As I mentioned in yesterday’s three beautiful things post, my brother surprised me Sunday morning by getting really great tickets to Pearl Jam for me and his wife. We had talked briefly about going to the concert a while back, but he had thought he’d be out of town, so I really didn’t think anymore about it. He kept looking, though, because he gets great satisfaction from wending his way through Ticketmaster’s arcane system — and he’s incredibly good at it, which is how he scored us lower-level seats on the day of the show. I think he really wanted to go himself, but graciously opted to stay home with the kids and let Jen & I have a girls’ night out.
Anyway… a big part of the reason I had forgotten about the concert is that, while I liked Pearl Jam back in the early ’90s, I had stopped buying their albums a long time ago. It wasn’t because I no longer liked their music, but because I had gotten tired of reading articles wherein Eddie Vedder complained bitterly about how much it sucked to be famous and how it bothered him to hear people singing his songs and blah blah blah. I decided that if he didn’t want to be famous, I’d do my part and not buy any more of his records. (Now with a few more years of life under my belt, I can see that, while being a musician might be a great career, fame itself does seem to blow.)
All of this is a ridiculously long preamble to saying that — much to my surprise — this concert absolutely knocked my socks off. I probably only knew a third of the songs in the nearly three-hour show, but was still on my feet almost the entire time. By today’s standards, it was a fairly stripped-down performance, with no fancy flourishes other than lighting, so it was really the charisma of the band and their powerhouse musicianship that carried the night. I am also a sucker for a band that really looks like they’re having fun playing together, and these guys certainly gave that impression.
I think it helped, too, that our seats were so close. We were in the first section on the side, about three rows back, where we were able to really see the band interact with each other. We saw them laugh off a song-ending guitar glitch during Evacuation, and we got to see Eddie hang out in the back smoking and drinking wine during the lengthy guitar solos that seemed almost custom-designed for that purpose. That’s the kind of stuff I really like about live shows — when things go wrong or when you see little less-scripted moments.
Of the songs I did know, they played a several of my favorites, including Black, which, it turns out, seems to be everyone’s favorite. The crowd nearly drowned out the band and continued the ending sing-along through a prolonged cigarette break… I mean, guitar solo. I was also glad to hear them do Daughter and Rearviewmirror, another couple of songs I really love. They took the bold step of not playing their biggest hit, Jeremy, at all — which would be sort of akin to Springsteen not playing Born to Run. I was fine with that, though. I don’t feel like concerts should be required to be a rehash of hits; I like having the opportunity to hear the less-famous songs.
I can say without hesitation that I came away from the show an absolute convert. And I don’t think I’m the only one — the entire crowd seemed tremendously engaged in the show. I’ve complained in the past about how incredibly lame DC audiences can be, so seeing the entire Phone Booth on its collective feet is a sign of what a great show it was. My Pearl Jam record-buying moratorium is officially over. I’ve been fighting the urge to download the albums I don’t have from iTunes (though I’ll probably cave on that pretty soon) and I think I am going to order the official bootleg of the show. Seriously, it was that good. They’re definitely a band I’d see again.
Oh, and I have to say… I now remember why I used to have a secret fangirl crush on Eddie Vedder. Damn, he’s hot.
Updated to add: Jen gets photo credit for the second two photos — only the first two are mine.