Review of Pearl Jam Concerts in Madison Square Garden July 8

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My Review of Pearl Jam Concerts in Madison Square Garden July 8th and 9th

Before the First Show

I picked up my Ten Club tickets from a hotel next to the venue a day before the show (7th of July). Met nice PJ fans there. I saw Pip and Franchesca from England (I met Pip in the 2000 Virginia Beach concert in the front row). And I was hanging around with a group of German fans who came to see Pearl Jam on tour: Jens, Andrea, Matias, Peter, and a Brazilian girl, Julianna and an American guy from Illinois, Jeremy. I met Oscar Arias from America, who seems to be at every Pearl Jam show I go to, and know every fan I know , and is always fun and cheerful. Anyhow, someone handed out a flyer inviting us to a Pearl Jam cover band at night, so we went there.

8pm at the pub the cover band “Riot Act” was really good. The place was full with fans from all over the world. I met Rick Piedade from Portugal, (thanks to Thomas Welsh) and his two Israeli friends (who are not Pearl Jam fans but he wants them to be..) 

I met a couple from Italy who came for the show and heard a guy came from Bangaladesh.

One of the highlights of that evening was Dan Reis’ performance of Lukin. Dan is a guy from Brazil who got to America with the help of Pearl Jam fans to see the show: and he didn’t have a ticket! So he sang Lukin with the cover band, “Riot Act” and the band asked if someone would give him a ticket after he sings. And at least 3 people stood up and came to give him a ticket! He sang Lukin beautifully. The second highlight was a fan called Zelina who is making a documentary on Pearl Jam fans, because she was “enamoured with the fans.” Jullianna and I were briefly interviewed, and anyone else who wanted. We just said how the band is important for us and how we appreciate the fan community… (I was too excited to think rationally.)

Before the show I had to do some trading, selling and buying of tickets to be ready for everything. So I met up with Rob from New York to get a ticket for the show in New Jersey (on the 14th of July), and I sold Maria (also a New Yorker) my extra ticket, which was actually Dror’s. Dror and Keren are Israeli fans I met through the net, and the Israeli Pearl Jam Fan Community I made. Both of them were with me on the show. I had the best seats- Section 2, row K the first night and the second night Section 4 row M. It is like 15 rows from the stage. The first night I sold Keren my extra ticket and the second night I traded it with Dror, this way both of them could have a chance to sit up close.

Madison Square Garden, The First Night, July 8th 2003
Keren and I were too excited to be. We’ve been waiting for so long, about 6 months since we thought of coming to the show. It was 3 years since I last saw Pearl Jam and Keren has seen them a few days earlier, in Boston, for the First time, with Dror. She felt it was the best thing ever. I can identify with her. I always thought nothing could top the Virginia Beach concert, but, this one was gonna break some records.

So first I must say, for me the Madison Square Garden is HUGE. It was really exciting to be there. The place was empty and I tried to imagine how it will be like full with cheering people. It’s hard to imagine. The Buzzcocks rocked me, but it wasn’t easy to jump and there were only a few people doing that anyhow. It was the first time I heard them. Dror and Keren really dislike them, they say their songs sound like one long annoying song. Well, punk can be that way sometimes I guess. I liked it, but it made my headache very quickly. Ed later said they were huge influence on the band, and I wonder how, or where can I hear that influence, ‘Spin the Black Circle’? At the end of the Buzzcocks set, Jeff quietly replaced their Bass player and Mike and Eddie came and joined in, and they all sang “Why Can't I Touch It?” – which I must admit sounded MUCH better when Eddie was singing. But it’s always like that.  Then they were gone and we had to wait impatiently for the show to begin. The waiting drove us mad. But finally, the show started, with Love Boat Captain. After Last Exit they played Save You, which made me extremely happy, I love this song and also the follow up, Green Disease, which was lighted with green lights. In My Tree is played in a new version these days. It’s also an all time favorite of many people, including me. Happy to heard it live. I need to get used to it though. Cropduster is also a favorite song of mine, what can I do, I love this band! Even Flow was refreshing after a long time I didn’t hear it, and to see it live, with all the fans going crazy. Reminded me Pearl Jam’s early shows.

Now the next song was John Lennon’s Gimmie Some Truth, I thought I was going to die of joy. It was the song I wished for the most, and I couldn’t believe I heard it. It is an amazing song and I love the lyrics. Then they played I Am Mine, and Ed talked about September 11, and how the band felt close to the people in the city at their time of tragedy, and how the song is about being safe. Low Light was a real rarity, as much as I know, many fans were thankful for that, it’s not my favorite so I didn’t mind. Faithful was again, something I really wanted to hear, and I don’t think I’ve heard it live before.

Ed before Wishlist: “I said faith in something big, but I don’t know about that, it’s faith, that it’s all gonna work out, that’s what it is, I believe.” The huge mirrorball which turned round above the band during the song made an amazing effect of light spots on the huge crowd. It was magical. My head was spinning when I looked around. The lights of this show were really phenomenal. Ed sang Why Can’t I Touch it, which he sang earlier with the Buzzcocks, at the end of Wishlist. Ed in the end of Wishlist: “I can believe, I can believe… You can say, it will, it turn off, possimists, fuck the pessimists, fuck ‘em. There’s proof that dreams can be a good thing. After all we played with the Buzzcocks tonight. And it feels so real I can feel it, and it tastes so real I can taste it, and it sounds so real I can hear it, and it is so real I can be it, but whyyyyy can’t I touch it?? but whyyyyy can’t I touch it?? Sing New York, I know you want to”- then he sings with the crowd. The crowd was very cooperative. Ed all smiling :”That’s fucking beautiful.”

Then- Lukin, Grievance, 1/2 Full, Black, Spin The Black Circle, Rearviewmirror and an encore break. You Are, Thumbing My Way. Then, a wish came true, a great Daughter tag with a very special guest: Ben Harper! Ed asked the crowd to do him a favor and sing with him, “with my own two hands”. And Ben Harper joined in with the crowd duet. Amazing, just amazing! Ed: “Can I ask you a favor? Yehh. Really from down here it would mean a lot to me. I got brothers here [from the heart], I got my brother here, I’d love if you could do me a favor. You sing with me? (crowd: Yehh), I’ll give u a part, alright?” “With my two hands, I’m gonna make it a safer place/ With my two hands, I’m gonna change the world/ With my two hands/ I’m gonna make it a better place/ With my two hands/ I’m gonna change the human race…” Ben Harper: “I can change the world, with my own two hands, make a better place, with my own two hands, make a kinder place, with my own two hands, I can make peace on earth with my own two hands, I can clean up the earth with my own two hands, and I will reach out to you, oh, with my own two hands”. This felt totally inspiring. Then Ben said “This is the greatest band in the world” pointing at Pearl Jam. And you bet ya we cheered as loud as we could for that one. Ed hugged and kissed Ben. The crowd went crazy and everyone on stage seemed excited too.

Then, as if this wasn’t enough, they played Crown of Thorns!!! None of us could believe how lucky we are to hear it. I was thinking of my friends back home, especially Dora who would kill me for this when I came back home. I knew I was done for. This was just unbelievable. [I did miss Andy’s ‘yeh child…’ parts and screams , but I understand Eddie’s choice not to imitate Andy’s unique style.] Ed said: “I think Jeff and Stone would back me up, Andy would have loved to hear ya” [Rest in Peace Andy!].

I think when Breath was played I totally lost it. Maybe they wanted people to have an heart attack or something. [I’m glad I didn’t have one so I could make it to the next show ;-) ] I mean, this was totally rare! Such a beautiful song, and after the Breath campaign fans deserved it. Ed: ”I’ll just make a toast right now, to Mr. Jeff Ament and Mr. Stone Gossard”. Yeh, thank Stone and Jeff for actually doing it. Ed sang: “If I knew where it was, I would take you there there’s NOT much more than this…” Yeh, I don’t know how much more can be…

Ed: “This here is a song that was written, actually before I even met Jeff or Stone, but without Jeff and Stone, I certainly would never get to play it here, or anywhere, probably. Or maybe some place, but some place that smelled like piss. Which, that would’ve been alright. Anyways, so…” he starts playing Better Man and the crowd sings the first verses with Ed. I think this is one of the most amazing parts of the show, although the whole show is one big highlight. You can hear it on the bootleg and the MP3s, but you must multiply it a thousandfold to grasp the immenseness of those moments. I wish the bootlegs would capture that, but it’s quite impossible. The whole time I was thinking that, how to get these moments captured… They are, in my soul.

Do The Evolution rocked us so hard that we bounced the stage frightfully. I adore this song, it’s full of energy and character. I always wait the Halleluja part, it’s uplifting. I identify with it so much, and I am defiantly not the only one so it seems.  Ed: “I’m a thief and I’m a liar, this stage is bouncing, sing like a choir- Ha-llelu-ja”. Ed said thanks and they went off stage only to return later for the 3rd and last encore. Ed: “Just got a fresh bottle of wine so we’re all ready.(…) I need to tell you, something happened during that last song and, we’ve played it here before, we’ve had a couple of good ones and, maybe one that we wanted to make better, there was one, the last time, it was a Ralph Nader benefit and many of you came to fill in the place and- (crow d cheers) and maybe we’ll have to do that again someday but uh, let me tell you there was something happening just now… you know, it’s easy for us to freaked out, coz we want everything to be safe, but uh, the stage was bumping up and down like … (crowd cheers). And I just want to tell you this, ‘cause it’s a credit it to you more than us, but I was just told it only bounced like that for a few other people and they were, [man whispers the name to Ed’s ear], Grateful Dead, Iron Maiden, and Bruce Springsteen, and we’re really proud of you guys. Proud to be part of that little group there, but I gotta tell you, it scared the fuck out of us…but feel free to do it again…I don’t know if it’s on this one but..” then they start playing Crazy Mary. And you just know they love you.  What a beautiful song live. It wasn’t the first time I’ve seen it live, but it was the best one I’ve ever heard. And I still had a few surprised waiting for me. During the “Take a bottle drink it down” part, Ed passed his bottle of wine to the front of the crowd.

Ed: “Alright, as a highlight we’d like to reintroduce Mr. Ben Harper, come back to us…” Then they start Indifference. Yes. I know. It’s unbelievable. Crowd all clapping together. Ben starts the first verse and Ed joins up later. “I will scream my lungs out till it fills this room!!!” Madison Square Garden was full with our screams. Imagine that. (Put the bootleg on full volume to get the impression). After this song, the lights were already up, the MSG people wanted us out, but PJ had different plans. Ed: “Allright, we’re gonna continue, we’re gonna continue and it’s gonna cost us 14 thousand dollars but we’re gonna continue. Coz you’ve made us rich motherfuckers and we still don’t agree with the (TM??) and we’re gonna give the money back to the people and we’re gonna continue.” Crowd cheers, how not? Guess what now? Sonic Reducer with Tony from the Buzzcocks. Oh. My. God. My all time favorite! Topping it with Baba O’Riley after that and conventionally finishing with Yellow Ledbetter, I cannot believe there was an unsatisfied fan in the crowd. Ed thanks the Buzzcocks: “if it weren’t for the Buzzcocks, who knows, we might sound like good (??) or something that sounds like…(crowd boos) oh, they’re good, it’s just sounds like, well, it tastes like a popcycle that’s been stuck up somebody’s ass, but that’s just, my opinion. Some people are into that, who am I to say? [jokingly]. But just to say that Buzzcocks were a huge influence on us and to play with them tonight, obviously, it’s a huge honor and to have them play here, it means a lot.” Dedicating it to John Enthwistle and Pete Townshend, they start Baba O’Riley. Crowd sings beautifully “Don’t cry, don’t raise your eye/ it’s only, teenage wasteland!!” (get it from the bootleg!). Ed dancing and jumping around with two tambourines, crowd flips out entirely. Man, what a fucking great show! Just one word everyone used to describe, I was thinking the whole time- UN-fucking-BELIEVABLE!!!!

[I’ll write the review of the second show tomorrow.]

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