Pearl Jam returns for a shaking encore
By JOSHUA LIEBERSON
STATIC and FEEDBACK correspondent
Much of the afternoon festivities leading up to the second night at the Garden were centered around how great they had been the night before (maybe the best show I’ve ever seen?), and where I would be sitting with my girlfriend, her first Pearl Jam show. At around 2:30 p.m., I arrived at the Garden and learned the answer to my mystery, Section 64, row F, seats 1 and 2. For those of you not familiar with the Garden seating, but wholly familiar with the Pearl Jam experience, that would be 5th row, Mike’s side, on the wing directly next to stage. I was, to say the least, very thankful I renewed by Ten Club membership for all these years.
After wandering around the city, followed by an unfortunate inability to find a place to eat before the show (and finding decent pizza…New Pizza Town II on 7th Ave and 30th Street), we headed into the venue, got a few beers, and got to our seats. It’s always more fun when you get to look out at your seats from the night before and see where you are now in anticipation of the concert. We looked way out to see last night’s seats, and I was giddy about where we were at this time, though we were just behind the screens showing various text messages.
Ted Leo came on as scheduled, and didn’t sound nearly as good as he had the night before. Maybe it was that my girlfriend had less enthusiasm than Bagel the night before (he didn’t show much), or maybe closer up it’s just not as entertaining.
For the second night in a row, a deafening noise rose up when the lights went down. We had just had a conversation with everyone around us about what would be the first song played, and I said I wanted “Release.” As miracles would have it, they started with “Release.” The crowd was elated and feeling like tonight would be special. As Eddie Vedder hit his notes with perfection — “I’ll ride the wave, RELEASE ME!” — the crowd nearly rendered him inaudible with their singing. It was Night One all over again, and we could all feel it.
It was then on to some new stuff, as they had shied away from their most recent album the night before. “World Wide Suicide” and “Severed Hand” were played back to back, with the crowd and band fully rocking out and having a great time. It was then time for the Garden to shake uncontrollably as the band ripped into another stellar version of “Corduroy.” To note at this time, while we could feel the place shaking the night before up top, down near the stage, it felt like the garden was bouncing about a foot up and down as the crowd shook the place. Certainly, I could see why the band freaked out the first time.
The guest backup singers were back on stage for “All Night,” played much in the same vein as the night before. The crowd seemed less into it than the night before, maybe because most of the crowd had been there to see it. Being in the fan club sections, I can tell you that it is more fun being with new people to the live experience. I think that many of these club members have just seen too much Pearl Jam, where their expectations are overly inflated and they can’t just sit back and enjoy a phenomenal show. They were almost angry at any repeats from the night before, and I think as a fan, once you reach that point, it is time to look inward and possibly either take a break or at least give the band some leeway. I was intent on enjoying every second of both shows, and I was disappointed that many up front were simply not satisfied.
After a huge sing-along in a rendition of “Garden” that mirrored the album version (they had been playing a modified version the last few years), Eddie Vedder once again dedicated a song to George Carlin, noting that he was proof that not everyone named George is a complete imbecile, and played “Marker in the Sand.” Eddie Vedder followed that up by grabbing a guitar and playing “I’m Open” by himself, with the band joining him for the rest of the first set, which was beyond amazing, highlighted by “State of Love and Trust,” “Rats,” “Do the Evolution” (another Garden shaker), and closing out with “Go,” which took the crowd to another frenzied level of screaming and dancing.
After a short break, the band came back on stage for their first encore, and started things off with “Inside Job,” featuring Mike McCready’s double neck guitar. The backup singers came back on stage for “W.M.A.,” and even though it was a repeat from the night before, everyone seemed really into the song, screaming “police man” with Vedder. Vedder then introduced the next song as a quiet sing-along, and jumped straight into “Lukin.” I never quite understood how and when this song became such a fan favorite, but it has officially taken on that quality, as it has now become 52 seconds of complete mayhem. C.J. Ramone was invited back for the second night in a row for another fantastic rendition of “I Believe in Miracles.”
I then witnessed something that went beyond anything I can remember as a concert goer. Eddie started the opening riff to “Better Man,” and the place went wilder than I’ve ever seen at any concert ever. The crowd sang along, but Eddie lost the timing on his guitar and pleaded with fans to stop singing so he could start over. It took a moment, but people then finally stopped singing and started cheering even LOUDER. Eddie then started back up and the crowd, even louder, started to sing the entire first verse and chorus of the song. By the time the full band started in, the entire place felt like it was going to crumble. I had no choice but to watch the sea of people going ballistic as the band played through the song. The arena continued to bounce what felt like a foot off the ground, especially as the band jammed out the song at the end. With the entire place shaken and crumbled to it’s core, the band closed out the first encore with “Rearviewmirror,” which just continued more of the same.
With the audience at deafening levels to where my girlfriend noted to me that her ears hurt from the crowd noise alone, Vedder came back out and we all sang along once again to “No More.” While there were a number of people sitting down during this song, perhaps in protest to the song or because they played it the night before, it seems like the people into it drowned out any disappointment in the hardcore fans that need a little less Pearl Jam. The band then all turned around to the back of the stage and played “Last Kiss” for the fans in the back. The band then kicked into extreme high gear with another stomping version of “Why Go,” which just gets better each time you hear it.
The band did have a trick up their sleeves. It is well documented among fans that Mike McCready has always been a huge fan of Kiss, and particularly of Ace Frehley, and it was none other than Frehley who came onto the stage, without makeup, to play lead with Mike standing in Vedder’s spot to kick off “Black Diamond.” After the first verse, which sad to say for Mike was none too impressive, Matt Cameron took over on lead vocals from the drum kit and absolutely nailed it. It felt like the late 70s/early 80s all over again, as Ace was nailing his solos in tandem with Mike, and Cameron devoured the notes like a true 80s rocker. After some hugs and such on stage for Ace, Vedder came back on stage and the band jumped into another killer version of “Alive,” featuring much the same energy as the night before. As the band prepared to say goodbye, the crowd was so deafeningly loud that they knew they had one more in them.
The band closed out with “Yellow Ledbetter,” with warbled lyrics sung full force by Vedder and the crowd alike. It’s amazing how the fans even know the warbled words from his mouth as they arrive through the microphone. As the band wound down, Mike McCready went into a stellar, Hendrix-esque “Star Spangled Banner,” with the crowd egging him on as each set of chords grew from the last. With the crowd in complete delirium, the band left the stage for the final time.
A special thanks to the band for two magnificent nights at the Garden. Pearl Jam at Madison Square Garden not only met but exceeded the hype once again. The Garden roar will be something I take with me for the rest of my concert-going days, and all future crowds will be judged in comparison to these two.