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"pearl jam. in a club. in my town."
Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, BC

From: < >
To: < >
Sent: Wednesday, May 03, 2000 1:31 PM
Subject: Pearl Jam

Hey Rod!

Thanks for keeping your browser tuned to! As a reward, you have earned yourself 2 free tickets to the exclusive Pearl Jam gig at the Commodore on Thursday, May 11. Your name will be added to the guest list along with the > name of your guest (please e-mail me their name asap!). You must be 19+ and both have valid photo IDs.

Have a blast!

I thought for sure that this was a hoax. Somehow, someway, somebody was trying to trick me. I'd been trying for weeks to win tickets to this show, and hadn't gotten through at all to the Fox. I had almost given up, and the contest was ending in two days. And then this arrived, totally out of the blue. I thought, sit down, write them back, don't get excited until you're sure this is legit. I wrote back, and they replied the next day with instructions for getting in. Then I freaked out. Pearl Jam, in a club, in my town. Oh, my God.

After a few hiccups, I finally got my contest letter. I decided to bring along a good friend of mine, who'd been trying just as hard as me to win on the Fox, and who now owes me forever :). I still don't think my mind could even grasp the concept of seeing PJ again, especially in a club. I just couldn't even imagine what it would be like. After a few days of nervous anticipation, May 11 finally arrived.

I had to work in the morning, and after almost burning my hand off with an autoclave due to jitters and bad gloves, I finally made it home. I had been planning on getting to the club around noon, but work took a lot longer than expected, so I didn't get there till 5. By this point I was thinking, Oh, crap, there'll be 500 people there by now, and we'll be watching from the back. I got to the alley behind the club, but it was fenced off, so I asked the security guards there where the Pearl Jam line up was. They pointed next to them, to a crowd of about twenty people huddled under an awning to stay out of the rain. What the????? Three hours before doors open to a PJ club show and there's only TWENTY people in line?! So, quite undeservedly, we got in line in a great spot.

I don't know why more people weren't there earlier, if it was the rain, or if there weren't many hard-core fans, or if people thought they wouldn't have to line up because they already had tickets, or the planets were in conjunction or whatever. But, the people who were in line were all cool, really dedicated fans. The line had a great spirit, all of us traded stories about how we won tickets, and wondered where everyone else was. There were a few people getting drunk (not buzzed, drunk) in line, which I thought was a bit weird. Commodore staff came out, and told us only cardboard cameras were allowed (which we already had, thanks to a warning from some kind folks on MFC), and recording devices without external mics. Also, they were lifting the smoking ban in the Commodore for this one show. (Aside: The Workers Compensation Board of BC passed a law which eliminated smoking in bars for awhile in BC, the law was repealed a few weeks later, but a lot of bars including the Commodore kept the smoking ban). I suspect PJ had something to do with this, I was just imagining some bouncer yelling "Hey McCready! Put that cigarette out!". The hours in line passed quickly, and were a lot of fun.

Around 7:30, line staff began allowing people into the club in groups of 20. I was number 21 in line, so we were at the head of the second group to go in. Security was almost laughably tight: We showed ID once, got patted down, were led inside the club, showed our contest letters, showed our ID again as they compared it to a photocopy, then finally were given wristbands and let in. We also received cool laminated passes, with the ape/woman logo. I had a big plan with my friend, he was going to run to the coatcheck, while I ran to the merchandise stand, picked up shirts, and then we would rendezvous near the stage. So, after running around the club, we ended up right in front of the stage, right in the center. But the weird thing was, there was only maybe thirty other people standing there with us up front. I talked to some neat people who were at Bellingham the night before, and had managed to make it in here, too. I couldn't believe, that after arriving only two and a half hours before the doors opened, I ended up where I did. I was totally wound up, totally nervous, I had to have some part of my body tapping at all times, just to release energy. It's a weird feeling, to know that one of the greatest experiences of your life is only a few hours away... It was like knowing you were going to win the lottery in advance.

The club gradually filled up, though most people were sitting at tables instead of lining up at the stage. Finally 9:45 arrived, the lights went down, and the show began...

C Average opened the show, and though I'd heard of them through their involvement with Eddie, I'd never actually heard their music. I thought they were excellent though, and played a great set. I thought they were tight, they were loud (louder than PJ!), and they rocked. I was surprised at how many of their songs were instrumental, but I laughed my ass off during the singers introduction to their last song. C Average really did sound like one big wall of sound, instead of two separate guys, which was really impressive. Finally, people started leaving their tables and getting onto the floor, and the crushing up front began. C Average left to a big ovation, then came back out to pack up their gear. It was definitely odd, seeing a band pack up their own stuff, while PJ's roadies began to set up their gear.

After two years, I was finally seeing Pearl Jam again...

Pearl Jam took the stage about a half hour later, and the Commodore shook. The band looked calm, relaxed, and cool. Eddie carried with him a book, an urn, and a bottle of wine, which he set down by his microphone. He picked up a guitar, stepped to the microphone, and began an absolutely beautiful version of Long Road. I think my first thoughts were: "OH MY GOD, I'M FIVE FEET FROM PEARL JAM". Then "hey, Eddie's a lot shorter than I thought he was", and then "wow, Eddie's voice is absolutely gorgeous tonight". And it was, especially for the first song of the set. It sounded effortless, and it was absolutely clear and mesmerizing. Long Road was absolutely powerful, it built slowly, and just soared at the end. If I had to pick a favourite "oldie" played in Vancouver, this would definitely be it.

Next up were a pair of rockers, Last Exit and Hail, Hail. These got the crowd really moving, and for the first time I realized that the floor of the Commodore is loaded with springs, so when everybody starts jumping, the whole floor starts moving up and down, which was a really cool feeling. A bunch of people started crowd surfing, and I started getting kicked in the head. The crowd surfing was nowhere near as bad though, than at most shows I've been too, and it seemed most of the audience was there to hear the music (Oh, and if you're reading this, Fuck you to the guy who went over the top at least four times - What were you there for?). The band was really tight during these songs, and the sound in the room was awesome.

Next, we were in for a real treat, four new songs. Coming into this show, I'd only heard the singles, Thin Air, and Grievance from Letterman (after taking some good advice from MFC), and hearing new songs live was absolutely exhilirating. First up was Breakherfall, which rocked a lot. For the first of many times during the show, I had a moment where I was looking at Eddie, then glanced left and "Holy Shit! That's Mike McCready over there!!". Mike freaked out during the early part of the show, running around the stage, flailing around, and generally kicking ass. He was dressed similarly to Letterman, all in black, with a white t-shirt. Jeff was solid, mostly hanging back, looking naked without a hat, and wore long shorts (capri pants?) with high tops. Jeff had a neat little furry animal on his bass strap (which you can see if you look at the pictures on Mr. Gossard looked like he was passing a Stone for most of the show (sorry), and had his cool shades and cargoes on. Matt Cameron is just such an incredibly powerful drummer, and totally drove all the hard songs.

After Breakherfall, Eddie, who had only said a few words to the crowd earlier, had a cool monologue that went something (sort of) like this: "Now, I know when most rock stars come up here, they always comment on how good the weed is... which is true. But what we like even more is your gun control laws". Big cheer, and into Grievance! This song also absolutely killed, I love the way it rolls and crashes during the "I pledge, my , grievance, to the flag..." part. Wow. Eddie lost his guitar, and we had a cool, spooky NAIS, which sounded a lot more like the album version than the one from Bridge. Jeff had out his electric standup bass (must have left his cello in Bellingham :)).

After that, a new song, one I'd never heard before, the gorgeous Light Years. For me, normally, it takes a few listens of a new PJ song before I start to love it, but this one just swept me away. I have NEVER had a first listen reaction as big as this one, and I think this tune could be my new favourite PJ song. The silly thing is, I can barely remember how it goes, but I just remember the feeling I got. The first thing I wrote when I tried to put it into words was 'absolute happiness', but I don't think that describes it very well. It was a sort of melancholy euphoria, a happy sad song at its best. To me, Light Years seems sort of like Black's cousin: Both songs about losing someone, one sort of saying "You're gone, I'm destroyed", while the other says "You're gone, we spent some fantastic times together that I'll always cherish". I don't know, it just really connected with me, it made me think about losing a girl. It inspired me to write her, which is rare for a song.

Corduroy was next, Ed playing both the intro and outro on guitar. It seemed to me during the show that not only he was playing a lot of guitar on the new stuff, but he was playing more on old stuff too. Also, I used to think I could play all the PJ songs where Ed plays guitar, now I'm not sure. He seemed really, really, good. After Corduroy, we had a few Fan Favourites (tm). At this point, I realized how early-PJ oriented the crowd was. Even Flow got a HUGE reaction, and it was notable for Ed messing up the words quite a few times. At one point, he leaned back from the mic, and had this totally hysterical expression on his face, "Now, what are the words to this song?". Elderly Woman was a huge singalong, which was fun. During the beginning of the song, Matt used his drumstick as a baton, conducting the crowd in their singing. I can't decide if he thought it was funny, or frustrating, or what. It looked like he wasn't used to these big singalongs.

More new songs next. Thin Air was sweet (in the aww sense, not the SWEET! sense). My favourite part was seeing Stone sitting back, singing along with Ed for most of the song. When I heard this song form Bridge, I thought it was an Ed song, in the vein of Wishlist, and I was totally surprised to hear Stone wrote it, but it makes sense to me now. Of the Girl was cool, but didn't blow me away right away... this might be a grower for me. Insignificance was absolutely intense. It was totally cool to see Jeff singing in the chorus, shouting out "BOMBS.....DOWN.....". I'm happy to see Jeff, Stone, and Matt singing more on the new stuff.

A few more old songs next, Not for You, Off He Goes, and Wishlist. All these songs were tight, and very well played. Ed started to introduce Wishlist as "This song used to be called..." then somebody in the crowd yells out "FUCKING RIGHTS!", which Ed shook off, and then continued "Used to be called hamburger (something), now it's called...", and then into the song. It seemed there were a few jerks near the stage who kept shouting "YOU ROCK, EDDIE, YOU FUCKING RULE!!", and starting "EDDIE" chants, which we countered with "PEARL JAM". The last song of the set was introduced as "This song's called Evacuation... Matt wrote the music, I wrote the words... It's a kickass song." This one rocked too, and came complete with cool red-and-white siren-like light effects. This song also featured Stone and Matt on backup vocals, and both of them sounded really good. After that explosion, the band hurried off the stage.

The band returned for an encore, rockng out with Animal and DTE, which featured Ed shimmying away. Mike seemed relatively subdued during the latter half of the show, but his solos were still incredible. Daughter was another big singalong, complete with Cameron conduction, and featured REM's "The Wrong Child" as tag. They closed the encore with Last Kiss, which was actually really cool, and had a really communal feel with Ed asking everyone to sing during the chorus. I thought that might be the end, but Mr. Vedder had one more surprise for us...

Ed returned alone after another huge ovation, stealthily trying to conceal something behind his back. He thanked a bunch of people, including "Thanks to the radio station, they're paying to take all our gear to Europe... but when we go, I'm taking something with me carry-on...", and whips out his ukelele. Of course, this got another big laugh and cheer, and the show ended with "Soon Forget". This song seems like a great closer for a show (or an album, for that matter), a nice goodbye song. Eddie asked the audience for quiet during the song, which some people in the audience just couldn't handle, so after Soon Forget, the show came to a close. After the show, as the roadies cleared the stage, I had a total double-take moment... "Hey, Isn't that REM?". The band sort of cruised across the back of the stage, which was sort of surreal to see.

It was an incredible show to see. It's two days later, and I'm still recovering. It was fantastic to just see PJ again, but to see them from the front of a small club was just breathtaking. The band was in great form, Eddie's voice soared, Mike wailed, Jeff rocked, Stone marched, and I feel very sorry for any drums that ever cross Matt Cameron's path. The setlist was less adventurous than Bellingham's, but suited the Vancouver audience well. Surprisingly, the audience seemed to be mostly early-PJ fans. I enjoyed hearing the old songs, but the new stuff absolutely stole the show. I'm glad I waited to hear it, and I can't wait till Tuesday. This tour, this album, this band, absolutely ROCKS!

Thank you Bobbie, Jay, Tamara and everybody up front, MFC, CFOX, the Commodore, and Pearl Jam.

© 2000 Rod Docking
photo © Gerry Lahey