Toronto 2000. The words I'd been waiting to hear since 1996 when I was shut out ticket wise. Sure, Barrie is close to Toronto, but there's nothing like a show in the city, it's way better than sitting on a hillside. I didn't place any expectations on this show, I just wanted to go and enjoy whatever they played, only hoping for Sleight of Hand for the 1st encore and assuming Ledbetter for the second. I guess you could say that was a bad assumption.
The day started sitting in the Ten Club with my brother line for about two and a half hours. A very long two and a half hours, filled with hopeful expectations for good tickets and fun guesses as to what would be played. Finally, we get to the ticket window and get 5th row center. I was hoping I would be in the first 5 rows, and on Mikey's side. This was close enough. Let me just say, my brother was a fan up until Vitalogy before tonight; he didn't think the other albums were worth picking up. Little did he know, his view would soon change.
6:30 hits and in we go, I run as fast as I can to the merchandise booth, there was one booth outside the venue but it sold out of soccer jerseys in about 10 minutes and the hockey style sweatshirts a little later. I get both of them and it only sets me back $140 Canadian, a hefty price for two shirts but they're both amazing well-designed shirts, worth every penny. The amazement of sitting so close didn't hit me until I reached my seat and realized the boys would be all of ten feet away. Knowing that this seat was my spot for the whole show was an amazing thought, I wouldn't move from that spot for the next four hours.
After a little wait, up comes Supergrass. While I've only heard one song by them before, I found their music to be enjoyable. They were really entertaining and they actually seemed like they wanted to be up there, they were enjoying themselves. I watched the drummer for the most part, he was really into it for the whole set. I think Supergrass were received warmly by the crowd, I did not hear any booing and a very few people were standing and dancing. Regardless, they received a standing ovation when they left.
The pre-show butterflies fly in, this is normal and I know others around me are experiencing the same thing. Unfortunately, a lady comes down and sits in front of me and she is totally plastered. She started screaming for Yellow Ledbetter and fell out of her seat. Luckily, that wasn't her seat and security removed her, otherwise she might have put a dent in my night. Baba O'Riley rolls onto the sound system and the boys bounce on stage after a couple of minutes.
Ed is carrying a lot of stuff (cup of water or tea, wine bottle and a few sheets of paper) and it takes him a minute to set it all down. The lights don't jump up so I'm set for a slow song. Sometimes rolls in, it's nice, Ed's voice is clear and the crowd is singing along for the whole song. I was surprised to see Stoney marching in place already; I've seen him do it before, just not on a very slow song. Breakerfall pounds in, this is one song I wanted to just sit back and watch Matt play, I just love his drumming on this one. Mikey, however, has the habit of stealing my attention and he'd already started posing and almost doing a "look at me" face. He received more than a few looks this night.
Corduroy is next, I'm not surprised (who would be?) but it's an enjoyable version and I think the band just really enjoys playing it. Between Breakerfall and Corduroy, Ed, Jeff and Mike all do a jump of their own at different times. I believe Ed's was at the end of Breakerfall and Mike's at the end of Corduroy.
Grievance is up next, and this song simply rocks. There's a lot of people singing on this song, especially during the "big guy, big eye" part. This song live just rocks the album version, they really can't be compared. Brain of J riffs break right in and I must say, I've missed this song, I find myself singing it every once and awhile, especially lately. Stoney was spot on for his solo; he was making a weird face at his guitar when he was doing it, just really into it. I hadn't really focused on Ed all that much, maybe because I know he's going to get his spot to shine, or maybe because Mikey is just so damn funny.
Animal brings my attention to Ed now. He starts out without doing his hand gestures but a bunch of us in the middle had our hands in the air doing it for him. He picked it up on the next verse, keeping his hand at his side, but following our gestures nevertheless. Dissident comes in after a brief 'hello' from Ed, I must say this is probably my least favorite Pearl Jam song, I still sang it as loudly as all the others but it's certainly not a highlight for me. I saw the standup bass and thought Daughter but it turned out to be NAIS. I love this song; everything about it has clicked with me since the first version at Bridge. Good guitar work by Mikey as usual and I really enjoyed it.
Somewhere around here Ed decides to step up to the mic and talk about Barrie in 1998. He makes a joke about there being the same amount of people but we were all flattened out on a hill (in truth there were close to 35,000 people in Barrie, almost twice as much). He asks if the Air Canada Center is named after beer as well, which causes Jeff to laugh and call Ed over and tell him it's actually after an airplane. To which Ed responds, "well, they serve beer on planes, don't they? Well, this ones about to take off.."
Given to Fly. I really need to listen to Yield; it's been so long. This song is still nothing short of anthemic, great sing-along from the crowd. My focus was really on Ed for this one, he was very animated and singing really hard. After this song, Ed quietly says "this one's about being small." Insignificance may be the most under-appreciated Pearl Jam song of all time; I didn't think it was that great at first but now it's one of the songs I listen to the most. The pause in the middle was extra-long, probably three to five seconds. Mikey was singing the "bombs dropping down" part to himself while he was playing and Jeff was doing backups.
The standup bass is back out and Daughter chimes in. I actually wanted this to be played because I wanted my brother to get an appreciation for what a good tag sounded like. Ed didn't disappoint with Androgynous Mind, my brother was pretty much awestruck. Another crowd favorite, Better Man, creates a massive sing-along. I didn't notice any couples that were 'happy' to hear this song; maybe people have finally realized it's not a love song. Ed breaks one of his strings and eventually gets it out of his way. I was hoping for a little Save it For Later tag but it didn't happen. Instead, Ed started belting out "don't leave me alone" or something very close to that. It worked, it wasn't as good as SIFL, but it still added to the song.
Mankind was a total surprise. Ed picked up his mic and moved it by the drum kit, letting Stone take center stage. Stone sounded really good, I think some of the crowd was confused as to why he was singing, but lots of us were singing along. He really enjoyed it, by my eyes anyways, and Ed sang some backup while watching Stone's performance. Immortality kicks in, one of my all times faves, but it takes on a whole new dimension with Matt Cameron. Just as the songs getting to the drum solo part, the lights go out and the spotlights above Matt came on and he just wailed. A whole section of people just started yelling "Matt" over and over again as he played, I was awestruck as I stood there and watched.
Even Flow is next, which gets an uproar from the whole crowd. Ed did not mess up the lyrics, I repeat, Ed did not mess up the lyrics. Some of us had joked about that earlier and we all expected him to miss it tonight, he had no problem though. As expected, Mikey had his solo at the end, it seemed very extended, and I didn't think he was going to stop. Stone even took a rest while Mike kept going, standing by his amp and resting his arm on it. Black came next, a really nice version. Ed seemed really emotional towards the end; he took a step back, closed his eyes, and then looked to the roof for a bit. He sang something extra at the end, maybe the "we belong together" line, I'm having a hard time remembering. Mike soloed forever in this song, probably two to three times as long as normal. Ed seemed to get tired of waiting for him to finish, so he picked up his guitar, looked to Stone to see what he was playing, and then he strummed in for about ten to twenty seconds. Rearviewmirror next, it was a pretty standard version with the strobes and the huge jam out at the end and it featured the only noticeable lyric flub of the night. I still love getting to hear it, though. And with that, the main set was done.
Let me talk about Mike again for a few sentences. He had three cheering sections: first, there was the guys in front of him with the Sleight of Hand sign who tossed him cigarettes, bowed to him after his solos and gave him what looked to be cards or letters, second, there was the center section which consisted of myself and a few others and lastly, there were the two people to the right of me who he constantly had pointing matches with. He is absolutely on fire, I can't believe how much fun he was having up there, he was always doing something. He played face to face with Jeff and Stone many times, even going as far as to fake head butt Stone. He certainly made this concert for me, as if everyone couldn't tell already.
The encore. Sleight of Hand. The only song I wanted, my favorite Pearl Jam song of all time. The lyrics and the music are ethereal to me; I can't even put it into words. Just watching them play this song meant everything to me, and the fact that others were singing as loud as I was, it was simply amazing. As if this wasn't enough, Crazy Mary is the next song. I heard there was a sign down front for this one, though I never saw it. I like the way Ed sings it now, it's different from the old version but I think I prefer the new one just a little bit. Once was next but I really don't remember it at all, after hearing the first two encore songs I was almost in shock. Another one of my faves, Do the Evolution, is next. I was hoping Ed would do his shimmy but instead he settled for jumping around.
Story time. Ed talks about a man named Stephen Hawking who was a scientist who recently figured out that humans were only going to live a thousand more years on the planet; Ed then goes on to say that he's glad for the planet. A nice version of Wishlist, the mirrorball dropped down and the crowd was bathed in blue and yellow lights. Leatherman kicks in, which is a great surprise, a song worthy of being played more often. I remember seeing these songs and singing these songs but details about them are sketchy because I was so into the first two songs, fixated really. I'll always remember the next song though.
Ed comes out and talks about seeing a great band the other night. I immediately thought the Who and I turned out to be right. Ed says something to the effect of "these guys are going to have a tribute album, tribute albums usually suck but this one is looking good." He then proceeded to let us know that it's between us and Chicago for the live album. The whole stadium was clapping alone with Ed (who was pounding a tambourine) and really into it. Full sing-along and Ed even let the crowd belt out the teenage wasteland part near the end. Mike did have a little guitar flub near the end, so from a musical standpoint Chicago could have the edge if there are no mistakes. Things get really interesting on the stage near the end of the song. Mike, Stone and Jeff did a little dance center stage when the song was winding down, I mean I've never seen Stone move like that but it was hilarious. It was almost like he was kicking his legs forward and trying to jam, they all did it but he looked the funniest. Also, Ed threw the tambourine at mike after the song finished. Why you ask? Mikey was posing for everybody, especially the people behind the stage, raising his arms and making those funny faces. Hell, Mikey was posing all night but this one was to the extreme, I'm surprised he didn't flash his tattoos.
I figured Baba was the end, the houselights were on full and it seemed like a fitting ending. Anyways, I figured we'd only get Ledbetter anyways. Wrong! I've never even let the possibility of seeing Indifference live enter my mind; it's such a rare song these days. A great sing-along, a fitting end to an absolutely amazing performance. I have a feeling this will be one of the more popular boots, but that could be hometown bias.
© 2000 Alex Woodward