rockin' in the free world
Sandstone Ampitheatre, Kansas City, KS
Located just outside of Kansas City, this venue was basically a large steep hill with some seats and a stage at the bottom. Smaller than St. Louis, totally open, no roof. We park at the bottom of a dangerously beer-bottle-strewn meadow and rush to the gates close to 8pm and head shortly thereafter to our seats. The Murder City Devils are towards the end of their set, they're sounding and looking great, and I have just taken my seat when a black-clad EV, mug of tea in hand, walks out and gives his endorsement of the MCD by way of playfully giving 'em shit. Matt Cameron is side-stage watching, as is PJ manager Kelly Curtis. They leave the stage, and as promised, a taping friend shows up to my 17th-row-center seats and hands me his ticket that says "Row A" ("too close," he said) and I shake my head and walk down front, not believing my luck.
Row A is Row 3 (there's rows 1 and 2 in front of it), almost identical to my Maui position. The seats in the rows in front of me are empty - yes - someone has first and second row tickets and they seem to not be using them (although a scalper could've been stuck with them). A few minutes later my friend Mike is in my row, somehow scammed his way down for a minute in order to help me get the attention of McCready's guitar tech, in order to pass him a little gift to deliver to the man himself, in the form of an awesome Stones bootleg from 1973. I don't know what possessed me to do this, it's just that I have been listening to a lot of live Stones from 73 and 75 and damn if Keith Richards' solos in that period are not reminding me of Mike's guitar work lately. I am successful in my attempt, hug my friend, and before I know it "The Color Red" starts, I stand up and then someone taps me on the shoulder - girls I met briefly the night before, friends of the woman who sold me that awesome St. Louis ticket. The guys next to me are eyeing the first and second row seats, I hop up a row, Joy and her friend move into my space. Lights go down, there is STILL no one in the front row and what the hell - if they show up, I'll GLADLY move back (and they didn't!) and as a result I spent the show on the rail. Not bad for someone who started out a few months ago with a lawn ticket.
And there we are. I'd hoped for "Long Road" as an opener, but we got a fine "Corduroy," instead, the place going nuts and singing along. Same sequencing as St. Louis, "Hail Hail" and "Brain of J" following in close order, I'm checking out the various 'barometers' and they all I can say is - FUCK!!!!! They are SO on! It is VERY hot, the sound is less than stellar, but already I can see that this show has none of the reserve of yesterday.
Of course "Dissident" had to be next, some asshole in the crowd has lit a smoke bomb down front, but yes, even this song that I love to hate has its moments for me - on the bridge before the last verse, where those guitars just grind and soar, I am entranced, it is wonderful and majestic.
Tonight I was the name that tune girl, calling the songs off one tiny riff or note before the song proper - "Faithfull!" I cried gleefully, jumping up and down. Oh, I missed this song! It was great, not the ultimate version, and I loved Eddie's little "boxes of fear" gesture. "Jeremy" (yep, already) up next, but Matt Cameron redeems this hit for me, Stone REALLY getting into things, he is sweating almost as hard as Eddie (who was just drenched) by the end of the night.
After this song it's once again the now standard yeah-we-know-we-suck-we-haven't-been-here-for-six-years bit: "We haven't been here for a while... I mean, we weren't touring anyway (said with some vehemence), it's not like we were seeing other people...we've been saving ourselves for you." And I know some people are having problems with the drinking and swearing and carrying on onstage, the fact that PJ seem somehow less serious, but this comment to me was very telling (and a pre-show interview Eddie did seems to support this), that they were just so sick of the "surrounding bullshit" and just wanted to get on the road and rock and roll, stop trying to save the world, and do what they are supposed to be doing, being a rock band. As a result, in my humble opinion they are playing better than ever -- I see no evidence of a reduction of the quality of the shows as a result. But, that's just me.
Eddie then mentions that the crowd last night (cheers from the probably 1/3 that was doing both shows, the coast-to-coast Missouri run) was really good and we've got all night to do better (LOUD cheer). Another great "I Got Shit" moved into a kick-ass, intense "MFC," Eddie playing so fucking hard that he broke a strong, Matt kicking serious ass on this song (even if I couldn't see him for love or money - that ride cymbal problem again), Eddie bashing the neck of the guitar on the mic stand at the end, and then "Wishlist," mirror ball, sweat pouring off Ed, and when the crowd responded en masse during the "50 million hands upraised" line, we got a "Yeah!" acknowledgement from Ed. We got it. (Except for the drunk couple next to me, the female of which got up and flashed her boobs at Mike. I think Joy tried to explain that this was not Van Halen to prevent further displays.)
Now, one of Jean's favorite songs this tour, "Last Exit," it just gets better and better every show I see, it is not weak or filler or a throwaway or something-familiar-to-placate-the-crowd, they play this one because they love kicking its butt around the block and then some. To me, it's the perfect example of the evolution of a song over time, how a song can be reborn and played anew.
GTF, Matt's work intricate and tribal, perfect. Stone's glasses are off because he is sweating so hard. (In addition to being hot, he is just moving around in a manner that would do Mike proud.) Smitty's already had to change out Ed's mic from the sweat and spit. "Arms wide open" and we're all doing it... ah, it's rough, it's not the musical precision of St. Louis, but tonight it is full of passion and conviction and is all about emotion.
"Evenflow," a song I never get tired of hearing. Watching Jeff swing that bass on the jam, Mikey wailing it out. On the 5h message board, someone had started a thread about favorite moments in PJ songs, and this is one of mine, that moment when they ease it back into the groove before the last verse. It is NEVER the same and I love listening and dancing and watching to see where they take it each time.
"Daughter," and I'm catching my breath, waiting for the tag. "The shades go down...the shades go down..." and Eddie's cupping his hands around his mouth to create a megaphone effect, moving them back and forth to create these awesome vocal sounds. And then he speaks, it's almost a dramatic soliloquy:"I spoke about wingsThen he reaches his arm out like he's trying to grab the moon, hanging in the sky. I'd noticed the amazing orange moon on the drive home last night and thought of him (Ed being the only musician I know of besides Michael Stipe who ever pointed out the moon during a concert), sorry that Riverport had a roof. He then waves at it, staring intently at it, he's talking to the moon, and it is so poignant and heartfelt and almost vulnerable, like he's in his backyard, not in front of 20,000 people. It's one of the most incredible things I've ever seen him do. He gets the crowd to turn around and look at it, and says, "This is the last night we're gonna get to see this thing in real life for a while, the rest of the tour is indoors," and the song finishes.
You just flew
You just flew.
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon..."
[This tag was driving me nuts, I thought I recognized it, and when I got the soundbyte while writing this and listened again and filled in the end of the last line it dawned on me: it's from "The Whole of The Moon" by the Waterboys - they played this album as pre-show music in Missoula and I was getting shit from my friends for knowing who it was and knowing the words (it's an awesome song & album!), font of useless musical knowledge that I am...]
I am still trying to recover from this, and then Eddie starts telling us that the next song is a really old song, that it was written before he was in the band, that Stone and Jeff did a demo of it and that Matt Cameron played on it (and gestured at the audience to get Matt some applause... are they possibly worried that we're not liking his performance??!) and I'm totally at a loss to guess what this is gonna be and before I know it - "Footsteps".
My heart just crashes, oh I am so NOT prepared to hear this, I am completely still, I will not take one photo, write one note. I heard this at Bridge, but that seemed like cardboard compared to this version. This is that version you listen to at 3am, the version that scares you, that touches you, t hat speaks to you, that calls out the emotions you didn't even know you had. I would cry but it's beyond that right now. Thank you, thank you, the whole audience down front is singing along every word, they know what they are getting here.
And then we're into "Alive," no matter how many times I hear it and they play it, it is always powerful, never rote, even if it might start out that way it never ends that way because the crowd just feeds their energy to the band and that's why it's always different yet still essentially the same. Both Jean and I wondered if they'd do "Once" next (okay, trilogy out of order but STILL), but instead out of nowhere - "Go"! MATT! MIKE! JEFF! God I don't know where to look first! Thank goodness that was the end of the set or we'd have gone ballistic.
They come back after a fairly lengthy interval - doh, they were hot and sweaty - and Eddie informs us that they'll be here for a while, that they're in no hurry to get to Dallas, and then proceeds to mock a Texas drawl perfectly: "Well wha don't chu come to our bar-be-que, here put on this hat" (we're laughing our asses off), and then, again, two nights running, "Nothingman," I am just entranced by that voice, wow, and then "Betterman" - no tag, too hot, I'm hoping for "Leatherman," but no, before we know it, "It's evolution, baby!" Again, I miss this song in the regular set but fuck, they should just keep playing this song FOREVER if for no reason than we get to watch Stone just come alive.
So it's the changeover, Jeff grabbing a guitar - doh, "Smile" - and in the meantime Eddie's off on this ed-rap about the Presbyterians (of all things), and how "a bunch of MEN, but that's another story" were debating about creation, how long was a day, how did they know how long a week was, blah blah blah, "oh my god, maybe we got it WRONG when we made up this little story" and ends with the clincher (and the whole point of the story I think), "What I want to know is, how many days did it take for man to create God?" and whips out the harmonica and - "don't it make you smile?" Fuck YEAH! Stone is just making these excruciating faces at Mike, playing very very carefully, it's a blast to watch.
A few random strums of guitar and somehow I find myself screaming, "There are colors on the street, red white and blue" and damn if I am not right, RITFW kicking all sorts of ass, Mike wailing, Mike and Jeff cracking up as they sing the chorus, Ed walking the length of the stage back and forth, the crowd going bananas.
And it's over.
So I'm down front, and fuck tonight I'm gonna fight for a setlist, damn if I know how, but I'm gonna try. Two seconds later Mike from Chicago is down there next to me, he's yelling at Smitty and points at me and before I know it Smitty hands the setlist (I think it was Jeff's) to Bailey, who hands it to me, and then McCready's tech is down front throwing out picks to the crowd and throws one specifically at me, I manage to catch it in my MOUTH, he's laughing, making sure I got it, and then he yells, "I gave Mike the tape" and my face lights up even more than it was already and we get the hell out of there, back up the hill to find everyone else.
A group photo, hugs all around, and time to go home. Even a blown-out tire AND a dead battery 80 miles from home didn't bother me too much; this was one of those delayed-reaction shows, you know it is fucking great when you're watching it but you know it was REALLY amazing when you wake up the next day and the memories come vividly floating back without any help. KC was one of those shows.
Next stop, San Diego. Can I make it that long?
About the photos: People send us lots of mail asking about cameras and film. Jean used an Olympus Stylus with a 35-70mm zoom and Fuji 800 ASA film. Caryn uses a Canon SureShot with a 35-80mm zoom and either Fuji or Kodak 800 ASA film. We both use our flashes; yes, from a distance the flash won't help illuminate the stage, but it does set the correct shutter speed and stop the action, since our cameras set shutter speed automatically. Jean was in the fifth row center and Caryn was in the first row on Mike's side. The KC venue allowed cameras.
Thanks to Sneaky Bastard Audio for the sound clip
copyright © 2001 Caryn Rose
photos © Caryn Rose & Jean Bruns