The day of the concert started out raining cats and dogs. Tampa is the lightning capital of the world, so we can't just take storms too lightly. Thanks to a long week at my new job, I hit one too many snoozes and made us arrive at the Ten Club window at the Ice Palace a little later than I intended. At two o'clock there were about 40 people in line ahead of us. I was cursing myself for not getting there earlier, since I obviously wanted the best seats possible. While we waited for the window to open, it was raining "sideways" outside. I was very, very glad that the window was INSIDE.
I was really nervous while waiting in line. My dreams about this show included being in the front row, which was an unlikely event at best. By the time I made it to the window, which opened at 3:15, my hands were shaking. My husband got fifteenth row center seats, which we gave to my brother and his girlfriend. I waited while the lady looked for my number. She couldn't find it, and my nervousness reached a feverish pitch. Finally she had it - fourth row, in front of Stone. I couldn't be too disappointed with that, especially since all of the folks around me in line were farther back.
I had planned to spend a good portion of the day at the venue, soaking up the sights and sounds and maximizing my concert experience. So my husband, Rich, and I took a walk around the arena to see what we could see. I found two employee entrances, and saw some folks whose faces I recognized from pictures on the Internet, including Ed's bodyguard. Nothing in particular seemed to be happening, so we headed to a nearby restaurant called Newk's. We ate an early dinner and watched the Cubs play on a big screen TV. When the local TV station ended their coverage with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, I imagine Eddie was cursing in his hotel room!
After eating we walked back around the arena and stopped where a small group of fans were hanging out. Apparently, Jeff had just arrived in a white taxi. He had walked with a woman up to the venue, waving briefly at the onlookers. After 6:00, the rest of the band arrived in an airport limo van. They rolled past us and up into the arena. So, after hanging out for a few more minutes and meeting some really nice folks, we headed toward the front of the Ice Palace.
Fast forward to Sonic Youth's set. Stone was visible on the side of the stage, fiddling with equipment. Sonic Youth played to a respectful audience, some of which seemed to be fans. After an approximately 35 minute set, Pearl Jam's crew began to ready the stage for the headlining band.
The crowd was jam packed in the front. The arena's first four rows were had no aisle - they stretched straight across the front of the stage. The fan club seats reached at least 15 rows back. The security was tight. One gentleman even pulled out some sort of little viewing device to determine whether our tickets were counterfeit! I was pleased to see what a great view we had, even though we weren't in the center.
When the lights went down and the band came out on stage, the crowd went nuts. It took a moment for them to begin. Ed seemed to be scurrying around, setting down his wine, notebook, and other items. I didn't recognize the first notes of Interstellar Overdrive, but when they started Corduroy, I knew that most of the crowd agreed - the waiting for this show HAD driven us mad!!!! Bathed in blue light, the band totally rocked! Song number two was Grievance - a song I had really wanted to hear. The pace did not let up. Last Exit was next, then Animal. The crowd, which was jumping around and singing madly, accompanied Ed with the appropriate hand motions. Ed kept up with us, counting on his own fingers.
Although all the songs were great, some were particularly notable. Tremor Christ included the phrase, "Even the East coast still gets big big waves." This change seemed largely missed by the audience, probably because Ed's vocals sounded quite muddled. Although Ed IS known for mumbling, Sonic Youth's lead singer was also difficult to decipher, so I think it was an "arena problem." NAIS was introduced as "something off the new record." At some point Ed mentioned that the new album was called Binaural. I can tell you that everyone around me knew that - they seemed to know every word to every song!
Jeremy brought its usual excited crowd reaction. Everyone participated in the "arms raised in a V" moment. It seemed from our section that Ed did not sing the first chorus, but rather just held out a note. However, read the aforementioned explanation of the muffled vocals and take that observation with a grain of salt. Evacuation was totally fun. Ed seemed to have no trouble with the high parts. Before Betterman, the spotlight was on Ed as he did an interesting improv on his guitar. Daughter had a lot of music at the end while Ed just kind of looked at us (maybe deciding the tag???). Then he gave us a little speech about how he saw a lot of requests in the audience. He said that if we would do him a favor, he would try to do us a favor by playing some of those requests. He asked us to sing along. He said he would pick something that we would know. He did - Another Brick in the Wall. He asked us to sing and turned the mic in our direction, then sang along with us for part of it. We repeated parts of it at his direction. Then he slipped into "Hey, hey it's ok," which we joined in on as well.
Ed then scurried about the stage, clearly changing the set list. He told us that the next song was "penciled in." He said that we had been such a good crowd that they were going to try Sleight of Hand. They did an awesome job. I really didn't like this song much on the album, but it was really great in concert. Less, I don't know, distant sounding and more rock-n-roll.
Matt needed assistance on his drums from a tech before Elderly Woman, so Ed stalled with some chatter about the song (I unfortunately can't remember what that chatter was - I probably couldn't really understand it). It appeared that Ed might have started before Matt was ready, and Matt joined in after a few measures had already been played. As usual, the crowd screamed "HELLO!" at the appropriate spot. SOLAT was a surprise and really stirred up the crowd in front. Ed did some of the song leaning on Mike. Toward the end he pushed Mike jokingly, as if he was going to try to push him off the stage.
The set ended with a blazing, extended RVM, during which the guys all jammed together facing each other center stage. This was the other song I REALLY wanted to see, so I was psyched!
We screamed our heads off until the band came back for the first encore. They blasted into DTE, which included some dancing by Ed (he actually danced a lot during the whole show). I have been told that Ed messed up the lyrics during the song, and I saw him make a face and kind of knock himself in the head during, but I couldn't hear the mistake. Garden [mpeg video 902k] was played by request according to Ed. Soldier of Love was a surprise, [mpeg video 910k] and Ed seemed to smile his way through that song (he did a lot of smiling this show as well). Porch was incredible. [mpeg video 1074k] During its extended jam, Ed walked out on the edge of the stage on each side. He was probably fifteen feet from me. That was totally incredible. I have some good pictures of this moment. In one I can see Ed's bodyguard beneath him, which I think is interesting. We got a kick out of watching one of the crew try to deal with Ed's microphone cord as he did this trip across stage. He was trying to hurry and untangle/straighten/etc. while remaining a low profile onstage - so he did this all from a crouching position. He certainly earned his keep that night!
After Porch they waved goodbye and went offstage. I just KNEW that they wouldn't close with Porch, and I was right. Ed came out with his ukulele and stood in the spotlight. He told us that it was a lot to ask of us to be quiet "after all we had been through tonight," but that this was a very small instrument, and we were a very big crowd. He said that we would drown him out. Some members of the crowd were not particularly compliant, which caused Ed to say "shhhhh!" into the mic and to make quieting motions with his hands. The crowd was never completely silent, but they were finally quiet enough for him to sing. He version of Soon Forget was flawless, [mpeg video 1335k] and he took a bow at the end. Then the band joined Ed for Indifference.
When the song was over, Ed gathered up his things, including a variety of gifts from the crowd, [mpeg video 228k] and said goodbye. At this point, Mike was wearing a homemade T-shirt thrown up onstage by a fan with "Venezuela" and some other stuff written on it. I was shocked that they were going to close on Indifference. The crowd kept cheering and the house lights didn't come on. We were ecstatic to see the guys come back for encore number three! The house lights came on and we all joined in a rousing version of Rocking in the Free World [mpeg video 230k]. Ed played some of this song (as well as others) to the fans behind the stage. He clapped his tambourine over his head and encouraged us to clap our hands the same way (which, of course, we did). Towards the end of the song he motioned for a particular person to be the recipient of his tambourine. He tossed it and it obviously landed in the wrong hands. He seemed concerned, motioned again, and apparently the person passed the instrument to the right fan. Ed seemed delighted and went and got something (possibly a harmonica) for the honest fan. The song ended with Ed getting a running start to do a somersault [mpeg video 230k] across the stage. What an amazing ending!
The heat apparently got to Ed and Mike during the show, as they both lost some clothing along the way. Ed in particular did a lot of fiddling with his clothes throughout the night. Tucking in the front of his shirt(s) repeatedly, and slowly unbuttoning the white shirt to reveal the Tee below. He eventually took off that shirt and tucked it into the back of his pants for safe keeping, giving him an interesting "tail".
Lots of cool things happened during the show, but I don't remember when. Early on in the set, Ed gave a towel to the security guard he was continuously spitting on. He also pointed to the crowd, indicating that if "this part of the crowd is north Tampa, and this part is west Tampa, and this part is east Tampa, then this part" (he turned and pointed at the folks sitting behind the stage) "is south Tampa." That part of the crowd went wild. Several times during the show Ed mentioned what a great time they had had in Florida. He also seemed particularly impressed by the reception they were getting in Tampa. The crowd WAS particularly into it, and during a lot of the show, Ed seemed to just be staring at us, with a little smile on his face. We did notice that Ed seems to be very "right sided," singing more to that side of the audience and tossing all his stuff that way.
I had forgotten about the famous Polaroid camera until Ed came out with it. He snapped several pictures of the front and the back of the stage, and then took one of his own face. He tossed that one into the audience to make one lucky fan very happy.
After the show I climbed forward to the stage to get a set list, but was foiled by someone behind me who was smart enough to yell at the staff to get it. Rich and I then high-tailed it to where we knew the band would be leaving, only to find out that the band left the minute they walked off stage. My brother and his girlfriend, who actually left before the last song ended (imagine that?!?!) were the only ones to see the band leave. The two airport limo vans they arrived in wheeled out of the arena parking with a police escort. Security guards later told us that they were going straight to the airport. Bummer!
This was the most incredible concert I have ever seen. It beat West Palm I in 1998 as far as I am concerned based on what I considered to be an incredible set list combined with a very energetic and upbeat band. Now I am saddened by the fact that the rest of the tour will go on without me!