Shoreline Ampitheater on Halloween, a year to the day since that magical Bridge 99 weekend of which PJ were an essential part. Of course, the one thing on everybody's mind is....
"Are they going to come out in costume??!"
Rumors were running amuck for a week or two and while I tried to close my ears and ignore it, it was clear that something was going on. Or at least being discussed.
So when the band walk out and glide into "Release," I hate to say that the first thing I noted was "no costumes!" That lasted all of five seconds, because that was followed by charging, snarling versions of "Breakerfall" and "Corduroy," which were also seemingly full of multiple Townshend jumps and windmills. "I'm already cut off, and fucking dead," growled Ed in the latter.
During a markedly tight "God's Dice" is when Ed noticed the costumes. Two fans in fanclub seats were dressed as George W. Bush and Al Gore. Brilliant! They had to have been planning this for weeks and I tipped my hat to them for their initiative. With this intense, satisfied smirk, Ed flips them the bird. The whole show, it seemed like he enjoyed having these visible targets for his vehemence.
"Animal," "State," follow in quick succession. After the blitzkrieg bop that was the Sacto show the night before, I was aspiring to see one of those shows that were nonstop rockers; despite the "Release" opening, this show was coming close. After State, Ed acknowledges the crowd, pointing out that "the people in the back tend to be scarier than the people in the front, it's just an organization of nature." He continues: "We've played San Francisco before on Halloween, there was the time we played the Greek Theater, maybe six years ago...my prize for best costume was a guy who had a gold lame cape and had a sign that said 'Will work for presciption drugs'. [applause] Oh, and there he is - so if anyone has some yard work, or something... I wouldn't trust him to do anything in the house...this song's about more of an organic high, and it's a true story, about a guy who smokes something about that long and falls asleep on the beach and wakes up with wings; it's called 'Given To Fly'." This song never fails to please, and it's always a pleasant surprise to see the reaction - hey, people *did* buy Yield!
"Alright, this next one, if I remember correctly, the first time it was ever played in front of an audience was right here on this stage, one of the Bridge School concerts... [applause]... before the last record had come out, and it's called 'Nothing As It Seems,' It's a wonderful memory and a rich version, too: Ed's bouncing during the musical breaks, his head back. Mike employs this strategic feedback during the last verse, reminding me of chirping birds.
"Wishlist" and we can breathe. I see someone with a Christmas tree costume (complete with star on top) dancing around. Ed's donned that beloved black Telecaster - have you ever seen that thing up close? It's beat to shit and the pickups are held on with black duct tape. Anyway, the song ends with this little flourish on the ebow, and then an extended last verse:I wish I could be 10 years oldThey charge straight into the warmly familiar and always welcome "In Hiding" - OH YEAH! "I was high as hell," Ed spells out for us once again, grinning. "MFC" positively CRANKS, totally rocks out, and has Stone duckwalking like mad. "There's a lot to be said for here." "Romanza" signals that it's time for "Betterman," and I'm reminded of the costume I saw before the show, some guy had BETTER/MAN written on a tshirt. (We were tempted to walk up and ask him, "So, your costume is that you're an abusive husband?" but then someone pointed out that if he understood the song, he wouldn't be wearing the costume.) Anyway, I've come to enjoy this song, because they like playing it so much, but this version lacks crispness. However, it is redeemed by a great version of "Save It For Later," ending with a passionate "Don't let me down..............." and this brilliant split kick. Totally channelling Townshend tonight.
Making the 10 year old scene
I wish I could be that young again
Seemed it ended at 15...
"Evenflow" is equally sluggish; I maintain that Matt (of all people! he never fucks this one up!) is off beat, but Jean thinks we're just so far away that it's echo. They speed up towards the end, but then it's too fast. (Have you noticed how Ed cheats on getting the lyrics right or not? He just jams the mic right up against his mouth and sings "harrrirhrrrahahshrrrrrrr" and it SOUNDS right, anyway.) There's some interesting guitar overlay Mike adds to the second verse; Jeff and Ed catch air in unison, and then it's, "Take it away...," and McCready totally redeems the whole thing with a sharp and passionate solo.
"Jeremy," and then an interesting little conversation from Ed, strumming his guitar the whole time: "It's amazing how many... that song's almost 9 years old, or something... and there's just -- still, it's even worse than ever, kids taking -- they got more ammo than homework these days, or something, but... I think it's only right, and that's why I'm voting for George W. Bush: a gun in every household and an AK in every paper sack. [strum] The young woman up front who threw us off, came wearing her George W. mask... [strum, big loud chuckle as the person in question displays her costume] and she's got a big executioner stick [an axe] as well!.. George W., the Texecutioner... what's really fuckin' scary is that he might win, jesus christ! [strum] That's okay; George W. wins, I bet within two years everyone's gonna be in the street, taking their country back from that fucked up human. And Ralph Nader will be at the head of the parade there [loud cheer]... Speaking of voting, there's the electoral vote, and then the popular vote, and, ya know, I think to be popular, you gotta vote. And this is exactly what your vote is not, and that's insignificant."
"Insignificance," and I am suddenly struck by - oh god. I will only get to see this song live three more times. (This tour, I mean. But still.) We're in the home stretch. I just cannot explain why I love this song so much, why it means so much to me, why it affects me so strongly. An undistinguished "Black" is followed by a solid, powerful "Porch," and then we're into the encores.
They take so long to come out I start to think, "COSTUMES!!!!!!" but then Ed comes out alone and I'm pleased. (This is Jean's last show out of her handful this tour, and she hadn't seen "Soon Forget" yet!) "What can we say, but the most meaningful, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you very much. We've actually had some really, really great nights in this, in this very atmosphere... Bridge School shows, and even old Lollapaloozas with Soundgarden, and... [applause] I think it always bothers him a bit, ya know, if i say something when he's out, but since he's not here right now, let's give a huge hand to such a tremendous person and drummer, Matt Cameron... truly incredible... [wild applause] he plays in a small combo, too, called Wellwater Conspiracy, and if you can, they're about to put out their third record, and if you can get ahold of it, it's just great, great songs... but of all the times we've played, there's never been a ukelele!" He brandishes it proudly. "Oo-kelele! I was gonna try to play one," he says, strumming, trying to get it in tune. "It doesn't like the cold," he admits, wistfully. "So, I'll dedicate it to all the dotcomers in Silicon Valley," he continues, which receives a resounding BOO. We can't tell if it's dotcomers booing or people booing in agreement with Ed. He seems to think it's the latter, as he follows up, "Oh, believe me, we have neighbors up in Seattle that are the same thing." Despite a little screech of feedback, it's so great to hear this. The crowd is wonderfully quiet and attentive, and there are camera flashes going off EVERYWHERE.
"While we're on a roll, might as well dedicate this one to the same fucking people," and "Whipping" crashes off the stage. This continues into "DTE" and you knew it was coming, Ed can barely sing because he is frantically waving the costumed Bush and Gore onstage. "Admire me, admire HIS clothes... Those ignorant Republicans believe in Bush!" They do themselves proud by dancing wildly, and at the end, Ed grabs the axe the Bush costume was carrying and proceeds to whack the hell out of them. Gore died well, but Bush didn't seem to want to fall: "George W. refused to die! George and Al, thanks..."
"Once" cranks up the volume yet another notch, and then: "That was off the first record, and this is I think one of the more interesting songs off of the last record, and it's called 'Sleight of Hand'." I'm really glad they persevered and made this song come to life live; it's clearly difficult to do, but it's paid off - SOH live is just this glowing jewel. Hey Ed, if you want to dedicate something to the dotcomers, this one would be far more appropriate, I think to myself. Personally I am finding the dotcom bashing really tiresome; just like all musicians aren't drug snorting, boozing, womanizing assholes, who spend all their new money on cars and toys, not all people who work (really hard, too, by the way) for internet-related businesses are unmitigated assholes deserving of continual public derision. [End rant. Sorry. I imagine any Republican PJ fans feel the same way.]
"This is a song ready made for a Halloween dance party," and it's - thank you, not "Last Kiss," but it's vastly superior relative, "Soldier of Love." The stalwart "Crazy Mary" comes next, and then Ed steps to the mic: "We're gonna try one more, kind of an off the wall choice of songs here, and since we missed this year's Bridge School concerts that were just a couple days ago, i don't know if anybody here made it, we're gonna play this one and dedicate it to all the kids, it's called 'The Kids Are Alright'."
Full band TKAA!!!!! I had REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY hoped that the Sacto debut of this cover was a rehearsal and not a one-off, and thank god it was. Last year on the Who list, someone noted that the Who's current arrangement of TKAA -- specifically Roger's vocals -- owed a debt to Ed's version. So it's ironic that when we get a full band PJ rendition, it is diligently faithfum to the Who's recorded version. And it's GREAT! It's just fabulous. "Love you Neil, love you Pegi," and then a frenetic, an almost psychedelic "RVM", and they're off.
At this point I'd totally given up on any kind of costumes and was more anxious than anything that it was taking them so long to come back, when - OH MY GOD! THEY'RE THE FUCKING VILLAGE PEOPLE! OH MY GOD! Everyone, I mean, EVERYONE, is just going out of their fucking minds. Even the PJ tourists sitting around us (who spent the whole show talking or going out for food and beer) are paying attention now! We are too far away to see the real details (see the other Shoreline review for that), but this is priceless! Oh my god!
Matt starts the "YMCA" drumbeat and I can see Kathy and Shannon in the front row trying to get the letters going (ya know, the dorky "YMCA" dance they do during the 7th inning stretch). Everyone is trying to sing it, but can't, because they are laughing too fucking hard! It was total and utter pandemonium. "I just have to say, Jeff Ament is more butch than any of us, that's for sure," says Stone. They are laughing as hard as we are. Boy, I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall in that room when someone (Stone, according to our sources) came in and said, "Let's dress up as the Village People for Halloween!" How did they figure out who got to be who? Did they draw straws or did they pick? If they picked, what does that say... oh nevermind.
Ed finally says, "Alright, Mike, play it," and they go into YL. I do not even remember Ledbetter. I know they played it, but we were all too busy laughing, still. The guys are still fucking around and Ed keeps laughing while he's singing. They finish, and Jean leans over and says, "I think I see some tambourines behind the monitors in front of the drum kit," and sure enough, she's right: Stone plays the first riffs and we know we're there. Ed starts the song with an authentic "Yee-HA!". Parts of the costumes are abandoned as the and it's this boisterous, anthemic, wonderful "Baba O'Riley," another all-time first for Jean, which makes the experience even better, as she and her husband are one large shit-eating grin while I pogo madly. The guys are going mad onstage, running around, jumping, seeming to have as good of a time as we are.
At the end, Matt kicks his drumkit over in a fashion that would not have disgraced Keith Moon, and clambers over it a la Moonie, looking satisfied. A perfect ending to a really fun night.
© 2000 Caryn Rose
Photos © 2000 Peter Trahms and Chris Rogers
Thanks to Sneaky Bastard Audio for their continued patronage