Well, after attending 4 shows (Missoula 95, Casper 95, Missoula 98, & Rapid City 98), I finally got to hear and even see a full soundcheck. And what an amazing soundcheck it was. What started out as a circus sideshow, ended up being an amazing 8 song soundcheck. I could hear someone playing "I Got Shit," so I walked into the arena, no one said anything to me. I walked out in front of the stage to see Stoney warming up all by himself. He gave me a little wave and I looked around to make sure he was waving at me. I sat against the bleachers listening to him for about 5-10 minutes until a security guard asked me if I belonged there. Of course I had to be a smart-ass, "Uh.. yeah I'm with the local newspaper." "Well, you'll need to go get a press pass at the front office, then you can come back," the guy says. "Umm.. Ok sounds good man, later." I walked back to the arena doors and sat down and just listened.
Stone played almost all of "Hard To Imagine" then jammed for another 5 minutes or so. While he was still jamming, I saw some guy ride by on a long board (skateboard). I think it was just a sound guy. Then, I saw Mike ride by on this HUGE beach cruiser bicycle. Followed a little while later by Mr. Cameron, only he was riding a tricycle (no, not the small-ass kiddie ones, a big industrial one with a basket on the back.) After circling around mid court for a while he stopped, and someone hopped in the back. This someone was none other than Ed himself. Matt and Ed made like 4-5 laps around the gym. They were getting some pretty serious momentum going. I was picturing the headlines now; "Pearl Jam Tour Comes to Halt after Biking Incident." A little while later, someone rolled out a portable basketball hoop. Jeff and some of the roadies began shooting on it. Jeff was wearing a pair of Knicks shorts (at least Bulls or Sonics, come on.)
At around 5:00 or so, they began the soundcheck. My heart dropped immediately as they launched into an amazing rendition of "Nothingman." It was a very solemn and chilling performance (yes I even had goosebumps). They followed up with "Indifference." Their instruments were turned down very low, at times making Ed sound like he was singing it a capella. It was already worth my $24 ticket. By this time the crowd of onlookers had grown to about 10 or so. Everyone was joking how they wouldn't mind leaving after just hearing the amazing soundcheck. Next up was "Pilate." They started in the middle of it, around the "Walks me outta town," part. Things weren't going good, so they started it over from the top. We all thought the second version was great, but they obviously felt otherwise, as it was left out of the show's set.
No one was prepared for what happened next, Presentfuckingtense. That's about the only way I can describe it. The version in Missoula was great, but this one blew it out of the water. Matt & Jeff were in such a tight groove. The ending was very heavy. Led by an amazing solo by Mr. McCready (who had just began his AMAZING night.) Not to be outdone, they busted into a very tight version of "Leatherman." It was funny because all of us joked about the "Man" trilogy, and low and behold, it happened at the show. Ok, I'm usually not one to bop around, especially while waiting in line, but I couldn't help myself. This is one of their most upbeat and fun songs. I hope everyone has the chance to hear it played live just once. "Last Exit" was up next (one of my fave live songs). Now, as if that wasn't enough to make me blow my - uh - mind, they tore into a sold version of "I've Got You", by the Split Enz. Everyone knew the song, but was drawing a blank on who the original was by. About half the way through it I finally remembered it. They jumped right into another cover, possibly a Velvet Underground cover (Sweet Jane?). The chorus was along the lines of, "I wanna be rich, I don't wanna go to work." I'm sure someone will identify it once they hear the tape of it. Ed walked out to the center of the arena and looked over at everyone in line. We all waved and he kindly waved back, then walked away. Frank Black soundchecked next, while everyone was getting antsy. They let us into the arena at 6:15.
Right before Frank came on, Pete (PJ's head security guard) gave us a nice speech about being helpful to each other and to keep the moshing and crowd surfing to a minimum, obviously people didn't understand a damn word he said. It was one of the worst pits I've been in, and I've been in some bad ones. About 3-4 songs into Frank Black, I decided it was time for me to leave. The barricade was just digging into my ribs too much. Somehow at Missoula I stayed up front the whole show, but this crowd was a lot younger. I walked around looking for a good place to watch PJ from. I finally decided I would go up in the bleachers (turned out to be the smartest thing I could have done.) After Frank's set, the house lights came up, and I looked around for my friends that I came with. They were nowhere to be found. I saw a girl, Molly, that was behind me on the floor and that I had met just before the show started. So I went over and talked with her. We decided to find a good spot to the left of the stage (I'm a sucker for Mikey.) She informed me, or rather warned me that it was her first PJ show, and that she might totally freak out. I responded by telling her, it was my 4th PJ show, and I'm SURE I will totally freak out. As the lights went down, and the band came on, it was all quiet. We then heard the opening riffs of "Do the Evolution" and both proceeded to freak out together. People around us were probably like, "What in the HELL is wrong with these people."
Do the Evolution: What else can I say, they fucking came to ROCK tonight. Ed left out the "barking" at the beginning, but did it later during the "Shades go down" part of "Daughter."
Animal: "1, 2, 3, 4, 5 against 1, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, against 1" 5 years and 3 albums later, this song still never ceases to amaze me. There were even fewer people doing the "fist" thing than in Missoula.
Last Exit: Far and away one of my favorite live songs. I just love how it ends so abruptly. Makes you just scream for more. Mike played an extended solo at the end, starting off what would be one of his most amazing performances ever. Mike did a great Joey Ramone impression in front of Matt. (legs spread wide as can be, head bobbing up and down)
Brain of J: Straightforward, No Bullshit, and Balls to the Wall. Sounds like a good description to me.
Given To Fly: To me, this has taken the thrown as PJ's live "anthem", previously held by either "Alive" or "Porch." "Delivered him wings, hey look at ME now." Ed was planning for take off, seriously, with all the energy and emotion of the band and the arena, it wouldn't have surprised me if he did just so.
Jeremy: Even though I could have done without hearing this one, they still made it a very worthwhile performance. Ed changed the "Mommy" and "Daddy" lines to "Mother" and "Father." Jeff as usual, was really into this one.
Faithfull: WOW!! I'm gonna go out on a limb here, but I think this is Matt's favorite song to play live. Ed starts off by saying, "Quite the storm you got here (there was bad wind and lightning outside), looks like the weather's trying to wipe you off the map. It's ok though, its all coming to an end anyways right? Well, at least when Bill Gates has enough money to buy the world it won't be worth a shit anyways" Lemme restate this again, MATT FUCKING LOVES THIS SONG. He was hammering the shit out of his kit, the tech kept having to adjust his cymbal stands because he was hitting them so hard. Mike played a sweet silver metal-flake Gretsch. Stone's gold LP is screwing up, his tech hands him his red Tele and he finishes with that guitar.
Corduroy: "The waiting drove me mad." How awesome is that line? It makes for a great opener, but fits in anywhere in a set. Ed strums "Not For You" before it.
MFC: A song that doesn't hit most people the first time they hear it. But once you hear it live, you fall in love with it. This is a band song, meaning the whole band is really into it. Ed introduces it as "a song about driving REAL fast."
Not For You: This was a Vitalogy reunion. 6 songs from there!!! Great to see this song make it's 98 US debut. Ed breaks his E (1st) string during the bridge and has to improvise the ending, making it sound kind of eerie, but still cool nonetheless.
Evenflow: While I wasn't as excited as the majority of the crowd was to hear this one, I'm very, very glad they played it. All I have to say is, "MIKEY IS GOD." Not sure about anyone else, but I took a trip back to 1992 during this song. Ed, Jeff, and Stone all huddled around Matt to watch Mike go off for like 2 minutes. It was a very intense solo that the crowd didn't seem to appreciate, I was crapping my pants, but unfortunately others didn't feel the same. After the solo, I gave mike the "we're not worthy" bow. Ed did the same thing to Mike.
Daughter: Great version. Jeff rolled around on his chair with his upright bass. During the "the shades go down" part, Ed cupped his hands and proceeded to bark like a dog into the mic. He then went into a really cool tag in which he was singing/speaking really fast. I caught some line about Lou Reed. Then another about "my penis…something something." The main line in the first tag was "excuse me" The second tag was fairly short, but the main line was "don't worry." This one ended sort of abruptly.
"Man" Trilogy Nothingman: Ed introduces it like this, "we're gonna do something that has never been attempted by this band before. We're gonna play 3 songs in a row, all with the word "man" in them." I freaked out when Ed said this. I've always wanted to hear "Nothingman" live. That has to be one of my tops on my dream set. I began thinking to hard during this. They could play anything, LeatherMAN, Better MAN, Dead MAN, Elderly WoMAN, MANkind. Got goosebumps again during the "Into the sun" part.
Leatherman: Fun, energetic, upbeat, just a few ways to describe this one live. Complete with Mr. Tambourine Man, Stone Gossard. At the end of the song, he threw the tambourine down and kicked it. He was laughing the whole song.
Better Man: Same ole, Same ole. No "Save It For Later" tag. Dammit Ed, now you have me singing that tag along with the studio version even.
Immortality: Hard to put into words. The heavy part towards the end, had Mike soloing at the front of the stage with the strobes flashing like crazy. It was quite a sight to see. A fan gets hurt after this song. Ed asks if he/she is ok. "You know, the opposite of immortality is mortality" Stone begins to play this cool volume swell riff.
New Song/Improv: Sounded like they had jammed on it before, had most of the structure of an actual song. Had a line mentioning "the Country Store" a few times. The chorus was something like "Where do we go from here."
Go: WOW!!! DOUBLE WOW!!! Matt, calm down man, chill, we don't need you getting a hernia this early in the tour or anything. Jeff became the proud owner of this song at the end by beating out the bass line with his fist, and ending with a HUGE 360 jump-spin. (Man, he's gonna dunk over my ass at the celebrity game in July.)
Alive: Wicked version, almost as good as Missoula. Once again, the Mr. McCready show was in syndicate. They again huddled around Matt and watched as Mike tear up his side of the stage, beating his guitar on his monitor and running around in circles.
Hail Hail: Ed teases us. "When we flew in, we flew over Mt. Rushmore. That's pretty "PATRIOTic" if you're into that big.. rock.. carving thing. There's also the "CRAZY" Horse monument." (I'm scribbling in Crazy Mary as Ed has a beer bottle he's toasting to the crowd) "Cheers to Fifty Years!" "What do you guys do for fun around here?" "Wait... I know... You guys all go cow-tipping. That's it... Just raise your hand if you've ever been cow-tipping." A few people raise their hands. "Here's 'Hail Hail'" Ed says. No matter how many times I hear the line during the bridge "Sometimes realize that I can only be as good as you let me…. yadda yadda yadda", It still makes my heart sink. Ed continues to pour beer on the crowd. He's also getting good at catching the shirts people are throwing.
State Of Love And Trust: I totally lost it here. I'm sorry Molly if I elbowed you or was being obnoxious. But this song owns me like no other, especially with Matt at the helm. Matt sorta cuts off Ed though during the, "Myself" part. Ed only gets in one before Matt goes into the outro. But they don't seem to mind. Mike McCready show again.
Black: Molly had just got done telling me how much she would love to hear "Black." On the opening notes, we hugged each other and both almost shed a tear. (See, some guys admit they're sensitive.) I found myself closing my eyes just letting the music surround me. It was a beautiful moment. Not as intense as the ending at Missoula, but great nonetheless. No "we belong together" line tonight.
Wishlist: Another song that Molly was "wishing" for. I promised her they'd play it, just didn't figure it'd be this late in the set. Matt takes this song a step further than the album version, which is why I'm beginning to love this song more and more. No different lines, "I hope it never stops."
Rearviewmirror: I had told Molly about my friend from Nevada's license plate frame that reads, "I Gather Speed… From You Fucking With Me." Second time I've heard this one live. This was definitely the highlight of the show. I'm guessing it clocked in around 6-7 minutes or so. AMAZING jam at the end. Seemed like a weird song to end on, until you saw how much energy they were putting into it.
Matt & Mike connection was in full effect tonight. Mike has SO much energy on this tour so far, as does the rest of the band. But, Mikey just stands out so much more. He was freaking doing laps around the whole stage at times. If you get a chance to get a hold of a tape of this show, listen very carefully to the guitar work. I think you'll agree with me that it's one of best nights Mike has ever had. He seemed to think so, as did the band. During "Evenflow," I could have sworn he was possessed by the ghosts of Hendrix and SRV in his solo. Stone was also really into it tonight. A lot more than Missoula. Despite his guitar problems, he still seemed to have a great time. Jeff, well Jeff is always happy and bouncy. Matt was insane at times, jumping out of his seat at the end of GO. Ed was in a great mood. Seemed happy to be there and to be out on the road having fun.
Well, I'd like to thank some people that have made my Summer 98 Tour even better than I expected. Ross, Levi, and Ben for making the 19 hour wait for Missoula tickets a little more fun. Jeff, Jason, Jason MW Brown, Ryan, and Sarah, I had a lot of fun Friday before Missoula show. Jason and Pete, thanks for finding us that great motel at Rapid City. Nothing like sleeping in your car at a rest area. Molly, for making my best show even better, I hope I helped make your first show one to remember always, hope to hear from you soon. And, thanks to Mr. Matthew Cameron for making this whole thing possible and for an amazing summer to come. Everyone that still has shows coming up, you're in for a real treat.
So, be careful and have a safe and happy Summer 98 Tour!!!