"it's been the craziest life we've ever lived."
This is not a review.
I don't own an expensive home theater system; I finally bought a DVD player because of Touring Band 2000. I know nothing about movies, film, or anything technical to do with DVD production. I cannot tell you about halos or color transfer or anything of that nature. But I do know about Pearl Jam, and I do know about rock and roll, and in this context, those are the only things that really matter. Speaking as a fan of both, I can tell you that this project is, in my humble opinion, a tremendous gift.
Ed's letters are always priceless, and the one in the DVD is probably the best yet. Self-deprecating, dry, witty, funny, sincere, sarcastic. It should be required material for any journalist who ever wants to write about Pearl Jam (along with the "Smile" montage, but more about that later). When I first got the DVD and ripped it open and read the letter, it was the first thing about this release that made me cry. The written, direct acknowledgement of their collective pain and subsequent healing. "It was interesting to watch footage of Europe and how well it had been going, when all we seem to have remembered is how it ended," summarized how anyone who had been at any of those shows, or anyone who had been following the news of the tour online, felt. Anyone who requires literal proof that the state of the Pearl Jam union is positive should have their worries assuaged by this letter. For the rest of us, the DVD should be proof enough.
While I have no fault with the performances, I freely admit that I have not yet had the opportunity to watch TB2K enough to completely focus on the performances and form any kind of critical judgement. Maybe in 5 years the lyric fuckup in "Wishlist" will be annoying; right now it's just realistic and endearing, and I'm honestly not interested in being either critical or judgemental. I spent the first two viewings (using Ed's suggested 1/3 sequence, although my first third was of my own concoction and I didn't stop before the encore on the last third) hitting "pause" constantly, looking for my friends and gleefully recognizing familiar faces. In my notebook, I have the cities/songs written in the margins with room for comment and notes alongside it. There are a handful of scattered comments interspersed by a litany of names: Mark. Eric. Marit. Ryan. Amy. Paris. Can I see Tony get Ed's pick in Alpine Valley? Is that when Ed gave his pick to Shannon and Kathy in San Francisco? And it goes on and on and on. I love hearing about people finding themselves in the crowd. I love watching the crowd montages even though I don't know the people: that girl with the pink hair on someone's shoulders blowing the band a kiss, whoever she is, I'd like to meet her. We get to see us - the fans - how the band sees us. We see us through their eyes. And they like us. They really, really like us.
This is the best of all possible worlds: high quality footage, killer sound, and the knowledge of WHERE THE FUCKIN CAMERA IS SUPPOSED TO BE! It's like watching a pro-shot video except the director is a fan, and even better than it being a fan who is so freaked out that they don't know what to do first, it's people who are there every night and know where to look next. They know when Ed will jump, when Mike will spin in circles and they don't miss it. For those who have suffered through even the best of audience vids, you know what I'm talking about. Either it's focused on EdVed 99.9% of the time, or the camera is just at the wrong place at the wrong time, period. You're not yelling "GUITAR PLAYER!" when it's Mike's "Evenflow" solo and the camera is focused on Ed scratching his nose (or something). Everyone gets equal time.
The continuity and sequencing is flawless, and is everything that Live On Two Legs wasn't in terms of bringing you what could happen at any given Pearl Jam show. When you consider what they were working with, that this wasn't professionally shot, the amount of work that had to go into creating that flow and momentum is amazing. This was probably the hardest setlist they ever had to come up with.
I know no one is going to believe me when I say I have no problems or complaints with this release. I think you have to go into it with accurate expectations. They certainly gave enough interviews to give us the background of what they were working with. If you realize and accept the inherent limitations of the organic add-water-watch-it-grow method by which this vehicle came together, I think you will enjoy it a lot more than watching it and creating a hit list in your mind about the absence of any particular tour event.
The night the DVD arrived, I got home late and with a headache, but there was NO WAY I was not going to watch at least some of this. Someone advised "start out with the videos" so I figured I'd just go watch "Oceans"… which I did. Oh, the joy of finally having a great copy of this, not some grainy half assed video transfer or download. But then I couldn't stop, so I randomly surfed through the menu and thought, hmm, maybe I'll just watch "Daughter". I was there, it will be cool. And it was cool… hey, there's Paris jumping up and down in front of Stone in the front row. Cool, nice shot of Mike's guitar. Wow, I wonder if this is the Tim Robbins footage. But then they shift into "It's Okay" and I am just openly sobbing with a power and intensity I could not have anticipated. To quote a friend, I had no idea I still had these emotions. I mean, we all know what the song seemed to mean and do for Ed, but to see it again, so close, so clear, so sharp, so vivid, you're practically onstage with them, it was like reliving all the myriad emotions of being a Pearl Jam fan in the summer of 2000.
I then needed to cheer myself up, so I go watch the European montages. And, again, like Ed said, we forgot. I was there and it was so great, and all we remember is what happened at the end. And while that will always be present (did you count the 9 spotlights on the DVD label?), it's not disrespectful or dismissive to recognize what was wonderful about Europe 2000. I thank them for giving this back to us, and for recognizing it for themselves. The montages made me laugh and cry and laugh again.
"Smile" is the greatest Pearl Jam video they will never make. Any journalist who wants to write about Pearl Jam should be required to watch this montage and write a 1,000 word essay on it before they should be allowed to write about an album or review a concert. I have watched "Smile" more than I have watched anything else on the DVD so far. For me personally it is the greatest thing to see the guys in the band happy. After everything they have been through, it is this great joy and relief to see this for ourselves. It is probably the most intimate thing they have ever shared with us, and is in my opinion the single greatest thing about the DVD. Mike's ass, Ed giving the finger to the camera, those Village People costumes and the ability to see how much fun they were having (because like anyone who was there that night, I was laughing too hard to really notice), "Corduroy Sucks", a million leaps, kicks, splits and the ever present tambourines.
Speaking as the person whose most profound regret at the demise of Soundgarden was the fact that I would never again get to watch Matt Cameron play "Jesus Christ Pose" ever again, the Matt Cam section is a gift of the gods. I have watched "Evenflow" almost as much as I have watched "Smile" and I think it will always remain my second favorite thing about the DVD.
The instrumentals, the montages, the DTE video, Ed's handwriting as a menu, the packaging, watching Kim and "Given To Fly" in St. Louis and Jesse in Albuquerque all over again - there are a million personal highlights for me on TB2K, and everyone is going to have their own favorites, and it's going to be as individual and personal as any one fan's perspective of any given Pearl Jam show - which is the point. That's what the band set out to do, and in my humble opinion, they succeeded in spades. If the band feels as good about the tour, each other, playing live, and us as fans as the DVD makes it seem, then we are in for a nice long rest of our lives with Pearl Jam.
Sidebar: Big Screen DVD Premiere, Seattle, 5/1/01
The days of rock and roll movies on the big screen is for the most part long past us. Saturday nights watching everything from the Woodstock movie to Pink Floyd at Pompeii, or Song Remains the Same, or any of those classic rock movies was just a great way to spend Saturday night when you weren't legal. My all-time favorite, however, had to be the double-feature of The Kids Are Alright and Rock and Roll High School. The 8th Street Playhouse stopped showing those two together because they always caused a riot.
Thus it was with great joy and anticipation I looked forward to the movie theater screening of Touring Band 2000. I was willing to sell my soul to the commercial radio station gods (I had to sing "Last Kiss" in front of a video arcade) in order to get passes. I felt somewhat silly, but it was absolutely worth it.
The Seattle DVD premiere was held in a first-run movie theater (funnily enough, owned by Paul Allen); this was the theater that had the Star Wars premiere. So we had a HUGE screen and great sound. In attendance were PJ friends and family, including Liz Burns and Kevin Schuss (whose handiwork is on the DVD) and Brett Eliason (and everyone knows who he is by now :)).
The DVD begins, and there's "Baba" one more time. I am tearing up from memory and sentiment and the intangible feeling this band brings to us. The crowd on the DVD is cheering, and we are clapping and cheering, and it's not loud enough and I'm yelling "LOUDER!" It is weird to be sitting down; it's fine for "Long Road" but "Corduroy" makes me bounce in my seat, and I kept bouncing for most of the night. Huge cheers every time "Seattle, WA" appeared on the screen, as it should be.
We laughed and screamed and giggled and yelled and shouted and threw popcorn; it was like reliving every emotion and experience of the entire 2000 in a few hours (we also got the montages and "Smile"), and it brought home just how powerful this release is.
Last thing: closing titles. See the closing titles of The Kids Are Alright.
Touring Band 2000 is available on DVD and VHS from Amazon.
© 2001 Caryn Rose