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Garden Party

By UrbanAnthropod, May 22, 2010 10:49 am

The Lottery

In a previous post, I mentioned how I was anticipating Pearl Jam at Madison Square Garden. On the first of the two nights, I arrived at the will-call window to see that I did not win the lottery. Rows 1&2 and 9&10 are lottery seats to enable fan club members with low seniority the opportunity to sit near the front. This is a great practice, in my opinion. It always rubs me a little that I am in the 11th row, right behind the lottery seats! One of the last PJ shows I attended in the Garden, a drunken moron was in front of me who eventually got booted for being such a buffoon. When I counted the rows to realize he was a lottery seat, I was extra annoyed. Things were made better when I took the trip out to watch them close out the Spectrum in Philly when I was seated in row 6 — ahead of the lottery.

The best part of being a senior member of the fan club has always been that we’re right in front on the floor. Just to throw in one superlative about the greatness of these seats, I’d point out that we’re seated better than so-called celebrities or V.I.P.’s.

Pearl Jam - Olsen Twins - Madison Square Garden - May 20 2010

V.I.P. Seats at MSG at the Pearl Jam show


Then I suffered the downside of the Pearl Jam server being slammed when I was trying to buy tickets for the second night. No more up-front seating. We sat with the normal people. Even behind the Olsen twins!

Ed's still alive at the Garden

Ed and the string quartet performing "The End" at Madison Square Garden

Night 1


As usual, the guys put on a great show with a pretty good set-list. Before the show, local conversations involved the opening song. They puzzled all of us when Ed walked out, took a guitar and they went into the No Code oddity of Sometimes. The crowd was generally surprised and content as we bellowed out approvingly:

Seek my part… Devote myself…
My small self… Like a book amongst the many on the shelf..

Following the opening song, they quickly ran through Breakerfall, Last Exit and the classic Animal from Versus. Things remained hard and fast paced with The Fixer off the current album Backspacer and Severed Hand before changing pace and talking to the crowd to introduce Elderly Woman. Throughout the night, Ed made some dedications. As an intro to Army Reserve, Ed referenced Lt. Colonel John McDonough’s recent tours of duty in combat zones. Ed later asked the crowd to wish Pete Townshend a happy birthday as they rolled into The Who’s Reign O’er me. Prior to covering the Ramone’s I believe in miracles, Ed brought up the recent birthday of Johnny Ramone and spoke briefly about their friendship.

Towards the end of the night, the band broke out into the classics from Ten. It was nice to see that this could finally rouse the Olsens to their feet. The crowd was treated to a string of older songs including State of Love and Trust, Once, and Porch before letting us recover to come back with Jeremy and Leash! The ironic refrain from Leash, “Delight in our youth!” made me feel good and bad at the same time. The thing is, they’re not young anymore and neither are we. These shows end up doing a lot of damage to us the next morning. And it’s always a wonder how these guys can still put that much energy out there night after night.

Night 2

Despite being with all the common folk, I was still excited about the second night. Last show of the North American tour on a Friday night at the Garden? That’s an incredible formula for a fantastic show that was sure to go past the venue curfew! And it did indeed go past curfew. As the band was about to take the stage, I called Corduroy as the opener. It hadn’t been played the previous night and it just seemed right. I was spot on with the call. One thing I did notice from our poor seating almost behind the stage was the poor audio quality. The sound was definitely a bit muffled as compared to being directly in front and the energy of the floor seated people were definitely 3 times that of our area. That’s not to say that the rest of the stadium was lacking any energy.

PJ night 2 at MSG The second night brought us surprises from the Pearl Jam catalog. Push Me, Pull Me was just such a bizarre treat! The same can be said of Black, Red, Yellow, the B-side of Hail, Hail. But the most surprising song came when Ed passed the mic to Jeff and spent much of the song dribbling a basketball as Jeff performed Sweet Lew. Ed started rambling at one point about not having finished high school and proceeded to mention that only Jeff had finished college. In real life, Ed’s an extremely well read individual. He pointed out that he has developed into a more conscientious thinker through coming in contact with great minds like the recently departed Howard Zinn. As a twist of expectations, he then played I’m Open instead of Down (which quotes from Zinn’s memoir) –which was played the previous night.

Besides the rare Pearl Jam songs being performed, they brought out 2 covers I’d never heard in person before: The Who’s The Real Me and MC5’s Kick Out The Jams.

The highlight of the show had to be during the soft section of the first encore. While Ed jokingly ran through Lukin in full force with the string quartet in the background the previous night, he played a slow, re-worked acoustic version of the song with an appropriate strings accompaniment. The song was almost unrecognizable until reaching the chorus. If there’s any reason to pick up the official bootleg of this show, this is it!

Opening mentions

The Black Keys opened the first night at the Garden. This was a real treat since they had just released their latest a few days earlier. The second night opened with their regular openers for this leg of the tour, Band of Horses. Both bands are rising in popularity at alarming rates. The only downside was that the venue would not be packed densely enough for the acoustics to be appropriate. In the end, the venue was just too big for the sound. It’s always a treat when Pearl Jam interacts with the opener in some capacity, whether it’s coming out to play with the Buzzcocks or asking members to play along during the main set. This time around Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses came out and played the role of Chris Cornell for Hunger Strike during the second encore of night 2.

Dan Auerbach

Dan Auerbach - Black Keys open for Pearl Jam

Restless souls… enjoy your youth!

As always, it was completely worth going to both shows. The band’s ability to put on high energy shows with completely different set-lists makes them the best live show in town. I know there are the haters out there, but these shows are always amazing, even when I hate the set-list. The upside of going for 2 nights is that I get my complete set-list. There are songs I just need to hear from them: Rearviewmirror, Black, Alive, Corduroy, Elderly Woman, Severed Hand, Insignificance, Got Some

As I age, I find it difficult to attend a lot of GA shows. The infectiousness of the PJ crowd makes it hard to pay attention to my aching body an d sore vocal cords and I just end up hurting myself some more. As their repertoire increases over the years, the pacing gets better and better. The infusion of folk/Americana songs and lullabies on their newer releases adds a depth and resting points to their shows. The newer laid-back feeling they bring to the show can often contrast sharply within the same song to add a flare of dynamic. Take Not for You in the second night for example. For years now, Ed’s been updating the lyrics to include his growing family (“Small my table… now seats 4″) and tagging Sleater-Kinney’s Modern Girl in a mood that contradicts the tone of the song as the harsh barking of “this is not for you” transforms to the dulcet “my whole life… like a picture of a sunny day”. These moments are what makes it worthwhile to grow with a band.

The band’s humility and low-key nature has always been a part of their charm. Even when introducing the string quartet as some nice musicians they met “when recording a television show in town”, I had to stop and think before realizing the downplayed reference to their recent appearance on SNL.

It’s nice to know that, even while sitting behind the stage, I can still enjoy the show. I find it hard to motivate myself to go to impersonal venues like MSG these days for other acts because of the bad seats I’d undoubtedly get due to the ticket resale market infringing on my ability to get the seats I deserve for a “reasonable price” (ignoring the Ticketmonster charges). Despite the mild discomfort I’m feeling today after 2 great nights, I’ll be ready for them next time around in my even more aged body! Good things come with maturity!

**Backspacer Tour at MSG shot with Canon A720IS. This camera model has been replaced by Canon Powershot A2000IS 10MP Digital Camera with 6x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom

Related posts:

  1. Anticipating MSG
  2. Band of Horses at Grand Central
  3. Black Diamond Skye
  4. Layne Staley – c. today
  5. Precious Riches – Company of Thieves at the Bowery Ballroom

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