Pearl Jam: Return of the madness (cont.)
Watching 20,000 collectively lose their minds is something to behold, and during the second encore of the second Boston show, this was in full effect. Starting with what might’ve been the greatest version of “Why Go” ever played to begin with helped. “Life Wasted” was roaring again, and Vedder, calling an audible, ran to each member of the band and played “Smile,” with Ament on guitar and Gossard on bass. A beautiful version of “Indifference” followed, with the crowd really overpowering the band on the line “I will scream my lungs out till it fills this room…”
In the slight break that followed, I noticed a sign on the floor. It read “Do not play LEASH here tonight.” Clever. I liked that.
And, according to the roaring version of “Leash” that followed, so did the band.
I could probably never totally describe how crazy it felt to be in that building at that time. It was as if there were fans falling out of the balcony. Everyone was jumping and screaming and slapping high- fives… total madness. It was a beautiful thing to be a part of.
And it was that beautiful madness that drove me to be there. It was that madness that made me, upon the discovery of an extra day off, hop online to scope out the ticket situation — I could have two tickets near the stage at face value if I acted right then.
I announced my thoughts to the office, that I was “50/50” on whether or not I was going. Cooch laughed a bit at me, good-naturedly.
10 minutes later, he approached my desk.
“I have to be honest: I’m thinking about it now.”
An hour later, he was in. Perhaps it was the intrigue into that very madness that drove him. All I know, to paraphrase his own words, was that in the span of an hour, he went from not driving 438 miles roundtrip to see Pearl Jam to… well, yeah.
It had been a while since I’d driven a long distance in a short time, but the drive really wasn’t that bad. I didn’t even feel any ill effects until about 2½ hours into the trip back. And, of course, the show made it all completely worth it, including hearing the fabled Mamasan trilogy —Alive, Once and Footsteps — backwards in the first encore.
I also realized I had been taking Eddie Vedder’s pre-sets for granted. At a handful of shows, Vedder takes the time to walk out before the opening band with the guitar to play a song or two (or, sometimes, four) as sort of a thank you to all the folks who showed up early to catch the opening act.
I was pleasantly surprised, in that he doesn’t do it every show. Cooch was nearly stunned.
“I’ve never heard of anyone else doing that.”
“Really?” I countered. “Well, yeah, I guess no one else does that, huh.”
“No, really, they don’t. That’s… that’s kind of awesome.”
Later on, he told me, “they seem to actually care about their fans.” And he was right to think it, between pioneering the “official bootlegs,” keeping ticket prices below standard for big rock shows, giving fans the best seats in the house before Ticketmaster can get their hands on the stubs, fan-club-only records at the holidays, new setlists every night, 2½-to-3-hour shows…
Well, if they don’t care, they certainly have me fooled.
I sometimes wonder if I go too far. Do I have too many CDs? Do I go to too many shows? Do I care for this band too much?
Because of this, I’m often very interested to what my friends have to say about the band after seeing them, usually with me. Cooch noted that he finally got what the fuss has been about, that Pearl Jam understands that what makes an arena show great is the emotion involved, and that the crowd and the band feed off of each other greatly. And he genuinely had a good time, which made me happy. I don’t want to drag people 240 miles from home for nothing.
Bruce was gushing. He noted that “they’ve climbed so far up my list; the last two shows were two of the best I’ve ever seen. They’re amazing.”
The second Boston show might be the best I’ve seen, though it’s hard to say; I was in attendance at the first of two Madison Square Garden shows in 2003 (later released on DVD as Live at the Garden) and I was witness to the 4½ hour monster on June 11, 2003, in Mansfield, Mass., which saw the band complete their “Every Song in the Book” experiment over three nights at the Tweeter Center.
After all is said and done, it never feels like enough. But, strangely, and as much as I wanted to see them at the East Coast closer in East Rutherford the following Saturday, it never feels like too little, either. It always feels just right.
I’m 24 years old now. I’ve grown up with this band. Their songs have invaded my life, their shows are the best entertainment I could ever ask for.
And that feels all right with me.