Pearl Jam home shows – a review

As far as Pearl Jam shows go… this was a meh.  We shall get to that at great length.


First, the trip.  It was a special trip by the time I hit the Denver airport going to Seattle  I saw a lot of ‘Jammers’. I don’t think us Pearl Jam fans have a cool name like ‘Deadheads’, so we will go with ‘Jammers’.  Even getting on the parking lot bus shuttle in Denver I started seeing Pearl Jam shirts. It looked like our pilot did, too. Our flight was a direct flight from Denver to Seattle, the day in-between the 2 sold out ‘Home Shows’.  As I sit down next to my future ex wife (that is a joke about how pretty the stranger in the seat next to me… NOT a joke about leaving my current wife.)  I wrote here about that, too.  the pilot says we have a lot of Pearl Jam fans on board, huh? We all yell in approval  Note, we are still just in Denver. The pilot asks us to do something fun. He said ‘everyone on the plan tonight to go see Pearl Jam turn on you call buttons. The plane lit up, and we looked around proud. It was like an airline version of holding up lighters for a concert ballad.  I had never experienced something like that, so it was super cool. SouthWest just rocks.

Now we land in Seattle and the place is dead.  It was midnight on a Thursday. As I came down the stairs into the main terminal, these awesome huge banners greeted us.

This was SO cool.  I haven’t been embraced like this as a rock fan since I was seeing Jerry and the boys 30 years ago in Vegas. Back then, as drove into Vegas from Px we saw billboards that read ‘Welcome Deadheads’.   As a BIG fan of rock shows live, I am not used to being embraced. I remember seeing the Butthole Surfers back in high school. They were playing some dive bar in a stabby part of town. Something happened with the band and the club and the show was canceled while loading in.  What Gibby did right then made me a fan for life of the Butthole Surfers. Gibby (their singer) came out to the crowd in line and said ‘hey all. We are here and have our gear and the cleaners next door are offering us their outlets. So, we are going to do a whole concert outside in the alley.   And they did it. Point being, I am still not used to society embracing rock fans.

See that pic?  I think I know not only what song he is singing… but what syllable he is singing.  I follow them that close.   22 years in the Ten Club, baby… and seat selection goes by tenure.  So, we always get really good seats to see the band.

If you have never seen Pearl Jam before these shows, you can be forgiven for thinking it was amazing.   They are amazing live. It’s their bread and butter, and always been. In fact, they have pioneered a great deal of live recording and distribution technology.  Also, no two shows are ever the same. The setlists are done only an hour before the show. Like the Grateful Dead, it gives incentive to see every show on the tour if you could.  If I could, I would.

This wasn’t their best, though.  This was far from it. Its not age, that is for sure.  Best show I have seen them from was just a few years ago.  This show was for people to meet the band, that remember them from the 90s.  The sets were big on the hits, I guess.  Funny thing is, not sure if they really have any ‘hits’ in the radio marketing sense.  technically, their only ‘hit’ was a cover.  This one. The setlists left like they were written by a fan who saw them once 25 years ago.  The show was just… different. It was safe. There was no rambling from Ed. and Ed rambles… a LOT. Last time I saw them, they played almost 4 hours, and it felt like a third of that was a drunk Ed pontificating on everything.  In fact, not even sure I saw a bottle of wine. Normally, Ed walks out to EVERY show with a notebook and a bottle of wine.

Another odd observation.  they had set up merch tents outside the show all week.  Cool.   Inside the concert were merch lines.  I wanted to get a shirt, but the lines were LONG.  I asked a dude in line how his wait was and he said 75 minutes so far, not much movement.  That isn’t even the interesting thing.  As I made my way often back the concourse… these folks were STILL there.  Same folks.  I am confident that about a thousand folks (stadium had 53K, I think) people that night never saw show.  Instead, they were inside the concourse not moving.  People flew all the way to Seattle not to see Pearl Jam… but to buy a shirt to show you were at the show.  I have to admit, I never did get a shirt, and I am a bit sad about that.  I saw a cool thing they did with the shirts, too.  One of them had Wednesday’s setlist silk screened on the back, that was super cool!  It is now Friday, two days later.  There were two shows, Weds & Friday.  We were only at the 2nd show.

It was a great shirt, It wasn’t worth missing the show, though.  I fear some of those folks are still in line.

Another thing I didn’t love… they kept Mike McCready in check.  Mike is one of the most explosive rock guitarists out there. Years ago, in introducing the band, Eddie called him a mad and dangerous science experiment.  In the early years, you heard him… too much. His style and talent simply dominate. As of the last decade or so, he is more restrained on record. I call it ‘waking up McCready’.  He stays out of the way for most songs… until about half way through. By the end of most songs, he just goes full fucking McCready and shreds our faces off. I didn’t see any of that at the Friday show.  There were two shows; a Wednesday, and a Friday.

Here is another thing I didn’t love… the jumbotrons.  I know its a football endzone thing, but it is what i call the big screens every concert has.  Last time I saw them, the filming was stunning. It was so well done, and so beautiful, I assumed the show was being taped to release.  These screens are important, as most of us are too far away to see things like facial expressions. At the home shows, there was virtually no close ups.  Most of the shots were just wide shots of the whole stage. I don’t need that… that is what I am seeing already.

Ed is obviously VERY political, and will not hesitate to ramble on about any issue.  He was careful to be on his best behavior for this show. I don’t want a restrained Ed, and that is what we got.  I really don’t want an restrained Mike McCready, but that is what we got. I am looking at the setlists, and i am jelly of the Wednesday show.  They got a much better setlist. Here is the Friday night setlist, and here is the Wednesday one.  I see there are plenty of obscure songs, but few of quality.

I should note, the two opening songs rocked my face off.  They opened with a perfect sounding Oceans, and then a super duper rare ‘Footsteps’.  I also got to hear ‘In Hiding’, which is wonderful and rare.  You can’t tell from the video, but that Oceans just sounded studio good, if not better.  It gave me chills.   How the hell do these guys keep getting better?   There are pretty much NO bands better than they were 30 years ago… except maybe Iron Maiden.

And the band can’t be blamed for this one… but Chris Cornell would should have been there.   I just kept thinking about that all weekend, and I sure everyone else did, too.  Kim Thayil came out and played a lot, he is Soundgarden’s guitarist. Also, remember that Pearl Jam and Soundgarden share the same drummer… and have for about 15 years.  Matt Cameron was in two full time working and touring rock bands at the same time. His absence was felt heavily, but understandably never mentioned. To me, the first shot of love to Chris was playing ‘Footsteps’.  See, Footsteps is an odd bird. Temple of the Dog (which is Pearl Jam, but with Chris Cornell singing) did the exact same song… but with different lyrics. The Temple of the Dog version is called ‘Times of Trouble’. Makes some sense, and Mike McCready wrote it… and he is in both bands.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the show.  It is always always always a great show.  However, I don’t think this show would crack my top ten Pearl Jam shows.  You see bumper stickers like ‘a bad day fishing is better than a good day at the office’.  That is how I feel about just an ok Pearl Jam show… it is still the best thing on Earth.

In closing, I must tell you about the Aussie next to us, and the most wonderful husband ever.  The gal next to us was from Australia, and flew all the way to the states just to see this concert.  I am a super fan, I knew every single song, and I almost always do. Not telling you that to impress you.  I am telling you that Australia girl was a super fan, and knew every word to every song. What makes that special, and what makes her husband the greatest husband ever?  Dude did not know a single song. I watched him… he didn’t even know the words to ‘Betterman’. He is the greatest husband because he literally crossed the Earth so his wifey could see her favorite band.  This poor guy had ZERO interest in the band.

I love my wife, and she means the world to me.  But, would I fly 20 hours at a cost of thousands to see a band I hate?  No sir. I would want her to go, but I’ll stay home and watch rugby and Paul Hogan movies.

*** one last thing – remember hearing about that guy who stole a commuter plane and crashed it outside of Seattle?  That was all happening during the show.  Pretty sure I not only saw that plane, I took a photo of it!  Now, I had NO idea about the whole story until the next day.  During the show, though, I pointed a plane out to the wifey that was flying really low over the stadium.  I thought it was cool, it was so cool I took a photo of it.  I think that was the plane.  The initial concern from the authorities was he might be heading for the Pearl Jam show.  it would be a perfect act of terrorism… 53K all outside smooshed together, and not even a roof to stop you.

Lemme tell you something else about that flight.  the Govt says we never shot it down, and he just crashed.  I got a buddy who I will not name who lives in one of those islands by where that happened.  He saw this, and said it was shot down.  Feel free not to believe me.  Why the hell am I putting this in writing?  Because I trust you, and I speak truth to power.


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