Pearl Jam: Return of the madness (cont.)
Making our way back down the street to the show, we settled in about 20 minutes before My Morning Jacket took the stage. And this fact should not be understated — My Morning Jacket is awesome.
Pearl Jam usually doesn't disappoint in their choice of openers. On this 2006 tour, My Morning Jacket, Sonic Youth and Kings of Leon will open different sections of the tour, while a Midwest swing sees the band splitting the bill with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Past openers have included the Buzzcocks, Supergrass, Johnny Marr and the Healers, Ben Harper and Mudhoney… not a bad band in the lot, and they all happen to be personal favorites.
My Morning Jacket did not disappoint. I had seen them in the past, but it was before the release of Z, one of the best albums of 2005 and a great step for the band, one that sees them move from just rock into spacey, adventurous atmospheres. They went through their time in a fabulous fury, though, wrapping up around 8:15 after a 40-minute set.
And after a brief chat with our neighbors (two of whom guessed I was 32… then guessed 34 … yikes), “Master/Slave” — the music that opens and closes the Ten album — echoed through the room while the house lights were still on. Instant cheers fill the place and frantic fans scramble to their seats. There’s only about a minute before the building is completely black, save for a faint blue light illuminating the stage.
Across walks Boom Gaspar, to a chorus of “Boooooooom”s from the eager patrons, where he stands at his Hammond B3 organ. The opening chords of “Wasted Reprise” ring out. And Eddie Vedder walks across the stage to the microphone. As he sang, the other members of the band quietly filled their places on the stage: from left to right, lead guitarist Mike McCready, Jeff Ament on bass, Matt Cameron on the drums, Stone Gossard on guitar. Stone quickly crunched out the opening riff of “Life Wasted,” and the rest of the band crashed in perfectly.
Good lord, it hit me. For the first time in 18 months, Pearl Jam was about to kick my ass.
Along with Albany, I had the opportunity to catch the band in East Rutherford, N.J., and Boston twice. The travel shows had a different air than the two in what amounts to my backyard. It might be the crowd, it might be the mindset. For Albany and New Jersey, I left my place at noon. For Boston, I hopped on the T around 6 towards North Station, then hopped back on the way home. In Albany, Bruce and I were fortunate enough to be hosted by some of his friends for the night, while after the Jersey show I hopped back in the car with the mighty Jon “Cooch” Couture and drove another four hours back to his apartment in the Whaling City.
But the crowds were significantly different in each city. Albany had an enthusiastic crowd, but sort of a general rock feeling. They could’ve been the same people to watch the Flaming Lips, Queens of the Stone Age or the White Stripes under the right circumstances. Not that they were without enthusiasm, far from it. The Albany fans definitely screamed their share, and they also danced more than any Pearl Jam crowd I’ve ever seen. And when the house lights come on during the “hallelujah” part of “Do the Evolution”? They were there to throw their hands up and chant along. This sight, by the way, is very intimidating for the first-time viewer, as it scared the crap out of Cooch in Jersey.
Boston crowds, as in everything else, are crazy. For the Red Sox, Patriots and apparently, Pearl Jam, Boston attendees are barely a rational bunch, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There is no shortage of enthusiasm. Sometimes, in a lot of these circumstances, it’s hard to know whether or not it’s genuine, but for these two shows it wasn’t an issue.
The band opened with “Release” the first night, and the crowd singing was loud, in key, and at times overpowering Vedder’s vocals. Forgive the expression, but it was truly breathtaking. The sight and sound of the band and 20,000 backup singers moving perfectly into the lyric “I wait up in the dark / FOR YOU TO SPEAK TO MEEEEEEE….. / I hold the pain / RELEAASSSEE MEEEE…….,” oh, well, I’m still not sure how to describe it. I guess you had to be there, and I certainly hope you were.
I know for a fact Rachel was at this show; she was more than excited to be there and subsequently spent the first hour of the show trying to keep an overzealous 15-year-old fan (who clearly didn’t belong in these particular seats) out of her face. But aside from that and an illness that struck with about 20 minutes to go in the show, she had a blast.
By the way, it should be noted that Rachel was responsible for these tickets, too. The ticketing system went down just as they went on sale, and after a half-hour of trying I had to go to work. She kept plugging away, though, and nabbed what turned out to be the closest I’ve ever sat to see the band. Right on.
The singing in Boston’s TD Banknorth Garden was even more intimidating the next night, and a week later in New Jersey, Vedder noted as such to the crowd in the Continental Airlines Arena.
“You know, you’ve got a few chances left to sing, but I gotta tell ya… Boston was louder.”
Their reaction? “Booooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”
God bless Devils fans, each and every one of them.