Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Better Men: Pearl Jam, New York City, 6/24/08

With all due respect to the Dolan family, Pearl Jam owned The Garden last night. The band, whose members are a collective 216 years old (scary), graced the audience with their usual 2 1/2 + hours of fan favorites, assorted rarities and obscure covers. I really can't describe in words the energy level I experienced last night - it simply wouldn't do justice. You would have thought it was their last show ever.

Just to set the record straight, despite having seen PJ four times (they don't tour all that often), I'm hardly an authority on the band. Like most everyone who owned a radio and cd player in the 90's, I know the standards. But after Vitalogy, I never really kept up with the newer material. In my defense however, I'd like to think that I was an original. I donned the obligatory flannel shirt and Chuck Taylors in the early days of the grunge movement in tribute to the Seattle rockers (in fact, "Alive" was one of the first songs I learned on guitar). It was one of the few upsides to being a teen in the early 90's.

So, still on the PJ high from Bonnaroo (which will never be topped), I made my way over to MSG right before 9:00, strategically missing Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - no disrespect to the band. My seats were in section 300 something, which after standing a mere 100 feet away from the band at Bonnaroo, was somewhat of a buzzkill. But the second the lights went down, all that mattered was the music. The entire arena was filled to the brim, literally. Even the very top rows BEHIND the stage were packed. I have NEVER seen this before at any indoor concert. From the first song onward, the word from the die-hards in my area was that it was the "best first set ever." True or not true, who was I to doubt them.

The audience was unreal. The call and response between Vedder and the crowd would have made Muddy Waters jealous. They knew EVERY word to EVERY song. Every nuance, variation, inflection, grunt, and mumble was mimicked back precisely. Eddie was pouring wine into cups for the lucky front-rowers and was kicking around the stage in ways that eerily resembled Jim Morrison. It was surreal.

Encore #1 started with The Who's classic, "Love, Reign o'er Me", which
features Kenneth "Boom" Gaspar on the keys. I heard this for the first time at Bonnaroo and it was just as moving this time around as it was then. Later, during the 2nd encore, C.J. Ramone came out and played the Ramones song, "I Believe in Miracles." I didn't even know there was a C.J. Ramone in The Ramones! It was classic. The whole evening was classic. Strike that. It was historic.

So, I'm going back tonight -- alone. My seat sucks. The beer is expensive. My ears are still ringing from last night. I'm sleep-deprived. Yet, I have no doubt that Pearl Jam will make it all better.

Pearl Jam
Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY
June 24, 2008

Set 1: Hard To Imagine, Save You, Why Go, All Night, Corduroy, Faithfull, Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town, Down, Unemployable, Given To Fly, Who You Are, Whipping, 1/2 Full, Even Flow, Present Tense, Daughter, Do The Evolution

Encore 1: Love Reign O'er Me, W.M.A., Leash, Spin The Black Circle, Wasted Reprise, Porch

Encore 2: No More, Crazy Mary, Comatose, I Believe In Miracles w/ C.J. Ramone, Alive

Encore 3: All Along The Watchtower, Indifference

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