Monday, January 6, 2003 @ 3:19 PM
Pearl Jam Live at the Key Aren
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REVIEW BY: Scott Bailey:
Now I know that this may be out of place for KNAC, but a rock show is a rock show. So here is review for your reading pleasure.
Let's start off with a little history. I have lived in the Seattle area since 1989. Arriving in town with my love of hair bands did not sit well with some of my new friends. They berated me with insults and barbs at my rock shirt collection. Some insults hurt, but some were warranted. A couple of friends tried to get me to listen to some local bands. They kept giving me tapes with a bunch of bands from "K" records and some little known label named "Sub Pop." Bands that sounded like they needed to hit the practice sessions a little more, some that sounded like Black Sabbath with 14-year old singers. A few bands stuck out to me. I had heard Soundgarden before, I even saw the video for "Loud Love" on Headbangers Ball. Not bad stuff. Alice in Chains sounded more metal than the other bands. Back then they played a little faster and had a little metal swagger. Mother Love Bone was, as far as I was concerned, the best of the bunch. I had seen them in concert once, opening for The Dogs D'amour. Glam with punk energy and metal stage presence -- that would be the only way to describe them. Then lead singer Andy Wood had to go and become one of the first in the sad tradition of Seattle singers dying of heroin overdoses. When he died some of the surviving members went on to form the band Pearl Jam.
Pearl Jam, the name conjures up images of flannel, teen angst, dirty unkempt hair, and the death of ‘80s metal (especially for the people who read this site). Up from the ashes of Mother Love Bone, they rose. After 1992, they would be a household name. I saw them on the ‘92 version of Lollapalooza. They put on a live show with high energy and lots of bombast. They also had a real appreciation for their fans. A few months later they played a free show in Seattle to thank their fans for all the support.
Skip to 2002: Pearl Jam, the name conjures up images of a political, socially responsible rock band that help bring down ‘80s metal. They take up causes, play benefit concerts, give their fans 75 or so live CDs so that they don't have to pay the bootleggers price for a full CD of live stuff. Now at this point I have not been a big fan. I lost touch with them during the "We are Neil Young's touring band" phase of their careers. But I still appreciate a good tight rock band. After all, I did see the David Lee Roth/Sammy Hagar show this past summer. Ok maybe that was not the best example, but I digress.
The new CD Riot Act comes out and the band announces that they will start the tour in their home town with 2 benefit shows. I got my tickets the day they went on sale and still had to sit in the upper-bowl. Both shows, Dec. 8th and 9th, were sold out.
The opening bands were Brad (Pearl Jam's Stone Gossard's side project) and Steve Earle (countrified rock). I was all set to miss Steve Earle and to get there in time to see Brad, but fate intervened and Brad went on first and I had to hear Steve Earle from the hallways of Key Arena.
At 9:40 the local boys hit the stage. The crowd was on their feet ready for some rock, but this is not the Pearl Jam of 1992. A kinder gentler Pearl Jam has arrived at the Key this night. This was evident with the opening notes of the show. Starting the show off with "Elderly Woman" from Vs. and "Black" from Ten set the tone for the show with a slow groove and mood. With a set heavy with new songs thrown and some radio hits like "Given to Fly," "Wishlist" and "Corduroy," the crowd seemed happy with the selection. Something was missing, though. The energy I remembered from 1992 was not there. No crowd bouncing, no blues-style solos from guitarist Mike McCready. I seemed that the crowd was losing interest. Then the ever-popular cords of "Evenflow" rang out and the magic seemed to be back. With a wicked turn the band rocked to life and McCready wailed away at his guitar with reckless abandon for 2 solos. Both were great and he ended it with a great guitar smash and throw that seemed to get attention from his bandmates. Closing the set was the raucous "Blood" from Vs.
I was a little disappointed, knowing that the encores would be next and then the show would be over under an hour and a half. After going through "Gimme Some Truth" (John Lennon cover), a George W. Bush mask made its way on stage for "Bushleaguer" from the new CD. A decent song, but not really worthy of encore status for a band that had so many more crowd favorites left ready to play. "Insignificance" and "Down" followed, then the band left lead singer Eddie Vedder with a guitar and the mic and let him start the next tune. What followed was a truly amazing version of "Betterman." The song starts out with just Eddie singing and the crowd was drowning him out. Close to 15,000 voices singing in a low almost whisper like chorus. It was very eerie to hear. But a great version of a song I usually just tolerate on the radio. Mike McCready came out with a beautiful flying V for the next song, "Do the Evolution." "Evolution" was a great selection to close the show. A fast-paced pure rock song that got the crowd and the band jumping around. The band gives thanks to the crowd for showing up and giving them a good show of support. Show over. Well, not quite.
A few minutes later the band is back on stage and they head right into "Yellow Ledbetter." "Ledbetter" is a nice slow blues-based song that is actually a b-side, but always a crowd favorite. The audience got into it immediately and then the house lights started to slowly flicker on. The song just kept going on, and the crowd just seemed to get into it even more when the lights were on full and the band still played. McCready ended the night the same way it started, with a nice slow groove.
The show is now a little over 2 hours old and I cannot imagine another band putting on a show with that much twists and turns musically. If you can appreciate a rock band that just likes to play in front of their fans, then a Pearl Jam show is for you. If you are looking for flash and rock posturing you are out of luck, wait for the Motley Crue reunion. I'll go to that one as well.
Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
Thumbing My Way
Nothing As It Seems
Given To Fly
I Am Mine
Love Boat Captain
Gimme Some Truth
Do The Evolution