If you think anything is more exciting than the thought of Pearl Jam back in Madison Square Garden, think again.


Previewing the big boys of the summer concert season

STATIC and FEEDBACK correspondent

In the first installment of the Summer of Live, I mentioned that I would be seeing shows of all shapes and sizes this summer: from the small intimate venue to the arena and everywhere in between. I wanted to take the opportunity in the midst of the down time between shows (the last show being the Black Keys in mid-May, and the next being one of a few possibilities this coming week) to share a different universe in a live show, perhaps the one area that gets little attention from writers and critics, but is essentially the backbone of the experience — anticipation.

This is especially true for the big show. You know, that show you might not tell your friends you are going to because, deep inside, you are somehow ashamed of their hit songs, and because you believe in the genius of their rock stardom so fervently that their hit songs couldn’t possibly resemble their greatness. Hell, I’ve been there many times. All three of the bands I’m previewing are fantastic victims of having hardcore fan bases, coupled with casual hit-song losers and, of course, detractors who judge them based solely on their lack of street cred.

Either way, mock me, you-too-cool-for-a-band-anyone-has-ever-heard-of hipsters, I am damn excited to see…

Dave Matthews Band – Saturday, June 14, at the [Insert Corporate Sponsor] Amphitheater in Hartford, CT:

It’s been a good five years since the last time Dave Matthews Band has graced the stage with me in tow. I last saw them, for the sixth time no less, at Central Park in New York City in 2003, just after I started law school. It took forever to get in. I spent a good portion of the set somewhat bored because I was too far away from the stage, and, well, Warren Haynes came in halfway through the show and jammed with them, and I was done for the night already at that point. I honestly just assumed that my Dave Matthews Band concert going career was dead and gone …but girls do the damnedest things to guys. One sweet girl enters the picture, and BAM! Hi Dave. Nice to see you again.

But despite the girlfriend getting me to go, I swear, I am super stoked for this show. Just like the old days, I hope they don’t play “Crash Into Me” or anything off their flop last album, Stand Up. Call it the geeky fan in me, but I think they suck, and the concert going quaint lads in Hartford simply deserve better. Remember when they were an honest college band and people went to hear the songs as a backdrop for some fun jamming, Dave in flannel pajama pants doing the Dave Dance, and everyone having a good time? Me too. So here’s to genuine excitement, and even spending the last week getting reacquainted with their catalog from Under the Table and Dreaming through Busted Stuff, and just hoping for the best. My understanding is Tim Reynolds is actually touring with them this summer, which I think bodes well, since he is a bona fide acoustic guitar bad ass who will likely simply add to the jamming quotient I am hoping for.

A month ago, I was perhaps somewhere between unexcited and accepting of my duties as the boyfriend to go to the concert, especially since she is going with me to see Pearl Jam at Madison “f-in’” Square Garden! And really seems like she’s not that excited, but I am stoked. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Dave and Co. play some good tunes, and I’m ready for a rollicking, somewhat-hippie time. All that being said, don’t paint me surprised if my review complains about shrieking 15-year-old girls screaming for the newest album and “Crash Into Me.”

R.E.M. – Thursday, June 19 at Madison Square Garden in New York City:

For this band, it’s been 9 years since the last time we hung out . All the reviews and discussion of their recent live show suggest that, not only are they rocking the house down, but they are playing songs that actually span further back than my natural memory. Call me old and out of touch with the youth of today, but as a high school student, I specifically remember “Losing My Religion” and “Everybody Hurts” as mainstays of the geekiest kids in class (myself included), and examining Michael Stipe’s work as pure poetry and genius despite the fact I felt that he just put words together that seemed to sound right without much sense behind them.

Nonetheless, I am really excited and anticipating this show greatly. It’s R.E.M.! Madison Square Garden! A combination of geeky fans interacting with hipsters who are so cool they are allowed to like R.E.M. even though they are “really there” for the National and maybe a touch of Modest Mouse.

The other facet of excitement comes from the new abum, Accelerate. Not since 1996’s New Adventures in HiFi have I been this enthusiastiic about an R.E.M. album. From top to bottom, the album simply rocks and really captures the span of R.E.M.’s reach, from the early quasi-pop rock singles to their mid-life prime of effortless genius and beyond. So seeing them — in the house that Lennon rocked, Pearl Jam shook, tBilly Joel sold out and Springsteen crumbled — will be nothing less than an absolute honor and privilege. Even if I fall squarely in the geek category of R.E.M. fan.

Pearl Jam – Tuesday and Wednesday, June 24th and 25th at Madison Square Garden:

I consider myself a true vet of the Pearl Jam experience, in the same vein as Jamie Moyer is considered a veteran pitcher in the majors. 14 shows over 12 years, and I still get goose bumps and legitimately nervous every time I go to see them. What will they play? Will it be all hits? Are they gonna break out something I’ve never heard? What are the cover songs tonight? The possibilities are endless. New set every night, and no one really knows what’s going to be played on that single night. I am sure at least once, maybe fifteen times, I am going to have that same conversation with another lifer: What are they going to open with? “Release?” Man, my life dream is to hear “Oceans!” Maybe they’ll start with a fast song. I sure hope not. Always bodes better when they start with something chill. I’d happily take “Long Road!”

All that nonsense aside, even more nonsensical is that the bar is just flat out raised when Pearl Jam plays at Madison Square Garden. Like anyone who is among the top professionals at their craft, they know when they must turn it on — when everyone is watching. For Pearl Jam, that’s the Garden in New York City. And as a resident of that fine city, I happily accept that challenge they place on themselves entering the arena here. Just ask a former attendee at their Garden shows what it is like, and they’ll list for you at least a dozen highlights from the one show they saw here. I’ve seen all four of their previous Garden shows as a band and I can definitely say those were among the best shows I’ve ever seen. Period.

So to be a hardcore fan of perhaps the most unattractive kind, and get a chance to see them once again, two nights in a row, at the fabled Madison Square Garden … nothing even comes close to the anticipation, the nervousness, everything I’ll feel. It’s the Super Bowl, World Series, and Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show all rolled into one massive Pearl Jam geekfest, and I won’t mind one bit watching the master of ceremonies from my fan club seats.

E-mail Joshua Lieberson at joshualieberson@yahoo.com

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