"Sorry if the band isn't playing too well tonight -- they were up all last night, fucking" --Mick Jagger, 7/18/78begin at the beginning....
"Nobody can tell you who you are...if you don't know who you are, well, you better find out. Because you are some-body." --Eddie Vedder, 9/29/96
For the last few weeks or so, I've been taking advantage of the beautiful fall weather and walking to and from work. There's been exactly two tapes in regular rotation in my walkman: a boot of the stones from ft. worth 78 ("Handsome Girls' for those in the know) and a tape of PJ from 9/29/96, Randall's Island in NYC. I'd be plodding along and then it would hit me that I would be seeing BOTH those bands very very soon and whatever song was on the tape, I'd try to imagine myself sitting in the Oakland Coliseum with them on stage. It was usually too much for me to comprehend; two of my favorite bands in the whole world on the same stage. I hadn't seen the Stones since '81, and PJ, well, so it'd only been a year. But probably the worst year of my life so far. I had been hanging on to the thought of seeing the Stones, and seeing PJ with the Stones, through gritted teeth since September, the only thing I had to hang onto some days.
In a few hours, I'd be getting on a plane for San Francisco. Whoa baby. =) Hang on and away we go!
Date: Fri, 14 Nov 1997 07:58:36 -0800 To: undercover From: caryn rose < firstname.lastname@example.org > Subject: good morning oakland! i've been awake since 6:45! gee, i WONDER WHY????? beautiful morning here in the emerald city. gee, i didn't realize sunrise was this gorgeous. i'll have to get up at this time more often. =) oakland weather seems to have
cleared up! cloudy, but the rain seems to have been pushed back to further in the weekend!!!!!!!!! i'm packed.... i've checked my damn lists about six times by now.... i've checked the tickets about 30 times... i'm outta here in a few hours. *gulp* i don't think it's quite hit me yet. =) "dead flowers" is STILL ahead, but not by much. so remember to vote early and vote often, please! see some of you TONIGHT!!!!!!!!!!! --caryn ObStones: take me to the airport...and put me on a plane :)
More stress than any one person should have to deal with -- plane arriving late, missing a rendezvous with my partner-in-crime for the weekend, coming all the way from Canada. I give up and jump in a taxi, expense be damned, and head for SF. I'm already over an hour and a half late, I have to log in and do some work, fight off my friends from the Stones mailing list, clamoring for my presence at a pre-show party. I can't wait to see everyone but the truth is my heart just isn't in it; I know I will go, but I know I will also be looking at my watch every three minutes, worrying about missing PJ.
I'm already feeling the first real taste of the PJ/Stones dichotomy, as illustrated by the quotes that start this article. I wanna drink and party and see my friends, but I also have the part of me that just wants to head straight for the Coliseum and my seat RIGHT NOW, to make sure I don't miss PJ.
So I leave ticket and directions and contingency plans and lipstick kisses on the back of the envelope for my yet-to-arrive friend, change my clothes (oh, how NICE to be able to dress up for a show! And arrive when I want to arrive, my seat waiting for me! And not to have to worry about getting hurt or kicked in the head or bruised! Such an unfamiliar feeling for a PJ show....) and hop on the BART, my pulse racing, my cheeks flushed. It's getting to be a little too much.
On the train, to the party. I'm there for all of 1/2 an hour. Music of choice is, once again, "Handsome Girls". I'm taking this as an omen. =) 6:30 rolls around and I'm about to call a cab, when one of my fellow "Glimmers" (it's our dorky name for each other on the Stones list, I'm sorry) also wants to see PJ and wants to be there early and so I get a ride with him. thank you, thank you, thank you. I see the lights of the Coliseum in the not-too-far-distance and i'm starting to lose it. ohmigoddess, it is TONIGHT!
Get to the parking lot, leave the car, head for the stadium. Bag search -- HA! I could have brought in a mini-studio if I'd wanted to. I walk down a flight of steps and see the field and the stage and i'm about to explode from the adrenaline rush. I start making my long journey down to my floor seat. Down, down, down, then all the way around, passing ticket check after ticket check. Stop at the merchandise stands and scope the shirts; see the PJ shirts and reach for my wallet but look at my watch -- it's 7:10. I can do this *later*. I can do this tomorrow.
Finally make my way over to the entrance near my section and get walked to my seat. 8th row, on the aisle. I look up, beaming, see PJ's crew bustling around on the stage and lose it. The area is fairly empty, with the occasional fan being escorted to their seats and losing it because they're so close. I call Jean on the cell phone and gush, giving her a preliminary report. "Can you see? How close are you? What does the stage look like? Can you get pictures from where you are???" i don't know but i'm sure as hell going to TRY!
I kill time by chatting with some other overexcited Stones fans and all of a sudden it's 7:25 and time to pull out and load the camera, find the sign (it said "BREATH" and it was more my way of saying, "HI PJ, YOU DO HAVE SOME FANS DOWN HERE!" and i wasn't allowed to use it anyway), pull out pens and film and my notebook. I'm trying to keep calm; it's very very hard at this point.
7:35, the lights go down, I spring to my feet and THERE THEY ARE!!!! It is that feeling, that energy, that warmth, that surging excitement, the anticipation. There is nothing in this world like it. I am grinning from ear-to-ear, so happy to see them, so anxious to hear that first note.
Ed is wearing this lovely mod-like striped jacket. short, short hair, much like at the tibet shows but shorter, even. Lights come on, they slam into "Hail Hail" and I am jumping and dancing and singing along at the top of my lungs. They look great! They sound great! The mix is *excellent*! But they are all kinda hunched over and look nervous: they're confined to a VERY small space on the Stones' enormous stage and look kinda cramped. Stone is just kinda looking down, not wearing his glasses, Eddie's eyes are closed, Jeff also looking down. The only one running around is Mike -- doh, figures! He looks as excited to be up there as i am to see them. (And yes, Mike has gained a little weight. But since i did see him in his underwear once at a Bumrush show, I can say with all confidence that he needed to put on a few pounds!)
"Animal" is next and I'm counting down "1-2-3-4-5 against one" with my arm in the air, the ONLY one on the whole floor doing this, probably, me feeling really stupid and fan-like but I don't care, I'm waving at them every chance I get but I doubt they can see that far, the lights just aren't bright enough (unlike for the Stones, who can see and make eye contact with the audience; I mean, Mick smiled at me and my friend Steve later in the show! But I get ahead of myself).
Song #3 is "Dissident" and I yawn. They are so clearly nervous and playing it safe; sound magnificent but aren't going to take any chances. It's okay, Eddie still wails beautifully and I enjoy the song even though i'm really really tired of hearing it. it's during this song i turn around and look at the rest of the coliseum; very very full, and they *are* using the side screens; all the opening bands did and i really didn't think pj would have much of a choice, to be honest. but i'm too far away (heh, too close!) to see them much.
During this song I can also see that they're loosening up a bit; Ed takes off the jacket. After the song ends he addresses the crowd for the first time -- "Thanks, glad you could be here tonight -- tomorrow it's going to rain... there'll be more rain tomorrow than there were groupies at Altamont," he mumbles. Ouch, i think. Bad one, Ed.
"Evenflow" is next, we glimpse a first tentative smile from Stone, Eddie's dancing a bit, Mike and Stone are facing off, playing together during the bridge, Jeff going over to Jack. They're checking in with each other, supporting each other. Ed walks over to the audience a little closer during the jam and smiles a bit at the audience.
It's followed by "Jeremy" and so I know tonight we're going for the Safe Radio Hits. It's okay, it really is okay. Although I do have to say I really missed the part where Eddie sings "arms raised in a V" and in a PJ show the whole crowd does it; tonight my arms were glued to my sides. Mike bounds over to Stone during the song, lots of Mike and Stone interplay during this set -- it was like Mike was the one the most psyched to be there and he was trying to transfer his enthusiasm and confidence to the rest of the band. During this song I observed that Stone kept kinda glancing up at the upper decks of the stadium and grinning slightly, it seemd as though he was thinking, "Holy shit, I can't believe we're doing this". I also really missed the audience singalong to the 'ooooOOoooooooo' bit at the end.
"Last Exit" kicks in; another one we knew they'd be doing. In fact, Jean and I had a discussion on Wednesday or Thursday night about how great theyhave been playing this song the last tour, that in 95 it was kind of lacklustre but last year it really became a high point of the sets. We're at the 1/2 hour mark; my friend Steve (who is sitting in the other 8th row seat) is clearly still stuck in traffic or still at the party (he arrived as i was running out). Oh well, he is really missing something, but i'm not. =)
Next song is clearly unfamiliar and by process of elimination I figure out it must be "Given To Fly". I do not see ANY resemblance to "Going To California"; the drumming that opens it is reminiscent of "In My Tree" if anything (a good thing, a good thing!) Jeff's taken off his sweater and is wearing a white tank top; I scope him out for a second and decide that he's looking quite nice and seems to have lost a bit of weight in his face. The song sounds good but I'm not blown away; then again, it's first listen under frantic conditions. That's okay.
"Daughter" follows and everyone around me applauds and recognizes this. People love to dance to this, don't they? I don't get it. But, Ed is in fine, fine voice, and when they reach the tag and Eddie goes into Neil's "Hey Hey My My," the crowd applauds approvingly. Very nice.
"corduroy" is next, another one i knew they had to do at least once, a friend calls it their "arena song," cuz it's large and majestic and can fill any space they give it, tonight it's filling all of oakland coliseum, spilling over the edges. i look up at the clear clear night sky and can see the full moon beginning to peep over the back of the stadium. wow. this is one of those classic moments, and this version was very extended with long, intricate beautiful jamming. very very special...my notes say "*very* hot guitar, stone & mike".
another new one is next. it takes a few seconds and then i id it: "wish list". i like it more than "given to fly" on first listen but it's not anything that immediately clicks. it was during this song or the one right before that my friend steve arrives, escorted by an usher. i hug him, and say to the usher, "he's with me, it's okay" and i'm surprised when she hugs me back going, "i'm with you too!" it's one of my friends from the stones list who was ushering the shows. i feel bad i can't talk to either of them more at the moment but we're in pj land right now and first things come first!
"betterman" is next, ed with the guitar, solo first, reminding me of the way soundgarden did "black hole sun" on the last tour. then the rest of the band kicks in and it's just as magnificent as anything else they've done tonight, even better by the fact that my friend is finally here for me to share this with. he isn't a huge pj fan but i wanted him to be here to see them do this, see me see them do this. it's great, mike is grinning from ear to ear.
ed addresses us again: "thanks... even from here i can see the biggest rolling stones fan..." the lights come on the crowd and ed goes into this rap about the biggest stones fan in the audience and i point at mike and yell, "MC CREADY!," knowing full well where he's going with this. and sure enough, that's what eddie shares with us, "you all look like big stones fans but the biggest rolling stones fan in this whole place is right over here, Mike McCready.. mike is such a huge stones fan that he used to take out all their records, all the vinyl, and count all the lines (grooves, eddie, it's *grooves*) in the records and memorize them..." he turns to mike, "how many lines are in 'some girls'?" and mike makes up some answer ("two thousand six hundred forty four" or something like that) and ed quizzes him a few more times and it's really warm and funny and affectionate, steve thinks it's great and the crowd around us is also murmuring in agreement.
"state" blasts off next and i'm loving it, this is so incredibly wonderful, i wanna jump up and down but i make do with screaming along at the top of my lungs. and it was great, but it most definitely didn't prepare me for what was next: "do the evolution". i figure out what it is a few seconds into it but it is simply *stunning*. i'm standing there dumbfounded, taken aback with the power of it, loving it, holding a hand to my heart. it's long and extended and extremely powerful -- that's all i can say about it. i love it immediately. more than that: i adore it and i'm ready to make it my favorite pj song, even over "present tense".
and bringing up the end, ed says something like "thanks for putting up with us" and they go into "black" and i decide to suck it up and deal and enjoy it. steve, the pj 'tourist' leans over and says "name?" and i say, "black", he says "oh, yeah" and i go back to the song and despite my best intentions it's making me cry. oh yeah.
11/14, 8:30pm: the view backwards from row 8
And that's it, and the lights come on, I call Jean on the cell phone and scream loudly. Then it's 9:15, the lights go down, Steve is trying to tell me where to watch but I can see Keith up there and there he is and there are those chords and the explosion and Mick fucking Jagger and I am hypreventilating. I cannot talk. I cannot swallow. My mouth is hanging open and I am in shock. Keith moves over right near us and does one of those splits and I clasp my hand to my heart. I cannot even sing, it took me three songs until I could sing and dance along.
I'm blown out of my seat when Mick gives props back to PJ in kind later, after he introduces Ronnie Wood, by saying "...and Ronnie knows how many lines are on Pearl Jam's record 'Ten'!" and Ronnie babbles something just like Mike did. Mike must have been *losing* it. (I know I was, and Steve thought it was pretty cool too. =))
And i get to do this all again tomorrow night. =)
[on to saturday night...]
Copyright © 1998 Caryn Rose