Anyway, we made the trip up to Saratoga. A much more agreeable ride. I'll take it any day over the LIE (Long Island Expressway). We got there around 6:00PM. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the venue, it's smack in the middle of a huge state park. Absolutely beautiful place to have a show. The parking was a little annoying. There's a one lane road that leads into the park. The parking lots are scattered about the grounds and broken up into picnic areas. So depending on where you parked, you had to hike to the amphitheater.
6:45 or so...
We are walking to the gate. Tailgate parties are in full swing. Friendly group of PJ fans. I'm starting to salivate at this point.
Sonic Youth takes the stage as we are filing in. I missed most of their show because I was checking out the vendors. Looking at the t-shirts, you know, the tourist thing. I did catch the last three songs and they were actually very good. The crowd wasn't into them at all. We find a spot at the top of the lawn. If you saw it, you might call it the parent section. (You'd be right.) It was nice to see families taking in the show. Let's face it, when we grow up and have kids we'll be cartin' em off to see their favorite bands too. The view to the stage was a little obstructed but I'm 6'2" so I could see from about anywhere. Luckily there are projector screens for the benefit of the less fortunate.
Lights go down, Baba O'Riley starts... They are on stage. They waste no time and rip into Breakherfall. Tight version. Clear and crisp. The sound quality of this show is incredible. I have to admit I was hoping for Of The Girl, but who am I to complain? Whipping is up next and it was a real shock. Again a tight version. Spin The Black Circle is another surprise. Early in the set too. The band is really on. Mr. McCready was all over the place and on fire. Hail, Hail and a blistering version of Corduroy are next. I love the pause in Corduroy. Matt's drumming is something you can only experience live. He drives every song and fits in so well.
In My Tree comes virtually out of nowhere. I hear a lot people screaming "oh shit!" Great to hear this one. I heard it in Hartford in '96 and I was hoping it would resurface. Ed speaks for the first time. He goes on about the last time they played at Saratoga and how he was wearing the same shirt. He also mentions that the last time at SPAC they opened for a band called Soundgarden. "We're gonna continue with a song called Dissident." Huge cheer for this one. The crowd sings along for most of the night. We are treated to a spectacular Given To Fly. Now it's time for Mike to step up. Nothing As It Seems is all McCready. His solos are out of this world. You can tell he really enjoys this one. This song really takes off when played live.
Grievance and Light Years are up next and are amazing. Ed speaks again after Light Years. He mentions the passing of the inventor of the lava lamp and how he was an avid nudist. The song is dedicated to him. Daughter ends the little Binaural trip for now. The tags were "Beginning to see the light" " Hey, Hey it's O.K." and "WMA" which caught everyone off guard. More singing from the crowd. Especially for WMA. Lukin comes next. It was my wife's first time hearing it. When it was over, she said " That's it":)
Next we get MFC and then Wishlist. Before Wishlist, Ed talks about working with primates and how they can sign words but not in the correct sequence. So he wrote a song that even an ape could play. Having said this he flubs a line and laughs at himself. Afterwards he says evens apes screw up sometimes, let's see if I can get this one right. A splendid Betterman is offered next. No tag but still splendid. Ed holds the last "man" for an eternity it seems. Definite crowd pleaser with just about everyone singing along. Even Flow is stolen by Mike. Extended solo really brings it home. WOW! Insignificance is the setup and Rearviewmirror is the knockout punch. I love the way Jeff screams the backup vocals on this one. "BOMBS... DOWN!!!"The pause during Insignificance with the lighting effects really make this one get noticed. This was a highlight for me. The two songs that closed the set left us all reeling and gasping for air wondering " what just hit us?" The jam in the middle of RVM was really tight, and almost deliberate, but that was just the beginning. The end of the song is extended with distortions and strobe effects which were AWESOME! (Very much like Pinkpop 2000, if you have heard that version) Can't really do it justice with words.
The period before the first encore is very animated. Even in the parent/ chaperone section. I overheard a father say to his teenage daughter" I can see why you were so excited to see them." The reaction was the same from the family in front of us. They were very impressed with the quality of the show and were wondering if it was over. NO CHANCE!!! I hear a group of kids trying to figure out what they would close with. They were thinking they would only get one song. Sorry kids. Make yourselves comfortable.
They come back out and Ed intros the 2nd half of the show, which draws a huge reaction. He says it's very humbling to have a turnout like this. (30,000 strong) He thanks everyone for driving the aforementioned winding one lane road to make this happen tonight. He then says "I see a lot of signs for songs, but I don't see one for this one's called Sleight of Hand." Hearing this live really opened my eyes to this one. It was such a great version and it seemed just right under the stars. A really mellow opener to the "2nd half." The pace picks up with Do The Evolution and a rare Once. Timeless Melody comes next and I am thrilled to death to hear it. I had heard on a few of the shows I traded for but, I needed to hear it live. Great cover and a fun song. Elderly Woman draws the big "HELLO!!!" from the crowd and puts a smile on everyone's face. We are then treated to Leatherman. Wasn't expecting this one at all. I was silently hoping for Nothingman but I didn't want to push my luck. I know I mentioned this before but, the sound quality of this show was amazing. The best I've ever heard. We were way up in the cheap seats and we heard every note. The same goes for the songs. All really tight and polished. Even the hard rockers are refined and clear. Then, I thought mabye we would get Immortality, I hear "1 2 3 4..." Fuckin' awesome rendition of Porch. Complete with "Voodoo Chile" riffs just like Atlanta '94.
My prayers were answered when Ed strolled out with the "OO-klele" as he called it. He said he didn't have this the last time they were there. He starts Soon Forget, much to my delight. He gets through the first verse and stops because the clapping is off beat. " It's nice to have the support, but it would be nicer if it was on time." He picks up where he left off listening while playing. When the crowd finds the beat he nods dramatically with a huge grin on his face. He finishes without incident. Now for the real gem of the night. Black is absolutely mind-blowing. Over the years Ed would continue to sing during the solo at the end. Lately he has been stepping back and letting Mike dazzle us with his guitar work. Tonight was, in my book the best version of Black I've ever heard. Mike just tears it up and steals the show. With the spotlight on him, he took us along on one hell of a ride. Then to seal the deal and make up worship him even more he drops Yellow Ledbetter on us. Complete with a few Led Zepplin riffs. I normally would have been a little upset about YL being played but, that McCready guy just changed my mind.
Unbelievable show!! Fabulous setlist. There was something special in the air. I think the band sensed it and those of us who were lucky enough to be there were treated to a gem of a show. Now it's off to the wilderness to find my car and drive about two hours to my bed so I can relive every moment of the show.
© 2000 Frank Grillo