Thursday, June 26, 2008

PEARL JAM PART 1: 06/24/08 MSG

I'm a bit behind on my concert reporting: the last two nights I went to see Pearl Jam at Madison Square Garden. Both shows ended at about 11:30 pm ET and I got home closer to 1 am.

Both shows were incredible: at the first show, we had tickets behind the stage, but they were in the 4th row, so it was actually pretty great. My lovely wife took some pretty cool pictures. The picture on the left is of course Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, and the other one is Mike McCready playing a face melting solo during "Evenflow" -- all behind his head, Hendrix-style. No disrespect to drummer Matt Cameron or keyboardist Boom Gaspar - we didn't have a great sight line to them from our seats .

They opened with a pretty rare song: "Hard To Imagine." Right there you knew it was going to be a pretty special show, it usually is when they open with something so unusual. Four songs in, they did something really unusual: they added three backing singers. One of them, Fonzi Thornton, was a guy who I knew of: he sings backup for Aretha Franklin, and has worked with tons of other people, like Luther Vandross, Chic, Debbie Harry and Mick Jagger to name just a few. I'm dying to know how Pearl Jam met up with these guys. Actually two guys and a girl. Anyway, they did a song I'd never heard before, "All Night," which was pretty cool. Later on, they returned for "Who You Are" and "W.M.A."

Another cool guest was C.J. Ramone, who joined for a cover of The Ramones' "I Believe In Miracles." But the show wasn't about guests, and Pearl Jam rocked for about 2 1/2 hours: other highlights were "Down" (a b-side), "Unemployable," "Whipping," "Present Tense," "Do The Evolution," The Who's "Love Reign O'er Me," "Spin The Black Circle," Eddie's solo performance of "No More," Victoria Williams' "Crazy Mary," "Present Tense," Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower," and the closer, "Indifference." But the show was like one long highlight. Eddie was in great spirits, and so was the rest of the band.

MSG was totally sold out, and the rafters literally shook several times during the concert. I do think Pearl Jam are well on their way to Grateful Dead/Springsteen type status: where they can tour whenever they want, whether or not they have an album, and sell out multiple nights. And not have to rely on any hits. There is no song that they "have to" play every night. Which is pretty extrodinary.

A few years ago, Eddie Vedder seemed frustrated by being in such a big band. He seemed to resent the songs from Ten, and just didn't seem to be enjoying himself. I think he's grown up a bit, and seen almost all of his early '90s peers struggling to keep their audiences. Pearl Jam still play by their own rules thanks to the loyalty of the fans, and he seems to appreciate it now.

So, to summarize, great show. But the following night was even better. I'll write about that one, and post more of Maria's pictures, tomorrow.

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