As you may or may not know, the Wiltern show was one of four different shows held around LA last night to benefit a new organization that's fighting for recording artists to have fair contracts with the big record labels. The other shows were held at the Universal Amphitheatre (the country line-up - Dixie Chicks, Alan Jackson, etc), the Forum (Eagles, Sheryl Crow, Billy Joel, Elton John, etc), and the Long Beach Arena (Weezer, Offspring, and No Doubt).
Interestingly, little was said about the purpose of the show. Beck mentioned the organization a couple of times during his set, but nobody ever explained what the organization will do. Beck did encourage any musicians in the audience to get involved. On to the show...
When I arrived at the Wiltern, I spotted several familiar faces from the PJ 2000 tour in the lobby. My seat was about halfway back from the stage, stage left. While not as close to the stage as I would've liked to be, my seat more than made up for that by its proximity to the "VIP" entrance. The first person I saw as I made my way toward my seat, was Stone's guitar tech. It was then that it really hit me that I was about to see Eddie again. Right after that, I saw Tony Hawk walking up the aisle towards me.
Two girls sitting to my left approached Tony after he sat down and asked for his autograph. They said he was really nice. During the break between Eddie and Mike Ness, I saw Tony posing for pictures with various fans. He also signed autographs for the couple next to me. It was nice to see that he was very approachable.
About 10 minutes before the show started, I glanced to my right (I was sitting on the aisle), and did a double take. For right at that moment, Ben Harper was walking right next to my seat! Jeff was just behind him. Laura Dern was walking in front of Ben. And, there was a smaller, blonde woman walking behind Jeff. Later, I saw that she was Meg Ryan!
The lights then dimmed, and Beck strode out onto the stage, acoustic guitar in hand. The crowd jumped to its feet.
Beck began singing "It's Monday Morning." On the second verse, Eddie came strolling out. If there was any doubt who the majority of the audience had come to see, it was answered right then. The crowd went crazy when they saw Eddie. After a couple of more verses, Mike Ness walked out, wearing a wife beater and a cowboy hat, strumming his acoustic guitar. Eddie was also playing acoustic guitar. All three then sang the final verses together. After rapturous applause, Beck and Mike Ness left the stage. The fact that all three artists played together on the opening number served as a tip off that this would not be your usual, everybody gets their 50-60 minute set, thank you, good night show.
Eddie remained on stage and sat down on a chair set up for him. It seems that Mr. Vedder has taken yet another lesson from Papa Neil. Ed's set up consisted of a chair, surrounded by a semicircle of guitars and a ukulele. Just like Neil's set up on his acoustic tour a couple of years ago.
Ed thanked the audience for coming, picked up a guitar, and started playing "Drifting." Lovely. His voice was in good form. Right after "Drifting," he launched right in to "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away"!!! Whoo hoo! Acoustic guitar and harmonica. Really, really great.
I think it was after "You've got to Hide," that Ed spoke again to the audience. He was wearing a fedora hat, and doffed it to thank the crowd. This was everyone's first view of the mohawk. Ed then made a comment about his new hairdo, and said that as long as he's got the mohawk, then you know that we're at war.
Ed then started playing "Dead Man." This was one of the highlights of the set for me. It's the first time I've heard Ed play this solo. Very melancholy and moving. After that, "Parting Ways." Such a different feel in the tone of this song when played solo (just guitar and Ed's voice).
Eddie then picked up the ukulele after finishing "Parting Ways". Somebody yelled for "Bee Girl" at this point, which I thought was funny. But, alas, no "Bee Girl". Instead, we were treated to a few new songs. "Broken Hearted," "Can't Keep," and "You're True" were all played on the ukulele. Ed's ukulele playing (as well as his guitar playing ) have all improved a lot! Ed must be practicing quite a bit. The rest of the set consisted of "I am Mine" and "Thumbing My Way" (new song).
It was somewhere between the ukulele songs and the return to guitar when Ed paused and mentioned that he saw a bit of the Closing Ceremonies for the Olympics while he was packing to fly down here. He said that, what with everything that has been going on, how reassuring it was to look up and see Bon Jovi with an American flag draped around his shoulders. As well as the lead guitarist wearing a fur lined coat. "I realized that a 40 year old butt rocker with an American flag around his neck was America's symbol to the world, and I felt better..."
Ed also mentioned during his set that he didn't realize that the tickets for this show were $50 ("my bad"), but he thanked us for being there. He also said that the other shows held that night were more expensive, although No Doubt's was cheaper.
Ed closed his set with "Sleepless Nights." Ed introduced the song as an Everly Brothers song, saying that he hoped that they would get publishing rights (I didn't understand this then, but I see on 5H that it's an Everly Bros song, so I'm guessing that the Everlys don't own the publishing rights to this song. It probably belongs to the record company). Beck walked out and joined Eddie on this song. Really lovely harmonies between the two of them.
All in all, a great set by Ed. The tone of his set was quite melancholy. I couldn't help thinking that the themes running through the songs he chose might've been influenced by personal issues in his life, (plus Sept 11?): loss, death, loved ones leaving....
As for the crowd during Ed's set, it looks like Chris C. is in competition for woo boys. There was one guy who kept yelling "I Love You Eddie" *many* times. Whenever he would see Eddie, he would yell it out. Annoying. Early in Ed's set, there were so many people yelling and screaming, that Ed paused and said, "It's been a while, I've forgotten". He then clarified, "not the songs, this" and gestured towards the audience. He also commented that for $50, he thought it would be a "classy crowd" and then laughed. My favorite comment was in response to the guy who kept yelling "I love you Eddie". Ed looked at him and said, "you should've been here during sound check, you could've worked on your tone". Ed smiled when saying this.
Despite the sad tone to Ed's set, he seemed to be in good spirits. He smiled many times and responded at times to people who yelled at him. He also seemed to really enjoy playing with Beck and Mike Ness.
Next up was Mike Ness. He played with a full band. He pointed out that it was Johnny Cash's birthday that night. He then launched into "Ring of Fire." Always great to hear "Ring of Fire." Mike covered another Johnny Cash song later in his set. Most of his set drew from his solo albums, particularly "Cheating at Solitaire." His backing band were really good, particularly the stand-up bass player and slide guitar player. Because he focused on solo material, his set had a country flavor to it. I'm an old fan of Social Distortion, so it was good to see a much matured Mike Ness belt out these songs. However, Mike's voice is suffering from his hard living past. He's sounding very hoarse these days, and so the songs didn't have as much punch as they could've if he was still able to really belt out the songs.
"Ball and Chain" was his second to last song, and he said that he is bringing out a "couple of guys from Pearl Jam" on this one. Ed and Mike come walking out, guitars in hand! Ed sang some of the verses as well. Mr. McCready is looking older these days.
At the end of the song, Ed and Mike left the stage. Mike's band then launched into "I Fought the Law," their final song. I thought this song would've been one that Ed and Mike would've played on. A good set by Mike Ness, but lacking any real punch or excitement.
After a longer than usual set change, Beck finally took the stage to close out the show. Just before Beck took the stage, I saw Ben, Laura, Jeff, and Meg walk out to the lobby.
Beck's set was really good. He is such a great performer. He started off by himself and acoustic guitar. The rest of his band joined him on stage for the next song. He sang "Nobody's Fault But my Own" (which was great!), "Tropicalia", and other songs off of "Mutations." I think he focused on "Mutations" material, since his band was playing acoustically, and it fit those songs better. At one point, Beck sat down at the piano and played an "Loser." Really nice. He ran his fingers over the keys to mimic the slide guitar that's on the recorded version of the song. Ed joined Beck during his set and they bantered about the special "recording artist's water" available backstage. Beck had been repeatedly requesting a bottle of the "recording artist's water" at the beginning of his set. Beck also mentioned that he didn't know that Ed had gotten a mohawk before seeing him last night. Therefore, Beck didn't have time to do something with his hair. So, he said he would have to improvise. Beck then took out a pink hair band, and put that around his head. He then walked over to Ed and put his head next to Ed's. Very funny and cute.
Before he started playing with Beck, Ed walked up to his mike stand, looked out at the crowd and said, "my friend told me that my brother is here tonight. Chris, come in the back with us. Chris...meet us in the back." Sternly, "I do not want to leave here tonight without seeing you."
After playing for 40 minutes or so, Beck then said that he would like to bring out a good friend of his..... Thom Yorke! There was a collective gasp of surprise, and then wild applause. Thom came bounding out on stage with his guitar. Beck asked how he was feeling. Thom said, "Jet lagged".
Beck said that they were going to do a Velvet Underground song together, and they then played "I'm Set Free". Thom was great! Head waving back and forth. And, of course, his voice was fantastic.
At this point, I didn't need anything more. I was already very happy with the collaborations between the scheduled performers and the loose, informal feel of the evening. But, to have Thom pop out on stage was truly surprising and fabulous!
At the end of the song, Beck thanked the crowd for coming. Ed and Mike Ness returned to the stage for "Sweet Virginia" by the Rolling Stones. Then, everybody waved goodbye. Actually, Ed gave the peace sign. A standing ovation greeted all of the performers.
A really fun show. It's rare these days to see a concert with multiple headliners that feels spontaneous and features those artists playing together in various combinations. I can't wait for All Tomorrow's Parties now.
Copyright © 2004 Five Horizons