"1, 2, 3....Hold on to the wave..."
And "Oceans" opens this show, the first of PJ's three-night NYC area stand. As always, it's simple, it's powerful; Eddie arching his back on the bridge as the music builds. "Thank you," he says quietly as the song ends. "Hail Hail" next and we shift gears, the quiet openers can be wonderful but now we're where we belong, we're rockin' now, Ed throws off his jacket, his head is shaking, Mike is flailing around the stage, and I'm getting goosebumps. Already. To "Hail Hail"! Or, maybe it was just that I hadn't seen 'em in while. Nah, I don't think so...
12345-against-1, oh yeah, woo hoo, "Animal," another song I always love watching them play, there is never a bad version, the bass is thumping, the guitars are grinding, and Eddie's voice can just soar. And it did, and straight on into "GTF." All I can think of at this moment is Mike talking about the song in SVT, and how the chords reminded him of waves, and that's what I'm feeling, throwing my arms up in the air at the "arms wide open" line.
Stand-up bass, "Daughter" already?! But before we kick in, Eddie looks at the crowd way in the back and says, "How is everyone in section 244 ... (squints) ... no, I mean 203 ... (turning) ... 215 ..." and the usual, get comfortable, we're gonna be here for a while. Mike is bouncing around, Eddie's doing the little Ed shuffle-dance, there's a lone white spotlight above him, shining on him, he's rolling his head from side to side, holding onto the mic. And it's tag zone, I've got my eyes closed, concentrated, listening, hoping (well, they WERE playing the Velvet Underground before the show started - "thank god, the velvets, we're in fuckin' new york!" I exclaimed as Ben Harper walked off stage and "Waiting For The Man" came over the PA). "Sha la la la la la la la..." and HOLY FUCK, it is "Jersey Girl" by Bruce Springsteen, the very song I had brought a SIGN for, Bruce played the very first concerts that were ever at this venue (back when it was the Brendan Byrne Arena). As a friend would say later, "well, doh, it was SO obvious". And then quite a bit of "Androgynous Mind" by Sonic Youth, "hey hey it's okay" over and over and over again, Mike is leaning over his effects board, Eddie is shouting and shouting. Simple, powerful. Classic PJ.
Eric Johnson runs onstage and puts something on Eddie's amp, I think it's a hand mirror and then I realize it's a - ping pong paddle. "We just got news that something happened - not to interrupt the show or anything..." and Jeff takes a ping pong ball, pitches it at Eddie, and he hits it with his Telecaster into the hands of some very happy women in the second row. The crowd cheers long and loud, the band is grinning - they didn't need to say a damn thing, we all knew what had just happened (and those paying attention saw it happen on the televisions on in the luxury boxes behind the stage). Ed straps on the Telecaster and it's time for "Corduroy" which just thunders through the arena, the crowd outsinging the band in some places, and Mike -- ah, Mike. While I was happy to finally have a show in front of Stone, I kinda missed being able to watch McCready play, especially as energetic as he was tonight.
"MFC," a classic song for Jersey if I ever heard one (anything about cars, and anything about leaving town - gee, that sounds like half of Springsteen's repertoire - oops! =)). "Wishlist" next; the crowd responds magnificently to the "50 million hands" line and raises a huge grin from Eddie as a result. And, ya know, I've wondered about this; I mean, do ya think he thought about this when he wrote the song, or rather after he wrote it? I remember in Maui the first time, it hadn't even occurred to me, but it obviously did to other people in the crowd, and it obviously did to Ed, because his reaction was an approving, "Yeah, you got it" and in Seattle I, his response was an emphatic, "That's better!" It just always seems to make him happy when it happens. Anyway, so we get "I wish I was as fortunate, as fortunate as New Jersey" as well as "I wish I was the verb 'to trust' and never let me down."
"Evenflow" way up front in the set. Good, good place for it, and while I've been watching setlists over the past few weeks and have been thrilled that they've been so adventuresome (well, for PJ they have been pretty fucking adventuresome) with mixing up the setlist, we lost the "Hail Hail"/"Brain of J" pairing, and while I understand the advantages (and extra time gained!) by not having to change guitars for every song, I am still happy for us and them that there is so much more variety than what we had gotten used to, even from the first leg. That aside, EF still remains one of the few songs that seems to confuse our Ed; he totally fucks up the second line of the second verse, exclaiming "FUCK!" loudly and shaking his head. But he shakes it off and no harm done, we all got a good laugh out of it for sure. The solo, and Mike is wailing away, Ed's way over on Stone's side watching him; Mike plays and plays, he glances at Ed, who nods encouragingly. Mike keeps playing, and then once again glances over at Eddie, who gestures keep going, keep going. My notes say "wow wow wow."
Wow indeed, because the next song was "Faithfull," and despite knowing that this means we give up "In Hiding," I needed to hear this song. It's been way too long, and now I remember why. This was the best musical moment of the evening for me, the guitars are wonderfully churning, and I love love love love LOVE the "it goes, it goes, IT GOES LIKE THIS" line, watching Eddie deliver it, listening to him sing it, and this version especially was just right on target.
"This is a song about being faithful," and it's "State," everyone down front going BANANAS, and it was a version well deserving of that reaction, sharp, fast, intense, almost a blur. "Brain of J" next (that is a great segue imo!), and then there's the stand-up bass again, I'm telling my friend Mari "Nothingman," and yep, it is. Mike's over on his side of stage, leaning sideways, perched on his amp, smoking a cigarette. And while I would bet that this is really getting tiresome for you, the reader, there's nothing I can do about the fact that every single version of this song that I have heard this tour has been OUTSTANDING. There is something completely different about every version, something noteworthy about every version. This song just grabs you, and grabs you differently every single time, which is one of the hallmarks of Great Art (or so I'm told). Matt's drumming (oh, yeah. How could I forget to mention the work of the mighty Matthew D. Cameron, except that every single night he just rules, so we should all just be USED to it by now) solid, and Eddie's gesture on the "caught a bolt of lightning" line grabbing me right in the heart. The "into the sun" line, and I'm in front of Stone, so I get to Watch Stone Play, and almost miss McCready's gesturing skyward - into the sun.
I see Matt's roadie adjusting his vocal mic and I'm thinking - WHAT?! "Leatherman"?!!! And fuck, yeah it was, complete with a scissor kick from McCready, funny faces and wiggles from Mr. Gossard (it's such a Stoney song to me in a way, although I know it's not, I guess it's just that he's always so funny during it). I'm thinking, am I going to be so lucky as to actually get a 'man' trilogy, and Eddie says, "This is the last song of the trilogy" and I'm thinking - YES!!!!! =) "Betterman". And okay, okay. I know I said they should stop playing this. But I'll take a show without "Jeremy" (which we're getting!) if I can have this, even without the "Save It For Later" tag, because, ya know, they always play it so well, they always seem so happy playing it, and musically, it has all the qualities of a PJ song that I love: the solidity of the rhythm section, the intricate aural meshing of the guitars, powerful lyrics, and a chance for EV to really work the vocal range (which, by the way, in case you were worried, is fine, as warm and rich and vibrant as ever).
Spotlight on Stone, and there are the opening chords to "Black," lighter city up in the 200 level. Mike's solo is wonderful, but not the incendiary qualities that we've been hearing about the last few weeks (not that he was playing bad! not at all! it's just that he has reached such a whole other level lately that stellar is the norm, we now expect extraordinary!). We crash into DTE next, time for everyone to dance around, including Eddie, who really threw himself into it, he was loose and happy, matching the mood of the audience perfectly, doing the goofy little "admire my clothes" routine and everything. And that's the set.
Now, about the signs. So we've been 'sponsoring' this "Breath" campaign all tour; frankly I personally had given up, since enough people had had signs that had been seen by the band, and, well, nothing. But tonight, someone else was not going to give up as easily as I was, and Jessica from the fanzine "Tickle My Nausea" had printed up 1,000 signs reading "Breath," with a little note on the bottom explaining that this is a song that means a lot to a lot of PJ fans, when it was last played, and would you please hold this up when the band walks back out for the encore. I took a huge handful and handed them out down front and up into the first level a bit, Leigh from Australia walked up and down the aisles on the break, and the place was saturated. But, of course, this is a 8x11 piece of paper, and who knows who is going to still have it by the end of a show and who is going to remember to hold it up?
They remembered. =)
The band walks onstage for the first encore to a literal sea of signs, I turn around and they are just EVERYWHERE, including some larger ones that were not part of Jessica's campaign. And the band stands there dumbfounded. I mean, this was not anything you could have ignored if you tried. They are laughing and pointing and cracking up, all of them, talking amongst themselves. "Well, that's very impressive, but it's not gonna do you a damn bit of good....All you people have been holding up signs, there's this guy down front who's had a sign all night, 'Can I play drums with you for one song?' I'm sure you're a great drummer, but we have one of the world's best drummers up here, Matt Cameron (wild applause)...Do you know 'Breath', perhaps?... Who's responsible for this???" There is a lot of discussion going on up there, you can see that they are seriously thinking about this (yes! they got the hint! finally!) and then Ed says something about if he was a band and they hadn't been to New Jersey in a really long time, this would be the first song of the encore that he would want to play, and it's "Go," banging and crashing and bashing and rocking fierce (but it's STILL not "Breath," Ed, okay?), followed by a stellar "Immortality," the strobes bringing you into the total PJ zone during Mike's solo, you stopped breathing. (lol!)
"This next song has the word 'breath' in it, if it helps at all," and it's "Elderly Woman," which is bouncy and - anthemic (I said I would never use that word to describe GTF again this tour, but any other song is fair game!). Seriously, though, the "I just wanna scream 'hello'" line is always wonderful, but tonight it's just spilling over with energy, huge grins on the faces of the band and the crowd. "I swear I recognize your - BREATH," sung with major rolling of eyes and this evil grin from Eddie. Fuck you too, Vedder. =)
"RVM" starts differently each and every time I have seen it, different but still the same, those first notes scattered randomly, but you know what it is by the third note, and they are just soaring away on this one, Eddie using the ebow on the bridge, Mike and Jeff playing together, and it is that moment I love so much, where the four of them are so absorbed in their music and their instruments (okay, Matt is too, but its not the united front of four guys on guitars, it's this moment when they are playing alone but completely together). And then those notes, "Alive," house lights, that wonderful moment of connection between the band and the crowd that is one of the best parts of every single show. Eddie does his usual walk around behind the stage cruise during the solo (while Mike is out there kicking ass and taking names), and does a full circle, comes back on Mike's side of the stage for the end. I didn't see it, but apparently Jeff goosed Stoney's butt at the end of the song.
Mike's got the - FLYING V?! What? What IS this? "1,2,3,4..." Shit! "PORCH"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh, god, ya know, I am glad that this song is not a staple of every show, but when they HAVE been playing it, it has been a keeper, it has been to die for, it has been one of those songs that by the end you have no voice left, you don't realize just how hard and how loud you are screaming along. The jam is very different, it has the flavor of the 3/5/98 version, but is more Led Zep-ish, almost. And then Eddie walks up to the mic stand, takes the mic off, and starts walking.
And I think, oh. fuck.!!!!!!!!!!
Oh, right, as he grabs the hand of the guy next to me and steps onto the top of the crash barrier, holding on the guy next to me, his left leg is leaning on my left shoulder, Pete is grabbing onto his back and balancing himself on my OTHER shoulder, there are now THOUSANDS of people down front (thank you, Maria, for giving ME your extra fan club seat in the front row, I will name my first-born child after you, I promise), but overall, the crowd was okay, Eddie had to ask them a few times not to pull on him, and OH MY GOD, I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS IS FUCKING HAPPENING RIGHT FUCKING HERE, I AM LEANING ON EDDIE VEDDER'S FUCKING **FEET** (I had *no* choice, let me tell you), and if I tell you that the rest of the song is a blur will you blame me? It didn't occur to me until later that night that I couldn't remember the last verse, even though it was delivered right there, I just remember looking straight up at Eddie leaning over the crowd, watching him sing, trying to keep my space, and, believe it or not, taking pictures.
Ed makes it back onto the stage, thanks the crowd, and that's the end of that encore. We're all still in shock. I don't even remember them leaving the stage, but they obviously do, and that's obviously NOT all we're gonna get (and I remember him saying earlier in the encore to someone down front still waving a 'Breath' sign, "We're thinking about it," at which point I dived for my cell phone just in case!), hope springs eternal and all that. They walk back on to a loud roar, Ed and Stone are engaged in one of their little 'discussions' but Mikey has own ideas, as he keeps going into the YL riff, and I dunno whether they didn't come to any kind of consensus ("Mankind" was listed as an encore song, among many many others), or whether Mike just made an unilateral decision, but that's what we got, which was fine and fitting and really warm and vibrant.
And that's it. We don't want to leave, and hell, it looked like Eddie didn't want to, either.
Madison Square Garden. Here we come!
The "Breath" campaign continues:The sign brigade will be at MSG with more signs on Thursday (and Friday); if you're going, bring your own, and if you've got fanclub seats, we will be down front both nights handing out more signs! Like the guy who wrote the drum part to "Jesus Christ Pose" can't learn "Breath"???? MAJOR props to the TMN crew for this wonderful idea.
copyright © 1998 Caryn Rose