The 15th Annual Bridge School Benefit
Shoreline Ampitheater, Mountain View, CA
October 21, 2001
Day two of Bridge is always tough. You are up late the night before and you have to get up earlier, and they're long days, long walks and being outside for hours and hours wears you out. Today is slightly overcast and coolish but it's not raining, which is all we care about.
As I walked up to the venue today, it struck me how much I love Shoreline Ampitheater. I love the big white billowing circus tent canopy which glows at a distance at night. I remember coming here for the first time (Bridge 96) and walking down Shoreline Blvd. and seeing the canopy and just being so excited. I still get that excited, because when I'm here, it's usually for Bridge.
PJ are on earlier today (along with R.E.M.) so they can get home early. It's a school night for them, with the Groundwork 2001 show the next night. Neil once again comes out with "Sugar Mountain" and "Blowin' In The Wind" (prompting someone I know to make the comment later, "I cannot wait to hear Neil Young play 'Blowin' In The Wind' for the fourth time.") I stay for some of Jill Sobule's set, but it's windy and chilly in the pavilion so I go to find some sunshine and friends. Ben Harper blows me away completely today. He invites on a special guest, which turns out to be his mother. As someone sitting behind me said, "Holy shit, man, she plays!" as she picked up an acoustic guitar. (No incessant talkers behind us today. What a pleasure and a delight.) I don't take running notes for anyone except PJ, but the one thing I did write about Ben was: "I am going to buy everything he has ever released." The other great moment in his set was when he turned around and played to the Bridge kids, saying, "Hey, fair is fair."
I don't get to see all of R.E.M.'s set today since there are some conversations I need to go have instead, and no, you're not going to read anything about Dave Matthews today either (except that I have to say that his version of "All Along The Watchtower" with Neil was impressive. No way around that.) But then it's 6:15 and it's time for PJ. The row I was sitting in was taken up by various R.E.M. folks earlier in the day, so I knew it would be empty now... and we manage to pack a few dozen PJ diehards into it. One of our group points out Karen Vedder in the row in front of us... and everyone is doing their best to be cool and not make a big deal out of it.
"Alright, this song is for... well, you'll figure it out." Thanks, Ed. "The Kids Are ALright" and the mood is bigger and brighter and bouncier and just plain rocking. No matter what comes next, this is fucking awesome. You could almost pogo to it. And we're all happy and singing along. It's perfect, it's solid, it's just as great as the full band electric version. Matt is particularly impressive. It's been noted in Who fan circles how the Who's current version of TKAA owes a lot to Ed's acoustic version (and I'm sure they're right). And I think about the Who's version of this song at this venue at these shows in 1999. "These kids, they're alright," Ed finishes the song.
"Wishlist" starts and EVERYONE in the row looks at me. This was partly due to the continual "Everything is the fault of 'Caryn from 5h'" joke, but also because there had been this long JOKING discussion about the lengths to which one would go to avoid seeing "Wishlist". Would you put up with "Dissident" three times in a row, would you put up with Dave Matthews singing all of "Ten", would you put up with Dave and Ed singing a duet together (hey, I warned you you would not get any Dave Matthews love here...) My response is to start doing Shannon and Kathy's goofy "Wishlist" dance from Shoreline 2000 when they were in the front row in front of Stone and cracked him up, this exaggerated side-to-side Supremes kind of move.
I'm not sure what the second line of the first verse was, either. I didn't get it then and I don't understand it now, even though I listened to it 20 times. Ed's "20,000 hands upraised" line -- it took people like 10 minutes to get the hint (and that line wasn't mumble mumble, it was clear as a bell). "I wish I was a neutron bomb, the one that didn't go off" sobers us up, though.
"I wish I was the messenger/and all the news is good..." I realize at this moment that I hadn't seen or heard any news, aside from Mountain View weather via the laptop, all weekend. This is kind of shocking and disconcerting and at the same time, a relief. And then the last verse gets another mumble mumble, and Ed's closing solo was just fine sans ebow.
Stone's got the plaid pants on, I observe. "Stone is hot," observes someone else. I don't remember if they were male or female. "I thought we'd try a new one... seems like.. no better place." What we were all calling "New Song #1" (from the Bridge soundcheck) until Brian ran up with the soundboard setlist at Groundworks and there it was, big as day, "I Am Mine". It's reminding me of the feeling of hearing "Red Mosquito" for the first time at San Jose in 1995... just not as fast, not as loud, and not as soaring. "We're safe tonight" seems to be the lyrics to the end of the chorus... which is the lyric that catches me the most. I like this one at first hearing more than Mike's song, but that really doesn't mean anything. But it's strong, it's finished, it's played well.
"There's one thing interesting about this one... it's that we've never played it before..." and even though Mike had told someone earlier in the day that we were definitely getting "Lowlight" tonight, it's still heart-stopping when we hear those first chords and this ENORMOUS cheer goes up. I hug the closest person to me that I know well enough to hug. I want to hug everyone in that row that I care about. This song fills me with love and light and joy and I just want to be up on the lawn in the fading sun at this point, with my arms out, spinning around in circles. I tear up but that doesn't last long because I am so utterly, completely happy from what I am hearing. It's PERFECT. I don't understand why they never played it before, I don't know why Jeff was upset (or rather I understand why Jeff was upset they didn't play it, because it sounds SO INCREDIBLY GOOD). They have no excuse any more. It was an ethereal, wonderous moment. I would have gone to Bridge for just that song and been happy.
"This next song's called 'Nothing As It Seems'" and one of our number murmurs, "Can this beat the 99 version?" By the time it was finished I said, "Not only did it beat 99, but it beat every version in 2000," which I'll now say was a little drastic. It was an incredible version, but the 99 debut is still the definitive version of NAIS. More stellar work from Matt here; small changes, nothing huge, but what he does adds a sense of drama and a darkness to the song.
"When we got together last week, this is one that Mike wrote..." Here we go again, "Last Soldier." The scoop that was gotten from Mike backstage was that he'd written this song just for Bridge, and that he'd written the words to the chorus and Ed had thrown something together for the verses. Today it really grew on me, and even if it isn't from the solo album, it's still recalling moments on Exile on Main Street for me, which can't be anything but good.
"Black" gets a little bit of a yawn from some people, more as a joke than anything else - this setlist has just completely kicked ass - but even if you sat down or took a break or weren't paying attention, that wasn't going to last for long. This performance was exemplary. They were just *on*. And like I told everyone standing with me, don't tell anyone that I cried during "Black". But I did. It just hit me that way today, and I find it amazing and a great gift that I can still be moved that way by songs I have heard hundreds if not thousands of times by now. We scream and applaud and scream some more after Mike's solo.
"Gimme Some Truth" is even more venomous than it was the previous night, and just as great. Then Ed tells us, "There's... became a really uncomfortable situation for me personally earlier when Ben Harper sang with his mom... because my mom's in the crowd tonight too, and I know she just wants to sing... where are you mom?" People in our row start pointing above her head (so much for being cool about it!) "Love you mom, wherever you are... Ben's actually going to sing this one in your place. Ben Harper!"
Ben comes on, "Hey, Mom, Karen, I'm gonna try to fill your shoes on this one here..." he says with a huge smile, and it's an even BETTER version of "Indifference" than the night before. He grabs Ed's bottle of wine and takes a huge swig during the intro (that's what the cheer you hear is for.) This is one song that I prefer acoustic (not that there's much difference, but there is a different, lighter dynamic that seems to suit the song more. It's serious, but it's not as lugubrious as some of the early PJ live versions became. And I love what Ben adds to the song. I still cannot believe the difference between the nervous, uncertain, stage struck Ben Harper I saw at MSG in 98 and what I've seen these past two days. It's awesome. And everyone was so quiet and listening so hard, we wanted to scream along with Ed during the "I will scream my lungs out..." line but everyone just held back and let his voice reverberate around Shoreline. Ben kisses Stone as he leaves the stage.
Ed continues: "Now, we pointed out a woman that we've known for a few years.. and there's a few of these folks since we've been here for a while, the first one's a while back, so they've seen us grow old, and we've seen them grow up... and there's a guy called Alan on the corner, and he's just - the greatest..." Huge applause. Ed watched R.E.M. with Alan earlier. "You know, you meet a lot of people and it's nice to see consistency... and he's always happy. And last night, and I hestitate mentioning it a second time, but you might not have been here - last night we talked about this woman called Maricor..." (Applause, while someone in our row covers his face with his hands uncontrollably and moans, "Oh please not again.") "And we hestitate tonight only because we're afraid she'll get a big head, she's really - getting kind of cocky after last night's show. But I was thinking about it, we talked about it last night... but I was thinking, ya know, I've never been to college - a few of us... Jeff went to college. Mike?" Ed turns to Mike, Mike makes the so-so sign with his hand. "Stone? 1 year?" Stone kind of shrugs. "Matt? Matt's - yeah." Matt kind of proudly makes the "0" sign with one hand.
Ed continues: "But - well, you know, musicians, can get away with that. I think the other thing, besides maybe the financial situation, the other thing, I think that college is very intimidating. High school is intimidating enough, then you get through that and you jump up another level, it is very very intimidating. And this is what I was thinking about this morning after last night, Maricor, we were here two years ago, and since then, she's in her second year at Berkeley, this is Maricor, she's in journalism," and the crowd applauds wildly and deservedly. "And so maricor, we just wanted to say, you're fucking amazing." More applause.
And Ed talks some more about Maricor, and then finishes up by saying, "This last song's called 'Soldier of Love' - lay down your arms." And yeah, the whole fucking row of us went 'cha cha cha' at the end. We're goofy Pearl Jam fans. Deal with it!
What a great, stellar, incredible set. Everyone is buzzing and happy and ecstatic and thrilled. So it was really, really, really, really hard to sit through Tracy Chapman (which I didn't) and for some reason I felt compelled to catch most of Billy Idol's set. Okay. In 1996 Bowie got in trouble for singing a raunchy blues number. In 1997 I think Marilyn Manson (who came out with Smashing Pumpkins) got in trouble for his attire being inappropriate. I don't remember who was questionable in 98, in 99 Pete caught hell for saying he wanted to fuck John Lennon. But in 2001, suddenly "hey motherfuckers, get laid, get fucked" (sung of course in the choruses of "Mony, Mony") is appropriate language for Bridge? I don't care if Neil did come on and play "For What It's Worth" with him. Ugh. It was just so bad. It wasn't fun, it was bad. It wasn't good. It was bad and pathetic and I'd rather watch anyone or anything else.
If I had known that Neil was going to do the same set both nights, I would have left early. I can't believe I'm saying that. But "Mideast Vacation" or no "Mideast Vacation" (and how that's inappropriate and "get laid get fucked" IS appropriate, explain to me), I was tired and we had to get up at 5am and it was time to go home. When Neil played "Blowin' In The Wind" for the fourth time in two days, I heard someone I didn't know behind me yell, "PLAY IT AGAIN!" But I stayed until the bitter end, even though there was no one left, and this time we all knew to sing along to "Imagine," and Billy managed to not grab his crotch during that number tonight.
And then it was over. So quick. In the blink of an eye, this event we've been waiting for for months is over and done with. I stand in front of the box office talking to people and meeting people I somehow didn't get to meet all weekend, and by then there's barely a line to get out of the parking lot. Three hours of sleep, and on to Seattle.
See you at Shoreline in 2003!
Editor's note: The photos are not necessarily from the same night as the review. However, they are so superior to anything we've seen and we're so thrilled to have them, there's no point in using anything else to illustrate these reviews. We hope you agree. Many thanks to Steven Dorian Miner for contributing these to 5h.