After over four years of waiting Pearl Jam returned to Atlanta last night. Sandy, my wife, and I arrived at Lakewood a few hours before the start of the show. We quickly parked and went to buy T-shirts and a poster before entering the venue. We bought the GTF shirt and a red, bird evolution shirt, both of which had the cities of the tour listed on the back. The Atlanta poster was black and red with a little devil-looking guy holding a soda can. Sandy also bought a little fishing-type, black hat that had the Yield sign symbol but read Pearl Jam inside. To not risk the potential crunching of our poster we dumped it in the car and got in line to enter the venue. We got a few beers and visited with our two friends and my little sister who we had gotten lawn seats for in order that they might finally see what all the fuss was about. They constantly give us shit about traveling to see the band, so it was a perfect opportunity to show them the root of our fanaticism.
With Mudhoney's set about to start, we rushed down to our seats. Holy shit ... Ten Club came through BIG TIME. Fifth row, Mike's side. Sandy nor I could believe our luck. We just sat there grinning from ear-to-ear, knowing PJ would soon be standing where Mudhoney was. We raced for the bathrooms after Mudhoney finished their set. It was a madhouse. I was afraid that we would miss the start of PJ's set, but we finally made it back to our seats. We waited for about ten minutes or so when all of a sudden I felt the urge to... pee! Damn those beers! I just fucking peed 2 minutes ago! I finally decided I HAD to go. I ran from my chair to the bathroom frantically weaving through the crowds. When I was exiting the Mens room I could see the house lights were off and heard no other than The Red Dot Song above the roaring of the crowd! Sprinting and shoving, I made it to the gate yelling to ushers "PLEASE HELP ME FIND MY SEAT!!" Within a couple of seconds I was back, smiled at Sandy with a relieved grin, and turned around just in time to hear the opening chords of Hail Hail. (Whew!)
Ed was decked out in his old army-green jacket (which was later removed) over a short-sleeved black collar shirt and black cargo pants. Stone was wearing green shorts and a black T-shirt. Jeff had on gray shorts and a black T-shirt and NO HAT. Mike came out with tan pants, a faded, sleeveless black T-shirt, and a black sport coat on. Matt had on a red T-shirt and I assume shorts (couldn't see from his waist down).
Hail Hail was awesome but a blur. I was just trying to take everything in and amazed at my luck in getting back to my seat in time. Next they launched into Animal. Watching Mike's solo was incredible! His fingers were flying! I knew I'd have to keep a keen eye on him all night. After that was GTF. I was impressed at how it sounded live. Other live versions I'd heard didn't quite measure up to the album, but this one held up good. Matt's drumming on it was a particular stand-out. An unexpected DTE showed up early in the set along with the beginning of Ed's ass-shaking. Pretty good dancing for a little white boy. Then they reached back with Dissident. Not a favorite of mine, but it still was excellent. Ed picked up his guitar and ripped into a fantastic Corduroy followed by an equally fantastic I Got Shit.
This is were I started to get a little frustrated. Maybe it was the tight security or maybe PJ fans are just getting old or maybe everyone was just dumbfounded to have PJ in Atlanta again, but the crowd was pretty much dead. Especially up front in the fan club seats. I looked around me and was straining to see more than the occasional head-bob. I'm not advocating that everyone should have been going nutso-crazy. I understand that people react to things differently, but I definitely think the crowd's lack of enthusiasm at times affected the concert on a whole. That magical connection between audience and band didn't surface until the end of the show.
Back to the show. Wishlist was next and a crowd favorite. I don't remember Ed changing it up much. Even Flow followed and momentarily got the crowd going. My eyes were fixed on Mike who slashed through the solo. In Hiding was next. I was disappointed because I knew then that we wouldn't hear Faithfull, a song I'm dying to hear live. It held up beautifully even though Ed asked the crowd for help after the first chorus, clutching his throat. Suggesting that he was having trouble with the high notes, he still sounded perfect. A romping Last Exit was next followed with Ed talking to the crowd for the first time. He asked who was going to be there tomorrow night for the Beastie Boys. The crowd roared. Then he told a story about an old obscure band from San Fran. named the Yeastie Girls. He asked Matt to give him a beat and sang/rapped a part from a Yeastie Girls song
"We're the Yeastie Girls
and we got yeast problems
We don't shave armpits
and we don't take showers
We don't say 'Thank You'
and we don't say 'Please'
We put things in our vaginas
that you wouldn't believe!"
This had the crowd, not-to-mention the rest of the band, cracking up! Ed commented that that was a little music history for us. Then he said, "This is what it's like to be my best friend," and they slid into a beautiful Off He Goes. This is clearly one of Sandy's favorite live songs and it was obvious by her expression. Next they tore into MFC. Better Man followed without the Save it for Later tag :-( It always cracks me up to see girls snuggle up to their guys during this song as if it is a romantic tune. Brain of J was next followed by a smoking version of Alive with Mike tilting his head back...eyes closed...making his guitar sing! They leave the stage and the crowd surprisingly gets LOUD. Finally! I guess the threat of no PJ has some people scared.
A few minutes pass and they return slamming right into Go. Again Mike is tearing it up at the end of the song. Then Ed says, "I've seen this guy at a few shows holding up the same sign." He smiles and humorously adds, "We're gonna play a song so I never have to see that fucking sign again." No Way creeps into the air exciting most...especially those who know what a treat it is to hear it live. This song is so much better live. Ed inflicts a lot more emotion into it compared to the album version. After the song ends, Ed asks, "So how long has it been Atlanta?" Everyone screams, "FOUR YEARS!" Ed continues, "I remember last time at the Fox and we played this song. I think it was on Easter ... back when I used to believe in God. (smiles) But that was a long time ago." RVM accelerates to life. I love how they break in the middle of this song and then roar back for the finish. The crowd pleaser Daughter followed with 3 tags! REM's Talk About the Passion / All Those Yesterdays / REM's The Wrong Child. After waiting for what seemed like minutes after the "the shades go down ..." part, Ed starts repeating "Not everyone can carry the weight of the world ..." followed by, "There's still time to escape. Don't hesitate. You got time so escape ..." and ending with, "I'm not supposed to be like this ..." (repeating) and then repeating, "But it's OK ..." softer and softer with each repetition until at the very end it was a whisper. It was pretty intense to say the least. Next Stone fucked up the beginning of Black but quickly recovered. Ed started laughing and said, "This is the first time we've played this song." Black ruled the evening ... and Mike ruled Black. His solo at the end had all eyes on him. Even the band was just sitting there smiling, watching, blown away by him. Sandy told me later she thought she was gonna start crying.
After a huge applause someone threw a shirt at Ed that read, "Stop Skateboard Harassment." Ed said, "Oh, you got that too. Last night in NC it should have been 'Stop Concert Harassment'." He went on a talking about how the security was so tight etc., etc. Then he stopped himself mid-sentence and said, "Oh yeah, but was I was trying to say before was ... one, two, three, four ..." Like an explosion Porch came crashing down. And the sedate crowd finally connected with the band. I think between Mike's Black solo and the power of Porch, something finally shook everyone up. The band took notice. When the song broke in the middle, Ed danced at his mic for a few seconds and then started walking right towards us!! He came down to our end of the stage shaking and dancing and slapping peoples' hands! And there he was right in front of me looking down with that intense "I'm fired up" look in his eyes! I missed a hand-slap by inches but being that close still gives me chills now. I noticed something else, Ed had an earring in his left ear! When the hell did this happen? It wasn't very big and his hair would usually hide it...if that's any indication of how close I was. He then made his way down to Stone's side of the stage in the same manner. Then he finished the song on a security guy’s shoulders leaning out into the crowd front and center. People rushed the front, grabbing him, singing with him. I think the rest of the band got a little nervous because they started to finish the song prematurely. Ed did a backwards somersault off the security guy's shoulders back onto the stage. They left again for a few seconds and then returned for Yellow Ledbetter to close the show. Mike killed this song at the end. Ed, Stone, Jeff, and Matt just stopped playing, dropped their instruments, and just watched Mike do his thing. Wow. The house lights came on and it was over.
Overall, this might have been the best show I've seen yet. Stone and Jeff looked a little road-weary, but Ed and Mike were in their zones for most of the night. Matt is an excellent addition. Ed, Stone, and Mike were all occasionally flipping guitar picks into the crowd throughout the show. Matt tossed his drumsticks at the end. Ed also gave away a tambourine and a mic stand and Mike threw his T-shirt into the crowd as he was walking off the stage. On the whole everyone looked very happy. I've never seen Ed smile that much before in my life! The setlist was a little disappointing. I had hoped we would be treated to Baba O'Riley or Rocking in the Free World. It just felt like they were playing most of their hits because it had been a while since they were last here. Most disappointing of all were my fucking friends. Recognizing the power of music and knowing firsthand how one night of great live music can change a person's life, I was excited to hear their impressions of the show. Practically the only thing they talked about the whole way home was how some drunk girl near them on the lawn was coaxed into taking her shirt and bra off and showing everyone her tits during Even Flow. Oh well, at least they remembered what song it was.