When we missed the Ten Club onsale dates for the San Diego and Los Angeles shows we were faced with the grim reality of catching Pearl Jam at the Outside Lands Festival in Golden Gate Park. That doesn't really sound that bad until you consider tickets were about $100 a piece and that we would literally have to camp out in front of the stage all day to guarantee a decent spot and catch a glimpse of the band without the aid of the Hubble telescope.
No way. Fuck that.
We haven't logged 12+ years in Pearl Jam's fan club to pee in plastic cups while we endure 7 other bands, drugged out tweeners unable to handle their acid, and maintain our spot in the crowd all day. We did what any other self-respecting Public Health Care Option and PJ fan would do - we went to Canada.
What a glorious decision that turned out to be. Not only did we have a great opportunity to check out the amazing city of Vancouver, we caught one of the better PJ shows we've seen in years.
When the band starts the show with the polyrhythmic rumble of "In My Tree" from 1996's No Code, you know the night is going to be special. Touring in support of their recently released album Backspacer, Pearl Jam left it all on the stage Friday night in Vancouver, erasing any doubts the band was operating in some creative cruise control silo.
Instead, the band hit the ground running - blasting through rockers like "Save You", "Severed Hand", "The Fixer" and "Johnny Guitar" before coming up for air and greeting the rabid Canucks who had packed the GM Place, aka "The Garage". Eddie and the boys quickly acknowledged that it was indeed a Friday night show before lifting the crowd with the soaring "Given to Fly" and then speeding through the Yield album classic "MFC".
With an insane catalog of music to choose from, Pearl Jam kept everyone on their toes playing rarities like "Sad" from the b-sides Lost Dogs album, to the almost never played "No Way" off Yield. Eddie Vedder took time to dedicate the Binaural era "Light Years" to Canadian Terry Fox and his inspirational story, getting a huge roar of approval from Vancouver.
To explain the amount of energy these guys gave to the performance Friday night , you would think we're descrbing some band of 20 year olds jacked up on youth, a couple cases of beer and pure adrenaline. Guitarist Mike McCready bounced, ran, and pumped up the crowd all night between guiar solos. Bassist Jeff Ament and Vedder flew through the air like the skate/surf rats they are, and for the first time in fucking ages, guitarist Stone Gossard criss crossed the stage and head banged like it was 91 all over again.
More aural goodies continued through the night - "I Got Shit", "Breath", "State of Love & Trust" and "Grievance" balanced out by some PJ classics including "Alive", "Even Flow" and "Rearviewmirror".
The band did a masterful job of working the crowd. Early on, Vedder told the audience that the Seattle crowd a couple nights prior "sucked", lathering up fans into a fermented fury that wouldn't leave the rest of the night. Their lighting rig and backdrop were also lowered so the back third of the arena could sit right over the band behind the stage.
And the new songs? Better than how they sound on record. "Got Some" remains a choice song with just a great pummeling start/stop dynamic that sways harder and rocks harder live. "Unthought Known", "The Fixer", and "Johnny Guitar" all escape the 80s rock sheen production sound of Backspacer in the live setting with the amps maxed out and the Matt Cameron Train thundering away.
As a live band, Pearl Jam is firing right now. The band brought out opener/friend Ben Harper to sing with Vedder on "Indifference"creating another show highlight and then drove it home with "Betterman" and "Yellow Ledbetter". The image of guitarist Mike McCready just sitting out on the edge of the PA wailing away on "Ledbetter", looking like he didn't want to ever leave was a polaroid moment and a testment to the energy Vancouver brought to the show.
Great show. Great town. Permanent memories from this trip.
Catch 'em if you can.
September 25, 2009 Vancouver, BC, GM Place
Set List: In My Tree, Save You, The Fixer, Severed Hand, Johnny Guitar, Given To Fly, MFC, Even Flow, Amongst The Waves, Sad, Unthought Known, Light Years, Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town, Grievance, No Way, Got Some, Rearviewmirror
1st encore: I Got Shit, Love, Reign O'er Me, Breath, State Of Love And Trust, Alive
2nd encore: Last Kiss, Indifference w/ Ben Harper, Wasted Reprise, Better Man/(Save It For Later), Yellow Ledbetter
Photos liberated from PearlJam.com
Friday, October 09, 2009