"it's been the craziest life you've ever lived"
Key Arena, Seattle, WA
6 November 2000
DISCLAIMER: It's long. It's emotional. It's highly personal. If any of this bothers you, DON'T READ IT. You have been warned.
The last show of the tour. End of the road. There is this odd, tense, yet excited vibe surrounding people today. In 1998, there was this almost celebratory feel to the last shows; we all wanted to be there, hated to miss it, but it was still overwhelmingly happy. Today, everyone just seems tired. This tour has been a long six months for us all, long and emotional beyond belief.
Despite calling in sick, I end up working a few hours remotely, phoning in to my 12 noon meeting. "I just want to understand what my priority is this week," asks someone on the team. "Oh, you mean besides Pearl Jam?" someone else in the room smirks. Dammit, I'm not slacking, if I was slacking I would still be asleep! *grumble* We get to the box office around 1, just to see what is up; I do not have the strength to play upgrade today. I am sitting in my seats and that is it. They were hard sidestage, Mike's side, and that is fine with me. But then my companion is talking with friends at the box office and several hours later, the phone rings: do we want these seats in row 19, Mike's side? I'm about to say "no" because past row 15 it gets hard to see, but I say "yes" (after much convincing from my compatriot) - I totally forgot what we learned the night before, that they removed 10 rows. So it went 1,2,3,4,5,16. (Why? Who knows!) We are 9th row. 9th row! I am truly blessed.
I try for posters again -- plenty of people shut out last night, or aren't here, someone will need them -- but the lines are long and I have my two and after last night's near-miss I am taking no chances. I head straight for my seat and just sit and try to focus. Besides, I really want to see Wellwater Conspiracy; I am one of the few people who has actually seen them (8/30/97, which I believe was actually the first show, supporting a 'surprise' Mudhoney gig at the Croc) and I genuinely like them. Funny how a really obscure Soundgarden side project has become this *big deal*! Anyway, the members of WWC take the stage in a VERY empty arena; most people are even sitting down. Mr. Tad Dameron (as Matt was originally billed in WWC in the Soundgarden days, so as to get out of A&M contractual obligations) looked so proud and happy, and he should be. This is one great band. Anyway, so I'm enjoying this along with a few friends, and then a few songs in, of course the inevitable; Ed walks out onstage, dressed very dapper. (C'mon, who didn't see this coming, he talked about it all tour!) It takes most of the seated crowd several minutes to even realize that it's Ed, and then those who were sitting there filing their nails are suddenly feigning extreme interest. He thanks us at the end of his two songs, and tells us he will be on the forthcoming third album. (My comment: "Thanks for that confirmation, Ed!" as I write it down.) Ed drops back to his vantage point at the side of the stage and Ben Shepherd comes on to take over vocals. (Always an adventure.)
We had originally thought that the front rows had gone to the scalpers tonight (judging by the ticket auctions we were seeing on Ebay), but by our reckoning, it looked like it alternated rows of band seats with seats sold to the public. Lots of friends and family. They take care of us so well through the fan club and through the day of show releases, I am glad that their friends get good seats for this one show. The real celebs, of course, are sidestage. The ever-present Krist Novoselic. Kim Thayil. Mark and Steve from Mudhoney. Your basic Seattle luminaries.
The Chili Peppers throw down the gauntlet tonight by opening with "Pinhead" by the Ramones, and play yet another stellar set. In between sets, nerves are frayed; people are tired and emotional. But then there's "Baba" once again, one more time, and I'm crying like I did the first time I heard this as opening music (New Orleans; they didn't start using it in Europe until London, and Nola was my first east leg show.) There is so much emotional resonance for me with the whole Lifehouse project; next to seeing Quadrophenia performed live, it was something I never thought I'd ever see in my lifetime. To have this version of this song, such a pivotal part of the work, inexorably linked with Pearl Jam forever is this wondrous thing. Where the song fits in the story, it expresses triumph and tragedy, and I cannot think of two more apt words to describe Pearl Jam on this tour. But I digress.
For this reason, I am totally numb through "Release". I could not guess an opener tonight, I was beyond analysis and theorization; I was just here, I just wanted to be here and so grounded that I could remember every second. To me, "Release" was always the definitive Pearl Jam opener, and time has done nothing to change that opinion; no other opening song seems to have the same powerful, evocative qualities. It raises energy, it unites an audience in a way unlike any other opener does. I'm not saying it's the "best"; sometimes it would be wrong for the energy presented, or for the feeling the band want to create. Tonight, however, there was no other possible option.
Dischord. Those two chunky noises that we now know means "Corduroy". This song takes the energy, thrusts it out upon the audience and says "here. catch! your turn!" The crowd responds wonderfully; this is not like last night. I am in a row of friends, everywhere I look I see someone I know, and this is how it should be. The last show. I kept saying all day, I don't care how good the seat is, tonight it's all about who you are sitting with.
"Have a drink, they're buying..." "Grievance" and the crowd response is DEAFENING. On Election Eve, this could not be more ironic. And then - what? NOW?? Already! None of these tentative chords that kind of sneak up on you, tonight they just charge right in: "Rearviewmirror"! Look at the setlists, it's a very different quality of show when RVM is early rather than late; in my opinion, it's a challenge to work this song into the set early. It changes the dynamic of the show when RVM leads instead of follows, is a point of origin rather than a destination.
This was the moment when this show entered the major leagues. They played well last night, but tonight has that certain elusive quality you can't quite put your finger on, that turns it into just something -- other. There is this quiet strength eminating from the stage. Mike is doing these running leaps up onto his monitors, running up and falling back. "It wasn't my surface most defiled...," Ed drawing the last word out until he runs out of breath.
Of course, with RVM integrated into the set and not a closer, the jam needs to be tighter, more focused, more direct, and that's what it was; but it was also this commanding, compelling experience, so many different layers of music, this surreal purple light on the stage; Ed is standing in front of Matt's kit and at one point he assumes this classic, spread-leg stance and just starts windmilling, windmilling wildly, I'm flashing to that 1968 Rolling Stone cover with Townshend captured at the apex of the windmill, spotlit. The closing staccato stanza has never been crisper, more driven.
There's some conversation and some tuning, and the crowd just spontaneously erupts in applause, simply out of sheer jubilation; then the band charge into "Hail Hail". Mike's flying into those kick-splits. "Evacuation" next; this version RULED. The vocals aren't forced, the melody is seamless; if you don't like this song or have trouble getting your ears around it, this is the version for you. Part of the problem with the song is the flow; the vocals are all over the place, it's sharp, it's deliberately jarring, that's the point -- it's just hard to get all the pieces working together when you're playing it live. Well, tonight they did. Ed is perfectly poised up there, singing: "it's like you're waiting for a diamond shore to wash your way..." Mike plays this delicate, scorching overlay at the end.
"Dissident". I've been thinking about this for a few shows, and -- does the very meaning of this word not define Pearl Jam this year more than ever? Does it not define Ed-as-bard to the court of Ralph Nader? "A dissident is here," indeed. "Escape is never the safest path," and all that. How many things have they done the hard way, or the different way, or just *their* way, when it would have been so much easier to just do what everyone wanted them to do?
"How's it going?" says Ed, waving. "Well, Seattle, this is it. One last show; we'll never play again, this is it, this is it." He looks sarcastic, tired and resigned all at the same time. This is not a pronouncement of doom, but this tour has to have felt like the world's longest tour to the band. Ed continues, after the crowd finishes booing: "...At least for quite a while; but it's good to end it here, and already you're better than last night; thank goodness. I'd like to remind some of the security officers right here," he points to the middle of the floor, the cross-floor aisle 9 rows back and dead center -- "I'd like to make friends with them all, yellow coats, right in the middle, you're all gathered talking because you don't have much to do, because everybody is minding their own business... but people seem to be okay, so between songs, you're kind of poking people in the shoulder, just -- everyone's good where they're at right now, for the rest of the evening I believe, so let's just have a good night of it, let's just enjoy the music, even you guys in yellow. Thank you." The crowd responds with a huge cheer of relief. [Sidebar: Security was *awful*; the first night, it took people hours to get in because they only had ONE entrance open. (They don't do that for Sonics games.) Despite statements to the media that they were going to open another entrance for tonight's show, they didn't. (We'd learn why later.)]
Ed continues: "So we're going to continue with a song called 'Nothing As It Seems,' thanks so much for coming." NAIS, and the wine is uncorked; Ed drinks between verses, wipes his mouth on his shirttail. Another solid, powerful version. "Home," Ed repeats at the end, seemingly stating the obvious, as thought it just occured to him that they are indeed home.
Oh man, how completely unexpected, how totally wonderful: "In Hiding". Big grin, as he explains once again, "I was stoned as hell..." Earlier today, we were watching SVT -- it had been a while -- and just that scene with Stone explaining how he came up with the riff, and Ed's struggle to write words that fit it. "It's been about three months now since I've been aground..." Three months, length of this leg of the tour. He's glad to be home. I'm sure they're all glad, but Ed's weariness is more visible to us.
"This is song is actually written about, it's a true story about a guy who lived in the late 1800's" -- people actually cheer loudly in recognition! -- "...his name was Leatherman," he finishes. Mike is running in circles, being silly, endearing. It's such a sweet little ditty.
The sidestage section where all the tourkids ended up starts a "Jeff" chant. "What?" Ed says. He moves to that side of the stage, cups his hand to his ear to listen. "I can't hear you," and the crowd cheers. "Thanks for that, but I mean this small group here." They chant louder. Matt starts a drumbeat to accompany it. Jeff blushes madly, Ed goes over to him; they laugh.
This inspires Ed to go off on a tangent: "We played a show in Las Vegas that was actually the anniversary of the time that we first played the Off Ramp, which was like 10 years ago.. and we got to profess appreciation publicly for Jeff and Stone's long-term relationship, we've all been benefitting from..." Jeff and Stone smile, Mike's laughing; the crowd applauds. "And I'm just happy that I got to come to Seattle and be fairly - people were really pretty kind to me, especially in the music community, and it meant a great deal." Huge applause. "And this next song is actually - I wrote it, like sitting on my bed when I was --" he gestures about waist height, and then stops. "Well, I'm only this tall now, but I was really - so, it's just kind of funny to play it now, much later - anyways, I'll just play it - but really, it was a long, long time ago - just, it's been the craziest life you've ever lived, that's all."
Did you guess? Of course you did. "Betterman". And I am this tumult of emotions. The crowd loves it, as they always do, it's this huge singalong. So many cameras are going off, it's this sea of flashes, there are so many that for a second I think the strobes are going off. "Can't find a..," Ed sings, "Bettermannnnnnnnn..." we finish. Once again, "SIFL" is missing in action, but Ed is improvising this whole song; it's hard to hear all the lyrics but "Here I come, I'm coming home!" stands out. Shift gears. "Nothingman." The song that we used to only hear at Bridge, the song that somehow materialized on the setlists with great frequence in 98. The first handful of times it appeared on that tour, I would think, "Okay, this has got to the the last time, there's no way this is going to become a regular thing," but it did. No matter when they play it, it is always welcome to my ears. It's one of those songs I consider a showcase for Ed's voice, and it does not disappoint tonight.
"Evenflow". It wouldn't be "Evenflow," ya know, if it was perfect. (All tour I'd had this idea, we should get a big roll of paper and write the words out, get it to fans in the front row, and then when they started playing the song, roll the words out. But then I figured he'd either be laughing so hard he couldn't sing, or so pissed off he couldn't sing, and in the end we'd get the same result.) The solo tonight is different, brighter, more dynamic. I love, I mean, I just love, Matt's transitional break bringing us back to the song. It's this little jazzy 10 seconds that was always different, every single night; sometimes he'd work into the solo with Mike, the rest of the time just him. Not this big flourishy thing, but it's one of the things that totally makes the song for me. The whole song is packed full of little moments like that, which is why I never want to see it leave the setlist.
"Jeremy". When you've written about PJ as much as I have, this is one of those songs where it's a serious challenge to find something to say about this song that I haven't said already! Perhaps this will explain the line in my notebook under this song that reads "Ed's batwings out of his ass." Another thing I love watching and love hearing and haven't yet gotten tired off, Jeff's 12 string bass. The Cheap Trick fan in me (Tom Petersson is the inventor of the 12-string bass for those who do not know) would like to see it used on more songs.
Last verse, and I look up at the rafters -- people are literally packed up to the ceiling, the very last row of the very upper sections, people are on their fucking feet, jumping up and down, spilling out into the aisles, there is not one empty seat, not one person sitting down, anywhere. Huge, huge, huge singalong, Ed can hear it and he really gets off on it. The last audience I saw that was like this was at MSG II (9/10/98). Do these people really live here??! I've never seen a Seattle audience like this for any show, ever.
That great "Lukin" straight into "Not For You" transition (which works so well; "Lukin" is so short that it feels incomplete, and if you pause after it to change guitars or whatever, it's just kind of hanging there. This is just so masterful.) Here I finally notice that Ed is wearing that "Celebration" shirt that he wore earlier in the tour. It makes me smile, he thinks of tonight as a celebration. Yes, once again, "Small my table, seats just one." People are going apeshit, on the top level of the arena straight back, they are dancing around at the entrance to the section; "My friends call me... in the back! You can call me," Ed sings, staring up and in the distance. The ending is extended and melodic.
"Daughter" and I count - what? 17 songs already? 17?! Things to love about "Daughter": Matt's drum rolls, Ed's voice, Mike bouncing around, Jeff on stand-up. (I can close my eyes and see it now. Can't you?) The bridge that transitions into the tag has become yet another experimental space for the band to explore; in the past they kept it kind of basic, letting Ed wander wherever he wanted to. But now the band kind of go off on their own journeys as well. Tonight, it's oddly quiet; Ed is clearly thinking. "Hey hey, it's okay..." he begins. Of course, it's "Androgynous Mind". He continues, "Sometimes you just need someone.... to say... it's okay...sometimes you just need someone... to say... it's okay... hey hey it's okay..." and he chants the last line over and over and over. I had started to wonder if we would get the Dead Moon "It's Okay" tag tonight; in a discussion a few weeks back, people were lamenting that this had disappeared and when it would come back; my thought was that the song had served its purpose, that it's absence from the set was a positive thing.
The break continues, the guys are riffing, Ed's hanging back again. He starts again: "Who am I, who am I, who am to talk?" over this spacey background. It starts to get quiet, people applaud thinking it's the end. "Heyyooo," Ed sings, tentatively. We sing it back, quietly. He sings it again. We sing it back, louder. Each call and response gets proportionately louder. Ed varies it. We sing it back, we don't miss a beat. He's getting off on it and so is the crowd, it's this marvelous back and forth thing, all I can think of is the Milan "Daughter". "Hey!" he continues, going higher and higher and higher and higher, the crowd matches him each and every time, he is practically screaming in the end and then just blasts off, he hurls himself backward with his last line, holding the mic stand with one hand and launching himself off of it, like he's riding the wave of energy from the crowd. At this point we are just screaming and cheering, this amazing communal thing that just -- happened. It was nothing short of tremendous.
"Thank you friends and neighbors, thanks a lot... Again, this is not to placate you in any way whatsoever, but you are absolutely twice, if not three times, if not ten times better than whoever was in the room last night," Ed says with satisfaction. The crowd explodes. "Absolutely true. And if you think we care about insulting the people who were here last night, we don't... except for Stone's Mom and Dad, I wouldn't want to upset them." Stone is laughing. "They were the only two rocking out, actually....he comes from a rockin' family," Ed says, almost under his breath. People start to protest. "But I think it made us all edgy today, because we knew this was the last show from a long year, and we wanted it to be as good as some of the ones that we have had, and I think the element of you guys in particular that made that possible, so, again, thanks."
We'd very much like to thank two really great bands..." he begins, and then stops himself. "Well, we can talk about that later. We got plenty of time, we're not going anywhere..." (Is that "Angie" I hear!!) "I would like to mention that there's a guy called Anthony Hurley..." We'd all been laughing and joking but we recognize the name, and just stop and pay attention. "...Who was one of the -- one of the people that --" It's tough to get this out, and in Ed's silence of hesitation, some idiots have to use this moment to scream shit like "PEARL JAM RULES!" which throws his concentration a bit; everyone else was quiet at this moment. (Hello, he's fucking talking, and you're obviously not fucking listening.) Ed continues: "He's from Australia, and he was involved in what we all went through in Denmark..." I take a deep breath. "And since then, we've actually got to know his family a little bit, and his sister, and some of his friends, and this is one of the songs that he really liked, and I didn't want the tour to end without playing it specifically for him." We applaud. "And for his brother and sister, who could be here... this is called 'Off He Goes'."
Ed is clearly emotional; he hits a wrong chord to start, and his voice wavers; around the second to last verse ("he still smiles/and he's still strong") he is particularly shaky. (For the love of Pete, this is NOT a criticism, it's just a description of what's going on.) As a fan, watching this is hard. I had missed that first week of shows in August, those shows where Ed was effectively taking his heart out of his chest and putting it onstage every single night, pulling himself through with the music; this has got to be a little bit of how it felt to be in one of those audiences, watching it happen.
Oh, how lovely, how appropriate. "Light Years". Some beautiful, soaring vocalization by Ed at the end. The string section appears on the side of the stage, so we know what's next. Ed is catching his breath: "We've got some help from some real musicians on this one.... c'mon, let's hear it for *real* musicians!" We gladly oblige. "We were fortunate enough to have them actually record this with us when this track was done in Seattle last year, they're here tonight to play this with us," and he introduces April and Justine again. "And the song's called 'Parting Ways'."
You could have dropped a pin, it was so unbelievably silent. Tonight you *can* hear the strings, and this is where I finally lost it. Just stood there crying silently, tears rolling down my face. Oh, what a year, what this band has been through, what we as fans have been through. Tonight is the keeper version, it has all the grandeur and majesty native to this song, lurking inside. The end, and Matt and Ed are directing this, Ed with the guitar neck, Matt smashing the cymbals for all he's worth.
Yet another chant. "Why Go Home!" Ed goes over to listen. "We are home!" he responds, and they charge full spead ahead into "Go"! Mike's got his jacket off and I see he's wearing an Iggy Pop shirt. Cool! The solo, and Mike's got the guitar behind his head...and then he's swinging it around... and then... oh no! Oh yes, that lovely emerald green Strat meets its maker as Mike smashes the shit out of it! BANG! Against the monitors! BANG! BANG! BANG! Against the floor! He gleefully hands the neck off to someone near the front.
this guitar has seconds to live.
Those ringing, heralding chords that seem to freeze the moment: "Once"! Then, there's some discussion onstage, are they calling an audible, what is going on. Stone and Ed, and then Matt, Jeff and Mike are chatting. "Crazy Mary" again! One of the biggest surprises of this tour was the reemergence of the song. And it's great, because to us it's this big rare thing, but to the non-insane fan, this is a song that got a huge amount of radio play, and they know it and like it - not knowing or caring how rare it is. "Little country store with a sign tacked to the side, said 'no l-o-i-t-e-r-i-n-g allowed'," and he counts out the letters on his fingers. The best thing about the song, of course, is that it's a fabulous showcase for Ed's voice at his best. They're at the end, Mike is playing, and I'm hearing this and going OH MY GOD and my friends say "what" and I'm going "THAT'S THE SOLO FROM 'STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN'!" and they look at me like I'm nuts. (I'm not. Definitely slower than Pagey would play it, but you listen and see.)
While "Immortality" is always great (although it the tendancy to become a lyric casualty), what has transformed this song in my mind is Matt's drum, erm, solo (okay i hate to us that word, it's like this bad 70's thing. Back in Soundgarden days, some fans asked him in an online chat if he'd ever play a drum solo, and he said it made him feel like he was in Iron Butterfly). If Mike McCready can keep the art of the guitar solo alive without it seeming masturbatory, then goddammit Matt Cameron can play a drum solo at the end of "Immortality". Actually, to be fair, it's not so much a solo as the fact that it's just his instrument being the focal point of that particular jam. Those little tentative guitar swoops into the ending. Jeff's bass playing counterpoint underneath it. Then the guitar riffs get more rhythmic; Matt picks it up too, and then they're all together; and then at some point he breaks away and becomes the dominant melody while the guitars and bass serve as the counterpoint for him. I wrote down, "BEST DRUM SOLO EVER" and I still stand by that.
Just when we're catching our breath, without any intro or any fanfare or anything, catching us totally by surprise -- there are those chords, and you stop for a second because you've heard them for so long that they're second nature, and then -- OH MY GOD! "ALIVE"! There is this 6-person group hug going on in our row, we are crying and screaming and laughing and singing it at the top of our lungs. The people around us, of course, are completely bemused: why are these people who are clearly huge fans getting so emotional over "Alive"? (I think someone explained it to them.) Have you ever been more happy to hear this song, any Pearl Jam song, in your life? I don't think so.
I can't believe it. I can't believe they're playing it. I mean, earlier, during "Off He Goes," I suddenly had this realization and turned to a friend and said, "You know, I think we might get the 'A' word tonight," but I honestly did not think they would play it. Pearl Jam are a band for symbols and the symbolism of its marked absence from the setlist this tour was powerful, and one all the fans respected.
On the other hand, bringing it out here made sense. My first feeling was just this tremendous sense of relief, like the guys were letting go of something. I was happy that they felt strong enough to play this. And we're watching them, we're watching them like hawks -- are they okay, are they doing okay -- and they were for the most part. Stone in particular looks a little emotional towards the end.
With that, they leave the stage for the first encore break. I know we need it and I'm sure they do about a million times more. Ed comes back alone, and we know what's up. He has the ukulele in hand. "You want some more?" We go nuts. "Okay, then, we'll finish the set on all ukulele. I'm going to play one original and then we'll go into 'Heavy Metal Hits of the 70's'," and he proceeds to eke out "Iron Man" on the uke. I laughed until my sides hurt. He continues: "There's gonna be *such* a party later on, after this whole thing, it's going to be so nice.... so this song, we'll include it in tonight's festivities, because it was written with a couple of our neighbors in mind--" People yell out various names. Doh!
Ed responds: "I guess, they're such an easy target, it's kinda silly, but it's definitely, like, Bill Gates and Paul Allen." He stops and thinks. I guess he's trying to be tactful here, but this is Ed, after all. He warms up to his subject: "I guess, Paul built the Experience museum project, and I think that's great, but why did he have to charge our city $500 million for a football stadium? I think that's ridiculous." Okay, can't disagree with that. Then he says, "It's hard to have anything but a love/hate relationship with -- rich people." ("What are you, Ed??!" I yell.)
Apparently so did a few other people, or maybe he realized what he'd just said: "I mean, compared to those guys, I've got just a little bit of money, and that makes me just hate myself. But I do know, and tonight's a good example, that when you do give money away, there's nothing that feels better. Or when you give, period, there's nothing that feels better... So all this is a little song that suggests that they could actually be the happiest people in the world if they decided to."
There is grumbling in our row, we're almost all bunch of computer geeks here, and goddamit we are not all evil monsters. But still, it's "Soon Forget," and we just heard Eddie Vedder play a Black Sabbath song on ukulele. It's kinda hard to stay pissed at the dude for long.
The rest of the guys come back out, and Ed's got some more to say: "And now we have the microphone, and we have a platform for the last time in a long time, we happen to be home...I'm just going to say something that really didn't affect the show at all, mostly thanks to you for having such good energy... but we had a little frustrating period in the last two days dealing with the city, and even though this is a show where all the proceeds, every dollar that you spent, was going to a number of different organizations in the city, a few nationally, I think it's almost $500,000 in two days -- I'm guessing, but I think that's it."
"And they -- I don't know if it's post WTO syndrome or something, but they're really paranoid in this city these days, and really overcompensating with security, and in fact if every one of you left right now, and only the security people here -- and no offense, I'm sure some of you are nice people -- there would be 270 people in yellow shirts. Which is a bigger crowd than most small bands get!" You can hear the frustration rising in his voice.
"It's bordering on ridiculous!" He plays this angry chord. "And I think we feel the need publicly to say that that's usually a cost of maybe $6,000 for security; tonight, because the city was demanding this of us to have this show -- they were --" Ed stops. He's clearly getting exasperated. "It's insulting, because after what we went through in Denmark, the last thing we would open ourselves up to was some kind of unsafe situation! And for them to go overboard on us...and you want to ask, but when will you get some respect in this town? When will music get some respect in this fucking town??!" Understand, this was not a lecture or a rant as much as it was a friend venting to his buddies.
"RIGHT ON!" I am the only local in my row and I am applauding him so hard my hands start to hurt, as this is one of my pet peeves. With all the money music and music tourism has brought to the city of Seattle, music is persecuted on a level you cannot believe unless you actually live here. It's impossible to have all-ages shows, it's impossible to have under-age shows -- it's amazing any bands ever came out of this city at all. [End rant, I'll let Ed finish for me.] "Let the kids go to teen dance shows, let them go to dance clubs, let them have an outlet! Look at this crowd tonight, they've been well behaved; I've been to a number of other things where people are well behaved. Give youth some responsibility, to be able to prove themselves, they handle themselves much better than people at -- Seahawks games, believe me," he finishes with disgust.
"So the cost of tonight - I don't know if it was tonight or over the two nights, it was $25,000 for the people in yellow shirts, and that's $25,000 that's not going to go to one, or a few of the groups that needed it. And I just feel like we needed to air that out so we can sleep well tonight and feel like we did a good job, and ask the city for some respect. So this song is dedicated to all those, there are some people here who are fighting with the Teen Dance Ordinance. Do it responsibly, give the kids some respect. This song's called 'The Kids Are Alright'."
[During the September tour break, it looked like the Teen Dance Ordinance was actually going to be abolished, and there was a city hearing where anyone could come and voice their support (or opposition). Ed showed up for the hearing. He didn't say anything, he didn't give a speech or make a statement (and boy, I bet he's one of the few people who could out-talk Krist Novoselic), all he did was very conspicuously walk in and sit in the back. Period. But do you know what happened as a result of that? Every local news broadcast carried footage of the hearing. Every single one. It was in the papers the next day with photos on page one. That wouldn't have happened if he hadn't shown up. If I'd been on tour with a rock band for three months, I'd want to be sitting on a beach somewhere, and Ed instead is out showing his support for a cause he believes in. (And if you want to read more about this travesty, click here, and I'll shut up now.)]
Full band TKAA once again, and you could not pick a more relevant song, or a better rendition. It's played with love and soul and enthusiasm. The final notes die down, and then Ed's got the tambourines and Stone plays those notes that can be no other than "Baba O'Riley". I throw my hands up in the air, grin like a madwoman, throw down the camera, notepad, pen, and look at my friends and yell, "EXCUSE ME, COMING THROUGH!" They help me clamber over the row in front of us so I'm in the cross-floor walkway, where I proceed to dance in complete abandon. Dance in the aisle! Let the guys in the yellow shirts try and stop me! "Don't cry..." Ed starts, and we finish the verse for him. He loves it. We love it. The guys love it. They are going nuts. I don't have precise details, because I am jumping up and down, running over to my friends, everyone's coming over, the lights are up, and it's the most joyous, celebratory, beautiful moment you could ever fucking imagine.
Mike starts playing some riffs that's clearly gonna be "Ledbetter" eventually, but then Ed starts talking. He thanks the Chili Peppers and their crew: "It was clearly an act of tremendous kindness on their part." He continues: "We'd like to thank, as a band, I'm just gonna go for it here, thank Matt Cameron for playing with us on this round of -- everything." Huge, huge, huge ovation for Matt. "And thanks to Chris, Kim and Ben, and felt that that was an okay idea, and his wife April, who played earlier, for letting us steal him away from home for quite a while, couldn't have done it without him... not to mention his other band, Wellwater Conspiracy," and he plugs Wellwater, and thanks them, and mentions they have a record coming out in a few months and that he'll be appearing on it.
Then the words no one wanted to hear, we know it's the end: "So, we're - this is it." You can hear the emotion in Ed's voice. "This is it, and we go home, and you go home too, and we'll see you at the voting booth tomorrow... if you don't vote, let that be your epitaph, if you don't vote tomorrow, let them put that on your fucking gravestone. 'Jack Smith: Didn't vote.' Vote. I'll see you there, and... that's it. Have a lovely life. We'll try to do the same. This is goodbye. Thanks for everything. For being so great tonight, and last night. Just tremendous. It's a gift to us." He just kept talking, like he didn't want to stop.
And here's the inevitable "Ledbetter". The solo, and Ed first watches the audience. One of our party had made two signs: "PEARL JAM: FOUR MORE YEARS" and they hold them up for Ed, and he sees them and laughs. Jeff, Matt and Ed walk behind the drums, watching Mike and talking. We get "Little Wing" again, and it's just as fabulous as it was the first night. Stone is putting on his jacket and looking at Mike kinda squinting, like "What's he doing?" Ed comes up and hugs Stone from behind. Jeff and Matt hug. Please, let this just last for the rest of the night, we are all thinking.
Ed comes to the mic for one more thank you, and walks all over the stage, waving at people. The other guys do too, but Ed prolongs his departure until he is the last one left on the stage. He is overwhelmed; we are overwhelmed. I will never forget the look on his face as he strode offstage, the notebook under his right arm, looking like he was going to break into tears. And then, he's gone. It's really over.
We are all hugging each other, trying to catch our breath. I myself cannot talk. Of course, security need to overreact to Ed's tirade and do everything they can to push us out of the venue, to the point where people left things behind in their rush. Amazingly, I am not crying. It takes me 30 minutes to walk from one side of the arena to the other because I keep running into people I know and I need to hug them and say goodbye; no one is really capable of coherent speech. I get to the front of the venue, and there are yet more people I have to hug and say goodbye to. I didn't really start crying until I hugged Shannon; I took one look at her face and then we hugged each other and that was it. Everyone there was crying anyway, so I didn't feel like such an idiot.
Do I think it's over? Speaking as the woman who has said "Oh god, this is the last tour ever" every year since 1994, I'm going to say "no". Do I think they are going to take a very long, much deserved break? Yes. Do I think we won't see an album or a tour for two years at least? Yes. Could I be completely fuckin' wrong? Yep. I still think that what happend on that stage tonight was the culmination of a very long and emotional year, a year in which these five guys walked through fire. But as Ed said in New Orleans, quoting Charles Bukowski: "What matters most is how you walk through the fire." They walked with strength and grace, and no matter what happens next, that is what this tour will be remembered for.
copyright © 2000 Caryn Rose
Photos by Sarah Miller, Caryn Rose and Mahlon Inksetter