I could tell you a lot of lies about the early ’90s, like how the first CD I ever purchased was Pearl Jam’s Ten. I could tell you that I “discovered’ them all by myself, that maybe I just liked the cover of Ten and decided to buy it. Of course, that would all be false. I mean, we all have horror stories of the first album we ever purchased, right?
The truth is that there are two albums that forever changed the way I listened to music. The first was Pearl Jam’s Ten. The second was Neil Young’s Harvest Moon (do you see a pattern here?).
Ten was the first rock record I fell in love with; I was always more a Pearl Jam guy vs. a Nirvana guy, and songs like “Jeremy,” “Black,” “Release,” “Why Go,” “Oceans,” and “Alive” certainly had a lot to do with my leanings.
In fact, the first time I ever heard a Pearl Jam song was in a mini-van in Rockford, Illinois. I was trying out for the Illinois “state select” soccer team, and my friends and I killed a good hour with Ten, and I swear we never played better after our mini-listening session. This was in early 1992, when cassette mix tapes and CDs were still all I had. Concerts were mere myths and things I read about in magazines. I wasn’t even 13 years old.
Still, I knew a door had been unlocked. Hell, it had been destructed by Eddie Vedder’s words and voice. The anger, the honesty, the truth. I played Ten so loud and often that it was the album that blew my first stereo speakers. My dad was pissed, but I was happy; blown speakers, I knew were only temporary. Ten, I would have forever.
But love affairs with music are transient, I would soon come to learn. It wouldn’t be until the summer of 1998 that I would see Pearl Jam live for the first time, but it was also around the time I had started to fall out of love with the Seattle rockers. In 2000, when Binaural came out, I hated it so much that I pretty much boxed up all my Pearl Jam memories in my mind and threw away the rusted key. I sold Binaural at an independent record store in St. Louis. It felt rebellious. It felt like something Eddie Vedder would do.
But it wasn’t until the other night, a long 10 years after I had left Pearl Jam for dead in my mind, that the band made me feel alive once again.
I won’t use statements like “best concert ever” in this review, because I’m not sure that can ever be accurate. But the energy Pearl Jam produced, in their 20th year as a band, is still swirling in my flesh as I type this.
As Vedder and Co. kicked into “Corduroy,” the second song of the evening, there would be no sitting down for the next two plus hours. There would be a lot of singing, dancing, and trips down memory lane. There would be singalongs to songs like “Elderly Woman Behind A Counter In A Small Town,” when the crowd would belt out, “And I just want to scream hellllllloooooooo…”
My God, Pearl Jam, it had been so long!
While the show wasn’t billed as a “greatest hits” fest, at times, it sure felt like it. The setlist’s 27 songs only included five from 2009’s Backspacer, which were all well received, especially the acoustic “Just Breathe” and the main-set closer, “The Fixer,” which brought some serious heat (seriously, wow).
The two “encore” sets gave us Ten’s “Jeremy,” “Garden,” and “Alive,” which was dedicated to St. Louisan Joe Buck, and the relentless “Rearviewmirror” from Vs. This fearsome foursome of tunes set up a fire that would eventually be extinguished by a cover of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” and another crowd singalong, “Yellow Ledbetter.”
While the final flames lingered during the closing “Ledbetter,” the 45-year-old Vedder sat at the front of the stage, drank some wine, and smoked a cigarette.
I simply laughed, because I knew the beloved band from my youth had not let me down. Instead, they added to a growing list of amazing concerts that I have had the blessing of attending.
A bridge I had thought had been badly burned in early 2000 suddenly had new life, and that, my friends, is the beauty of live music.
“Do the Evolution”
“Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town”
“Not For You”
Encore two: “Garden”
“Baba O’Riley” (The Who)
Band of Horses
A big reason why I had decided to go to this show in the first place was because of Band of Horses, who confidently delivered the goods as Pearl Jam’s opening act. Singer Ben Bridwell’s voice, as amazing as it sounds on full blast in your car, is equally satisfying in a live setting, especially when he is delivering the repetitive “I could sleeeeeeep…” line from “Is There a Ghost,” off Band of Horses’ second album, Cease to Begin.
If there is a downer about being excited to see an opening act, it’s that everyone else in the house isn’t as pumped as you. People are still buying their t-shirts, finding their seats, and purchasing their $10 beers, which is fine — I’ve certainly been there.
However, even though the view from my aisle seat was blocked for a good 75% of Band of Horses’ set, I still enjoyed what was going on 75 or so yards away from my eyes.
Their new album, Infinite Arms, which is set for release on May 18th, promises to be one of 2010’s best offerings, and the new tunes that were performed didn’t thwart any expectations. “Compliments” and “NW Apt.” sounded polished and ready for take-off, filling the arena with enough punch to get a few off their seats and celebrate.
A guy behind me even remarked, “Who is this? Band of what? Shit, I might have to look into this!”
If you were already a fan, you got what you were hoping for, including near-perfect versions of “No One’s Gonna Love You,” “Ode to LRC,” and the closing “The Funeral.”
And if I ever doubted Bridwell’s sincerity when he sings “anything to make you smiiiiile,” during “No One’s Gonna Love You,” I must tip my hat to the man who looked as if there was no place he’d rather be — singing to those who had come early to see him and his band do their thing. And yes, that made me grin from ear to ear.
“The Great Salt Lake”
“Is There a Ghost”
“The General Specific”
“No One’s Gonna Love You”
“Ode to LRC”
“Am I a Good Man?”
Setlists courtesy of the RFT’s A to Z Music Blog.