USA (Philadelphia), October 30, 2009
unregistered, on november 16, 2009 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: Listen, let's just begin with the fact that I happen to be a really big Pearl Jam fan. However, as biased as I may end up sounding I will try to qualify my review with this: I have been disappointed with my last three Pearl Jam shows. Any PJ fan knows that it's all about the Live stuff with this band. Always has, always will be. But the last three times I saw them all I felt was: ehhh. I saw both MSG concerts last summer and after having seen them at MSG in 2003 (the now famous Garden DVD) you can see why I might have been disappointed. Granted, the first night was solid and the energy at the Garden is always ludicrous: a sick W.M.A. (which they rarely play) and a solid 3 encores, which culminated in All Along the Watchtower and Indifference. A good show, but I was left wanting more. Consequently, the following evening I initially thought I had finally stumbled upon the PJ show I had always been seeking. Opening with Release, I could not have been happier. Yet, the rest of the show was what I had heard the night before, which is very unlike Pearl Jam. They thrive on mixing up their set lists but this was like seeing AC/DC or Van Halen: great music, but the same old stuff. Needless to say, I left slightly disappointed.
Before those two shows I had seen Ed and the boys in Jersey in '06. Hated my seats and the sound sucked, so that may have been the main reason for my disinterest. I remember liking the new stuff at the time, but for some reason, that show just did not resonate the way previous PJ shows had. I was growing weary.
This brings us to Friday October 30 for one of four concerts PJ played to close the historical Philadelphia Spectrum. A buddy of mine had made the first two shows on Tuesday and Wednesday and told me about the quaintness of the Spectrum, a venue I had not yet experienced. Also, the two setlists from the early shows were almost completely different (31 and 30 songs...4 repeats). Needless to say, I never imagined that the anticipation and hype could be matched. I was dead wrong.
Having front row seats on the second level right in front of the stage, the sound was outstanding. Not only was Ed's voice in great shape, but unlike Jersey a few years ago, I was now able to hear the subtleties of the dueling guitars playing off of one another: Mike's clean solos and Stone's distorted rhythm never sounded better! And when Ed went Acoustic for the first Encore his delicate finger picking could be heard throughout the venue. To quote my buddy, who happens to be a huge guitar snob, "Ed's become a really good guitar player." And it showed! Just Breathe is possibly the most potent PJ ballad since Black. // 10
Perfomance: Closing a historic venue has to be a thrill for a band like PJ who has been around for almost two decades. And their enjoyment was certainly equaled by an exuberant crowd that was just as energetic for the new stuff as for the old stuff. Opening with Gonna See My Friend was in line with what PJ had been doing the previous couple shows: getting the crowd going immediately! And such a high energy song does just that, while The Fixer (though many complain that its too pop) creates a tenor that is just right for a PJ show. Yet, what anyone there will admit to is that the rare songs are what made the night. Playing Hold On, a b-side from Ten-era PJ, really turned everything up a notch. How could such a sick song never have been played Live before! Even my other friend Who was there, a hipster more intune with Radiohead and Built to Spill, could not get over the sound and quality of songs he had never before heard. In Hiding? Loud and great! Breath? Ridiculous! A true Stone Gossard song that really displays why he is one of the best rhythm guitarists of the past two decades. What a riff! Bringing in Binaurual's Light Years was an added touch, reminding the entire crowd that while PJ's second decade as a band might not be as highly recognizable as its first, it is still worth paying attention to...close attention.
Bringing out the famous PJ trilogy of Footsteps, Once, and Alive was something I had never experienced, and it was worth the wait. I think I have seven different versions of Footsteps from various bootlegs but this was my first time hearing it Live. Whew! That's all I can say! I mean, this is a b-side! Most ordinary music listeners have never even heard this song! After hearing Footsteps, I could have left satisfied.
Which brings me to my final point. I was ready to go after those 3 songs...all of them with so much energy and meaning! But, Ed and the boys weren't finished and had to throw in their usual punk cover (Sonic Reducer) and Who cover (Baba O'Riley). I enjoyed Baba O'Riley when I first heard Ed and the boys cover it about a decade ago. The luster has worn off. And after such a high energy show that really showcased just how good PJ's own music was and is, the final two songs were the only disappointment of the night. I know there are those PJ fans Who love songs like Sonic Reducer and Spin the Black Circle. PJ is not a punk band, and they never have been. Punk attitude? At times. But for me these few songs always seemed forced. // 9
Overall Impression: I spent a lot of money for these seats. I'm a huge PJ fan but have never joined the Ten Club (fan clubs creep me out)so whenever I see them I deal with brokers. I also paid for my friends (four of us in all) and with tax and other fees, it ran me close to 2k. I do not make a lot of money. I have never spent this much money on any kind of show. I had been saving all summer hoping for this opportunity and when it presented itself, price was of no concern to me. And I must say, it was the best 2k I have ever spent and I have no regrets. I missed the opening act (Bad Religion) because before the show I was wandering around South St. Searching for the best Cheese Steak (I recommend Jim's). I think I'm satisfied with the Cheese Steak over the opening act. Subsequently, when it comes to the show itself, I will never forget the crowd's energy or PJ's quality of music. It brings me back to high school, college, grad school, and beyond. It brings me back to last week. PJ has always been with me, and a concert like this will be very, very hard to forget. // 10