It took 20 years or so, but last week I finally got to see Pearl Jam in concert for the first time. The experience was so beautiful and powerful that it has stayed with me for many days. It also made me realize one thing: even though I love many, many things, and I enjoy and love many types of music, I remain a rocker at heart.
Maybe it’s just that I am getting older, but I tend to get emotional at concerts. The Pearl Jam show was no exception. Still, I think it was not just my tendency to get emotional that got me to feel something very special that day, but the realization of the purity, power, and life affirming nature of a rock show. Maybe long time fans of the band have known this and I was just missing out. Or maybe it was a special night. I don’t know. I guess it was the powerful combination of finally seeing one of the most important bands of my generation and realizing that even if we are all older, we still got it in us: that hunger for purity, for innocence, for what is right, for integrity and hope. Yeah, it sounds very romantic, but that’s what I got from that show.
They started the night with “Oceans,” Eddie Vedder’s voice soaring beautifully across the arena; the chills started then and continued for the next three hours. Their stage was very simple, with no big screens or massive set designs, so the band, and specially Eddie Vedder, never felt separate from the crowd. Rather, I felt the band was right there with the audience, feeling the collective hope in the power of music to keep you engaged and alive. They played many songs from Ten and I was reminded again that you never know how much you love a band and how much a song has influenced you until you hear it live. They also played many songs from Lightning Bolt, their last album, which I think is truly a wonderful, back to the basics, pure rock album. At times, such as in songs like “Mind Your Manners,” their sound is almost like very early Iron Maiden, and even in others, reminiscent of classic Rush and Alex Lifeson’s guitar sound. To my great pleasure, the Vancouver crowd was as much into the new songs as they were into the older material.
One of the most amazing moments of the night was when the band did a cover of “Mother,” from Pink Floyd’s The Wall. To hear Pearl Jam cover Pink Floyd and to hear Eddie talk about Roger Waters, it was certainly a beautiful moment for anybody who grew up listening to both bands.
Of course, it was not only the incredible energy of the show that was memorable, it was also the musicianship of the band that brought it all together for me as well. I was not expecting any less since I have listened to many live performances and watched many concert videos of the band.
Thanks to my brother’ suggestion, we bought tickets for seats behind the stage and they were the most amazing seats I have ever had. Because their stage was so simple and unadorned, we had a perfect view of the whole band. So even from behind, we felt the full power of Mike McCready’s playing. He was like a caged animal walking in circles on his corner of the stage, just waiting to let it all out through his painfully beautiful solos. Bassist Jeff Ament had a crazy energy, jumping and playing with the low hanging lights, but he never missed a beat. It was also such a treat for my husband, who is a drummer, to see all the details of Matt Cameron’s playing; he’s one the greatest rock drummers out there.
Eddie Vedder, one of the most beautiful voices in rock, was the voice of thousands that night as the crowd repeatedly followed his lead and sang along to almost every song. Eddie, drinking from a enormous bottle of wine, talked to people in the audience, commented their signs, and even passed along the wine to those just in front of the stage. We may have been at a small pub, listening to the band during its earlier days. In fact, Eddie reminisced about those early days and memorable visits to Vancouver to which the crowd responded with huge cheers. The band played two extended encores that included “Yellow Moon,” “Better Man” and “Alive” and still, in the end, brought to the stage the members from their opening band, Mudhoney to play one last song. It was incredible.
By this time it was almost midnight and all the lights in the arena were on. But the crowd keep singing, and the band kept playing. I don’t recall ever seeing a Vancouver crowd so happy, so loving of a band and they got it all back. I was moved to tears. This show was a true lightning bolt through my heart.
Click here to see their set list for the night.