First, a foreword from Todd:
I can’t believe my live music luck lately (Exhibit A: Look at that photo). The concert gods have smiled upon me many times over the last year or so. From successful pre-sale ticket purchases to front row / VIP seats, I’ve had an incredible run. Actually all of us MoSS? dorks have of late. I’m still jealous of Chris’ front row spot at the Cure concert last month and Sam’s run-in with Sharon Van Etten last week. This Pearl Jam concert beats them all for dumb luck, though.
If you read my portion of the MoSS? 100 Undisputed Best Albums of All Time list, then you will remember I had Pearl Jam’s Ten ranked as my #33 album. Not too shabby. But you may also remember that I tired of them by their Vitalogy album. I actually bought tickets to see them around that time during their anti-Ticketmaster tour. I sold them at a tidy profit and bought a super sweet mountain bike. Still have the bike along with monstrous calf muscles.
Anyways, back to the subject at hand. Some months back I’d heard Pearl Jam were coming to the Quad Cities. I looked into tickets and saw they were already sold out. Flash forward to a week before the show. I was chitchatting with a co-worker and he offhandedly mentioned that he had a line on some tickets. Someone he knew worked at the concert venue and they told him that once the stage layout was finalized, they may be adding a few more seats. I told him to give me a call if he heard anything and walked away from the conversation thinking there wasn’t a chance in hell anything would come from it. I had all but forgotten the whole thing when he called me as I was sitting in a meeting. I rather awkwardly excused myself from the room and answered. This is how the conversation went:
MoSS? Todd: Hey!
Co-Worker: Hey man! You have seventh row seats reserved if you call my guy at the venue.
MoSS? Todd: Sweet! How much?
Co-Worker: I don’t know. Face value? Who cares? Call him. Like soon.
MoSS? Todd: OK. Cool. Seventh row, huh? Sweet. That’ll be pretty close. You think I could get four tickets? All together?
Co-Worker: All great questions … for the dude onsite. Call him. Now. He told me we had like five minutes … like three minutes ago.
MoSS? Todd: Ooh. Shit! Thanks. Click
So long story short, I got four tickets in the seventh row. I took Mrs. MoSS? Todd and our usual concert support crew friends. The seats were great and Eddie actually came out into the crowd just a few rows away from us.
The only bummer from the evening was the massive headache I got from the weed smokers around me. I sound like an old man but honestly, it was crazy. As soon as the lights went down it was as if someone started a tire fire a few rows in front of me. Aside from the stench of the sticky icky, we had a blast. Great music with great friends. Now back to you, Sam. – Todd
Sorry for the delay, folks. But I needed a few days to let this one marinate …
OK, I’m ready now.
As you may have heard, either here or on Twitter – which I repeatedly (or annoyingly) shared, ad nauseum, all over the various internets – after a 23-year wait that bordered on a Moby Dick-sized white-whale chase, I finally saw Pearl Jam in concert, on Friday night at the iWireless Center (formerly The Mark of the Quad Cities) in Moline, Ill.
(The epicness of this night isn’t even taking into account the always-entertaining prospect of another concert road trip and hotel stay with those wacky Dubs, punctuated with Skeet falling asleep flat on his back and eventually choking on his own saliva, which strangely seemed to trigger T-Dub’s spectacular, surreal bout of night terrors – which are not unlike this, except hornier and somehow arrogant, something to which the slumbering and annoyed Mrs. T-Dub will surely attest:)
As for the show, was it everything I had hoped for? After much thought and reflection, I’d have to say yes, most definitely. This is a battle-tested group of road warriors. They are unbelievably tight, full of energy, with an improvisational spirit. Plus, they seemed genuinely stoked to be in our hidden-away neck of the woods, which always feels good as a fan. And they hammered away until they’d given us a 36-song set clocking in at roughly three hours.
That’s how I feel about it now, after a few days of letting it sink in.
But I have to admit: I didn’t feel that way Friday night. At least not at first.
I mean, this is Pearl Jam. This is a band I had been waiting to see since 1991, so naturally, I had a list of songs in my head I was dying to hear. In fact, I chronicled it for posterity in my previous piece. Here’s the “Cliff’s Notes” version of that list:
- Please play “Oceans.” Please play “Garden.” Please play “Release.”
- Please consider “Breath” and “Crown of Thorns.”
- Either “I Got ID” or “Long Road” would be a treat.
- And finally, Yield … I’d piss myself with glee if you played “Faithfull.”
Remember, this is a band that never plays the same set twice. Every song in their catalog is fair game at any given show. That’s the main reason you can actually follow them on tour. This isn’t Kiss, who always play a 20-song combination, pulled from the same 40 songs spanning a 40-year career, every single night (don’t be mad, Kiss, I still love you guys). No, with Pearl Jam, you get something different at every concert. So, if they play a song one night, especially one of the more obscure ones, there’s a pretty good chance you won’t get it two nights in a row.
So I, of course, started stalking Twitter and setlist.fm in the days leading up to my show, hoping that they wouldn’t play the songs from my wish list.
On Tuesday in Memphis, they played “Garden.” More scarily, they played “Breath.” Two days later, in Detroit, they friggin’ opened the show with “Release,” followed by “Oceans.” Uh oh.
So, going into the show, I already knew that I probably wouldn’t get at least half of the songs I was absolutely pining to hear.
Still I remained optimistic. It’s Pearl Jam, after all. There’s still a ton of songs I’d be happy with, you know?
After worrying for months about our spot on the side of the stage, I took as a good omen that our seats turned out to be pretty damn sweet. And when they took the stage and opened the show with “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town,” all systems were go.
Shortly after, I remember they tore into “Hail, Hail” and immediately followed it with “Who You Are.” I did take notice of them playing these two songs back to back.
But after a while, even though I was loving what I was hearing, my attention started drifting. I started consciously thinking about my own personal wish list of songs, and about how I was afraid I wouldn’t get them. I mean, it was my first show. It’s hard NOT to be a little selfish, right?
The band soldiered on. They even played “Garden,” which was huge since they had just played it in Memphis. The set list was long and expansive, covering their whole career. They even gave us one of my favorite cover tunes when they blistered through Neil Young’s “Fuckin’ Up.” After playing their customary closer “Yellow Ledbetter,” this night that I had waited a generation for had come to a close.
Exiting the arena, I realized I only got one song from my wish list. For a few moments, I started wondering – out loud, even – if what I had feared was actually true: Were we just flyover country? Were we just the warm-up show for the Twin Cities, Milwaukee, and Denver? All because they didn’t play the songs that I wanted to hear?
But before I could actually truly debate this with my friends as we walked for a post-gig beverage, I finally turned my phone back on (yes, I turned it off after I was rightfully scolded from the stage earlier in the week at a club show at Gabe’s in Iowa City by Sharon Van Etten). And I had this tweet waiting for me:
I hadn’t even noticed. I was so preoccupied with hearing the songs on my list that I hadn’t even noticed. Like I said, I DID notice when they played “Hail, Hail” and “Who You Are” back to back. But, in hindsight, it went completely over my head when Eddie said “alright, end of Side 1” after finishing “Off He Goes.” How did I NOT put that together?
People, some of which I had reached with my blog about losing my PJ virginity, were responding. Almost immediately. With jealousy. Only then did I realize how special it was.
There’s a scene in the great Cameron Crowe documentary Pearl Jam Twenty, where you see a brief montage of fans saying just how many times they’ve seen the band live, with one guy saying something absurd like 250-plus times, over various countries and continents.
So yeah, I didn’t get the songs I wanted. This is true. But there’s some dude out there that’s seen Pearl Jam 250-plus times that has NEVER gotten this show, because in their entire history, this was the first time they’ve ever done the “entire album front to back” thing before …
(Yeah, in 1992, they probably played all of Ten … big fucking deal. They were a brand new band with exactly ONE album – I would hope they played all of it! Plus, at a show in Italy in 2006, they played the entire self-titled album (aka The Avocado) but according to Rolling Stone’s account, it was out of sequence.)
But on Friday night in Moline, they played the album that diehards cherish from start to finish AND in sequence. Would I personally have rather had Ten, Vitalogy or Yield front to back instead of No Code? Yes, I would have. But this is their beloved album, for some reason. And we got it.
Plus, oh yeah … let’s not discount the fact that Eddie Vedder wrote a FUCKING ORIGINAL SONG – a song he titled “Moline” and described as a companion piece to his classic Vitalogy track “Better Man” – for our show that just might, maybe, end up on an album someday.
Perspective, people. It’s really hard to complain when you put it in perspective.
Now, did I feel a little less special when, three days later, they repeated the stunt in Milwaukee, except the cheeseheads got Yield start to finish? Yes. Yes I did. But fuck it, it was still worth the wait. And I can’t wait to do it again.
And next time, I’ll be happy with what I get.