Being an observant Jew and a Pearl Jam fan in the New York area can sometimes present a challenge. Take this year’s tour: We had Newark on the first night of Shavuot (also called Pentacost in English, commemorating God giving the Bible to the Jewish people) so that was a no go. We have MSG2 on a Friday night. Boston was out of the question for me because I was graduating the next AM. So all I was left with was MSG1, last night’s show – which was to begin just as the 2-day Jewish holiday was ending (sundown was 8:51 PM last night).
But how, you ask, would I ever be able to make it to MSG by the time the show was to begin, if I couldn’t hop on a train until sundown? An excellent question indeed. Now, one option would be to arrive at the show late, but that doesn’t help if one has Ten Club tickets which must be picked up at the box office within 30 minutes of the start of PJ’s set. So what was I, my brothers, and Elana to do?
Walk to the show, of course. Which we did – all 150 blocks, arriving at the steps of Madison Square Garden just as the sun was setting, and the holiday came to a close. We arrived in our seats (er, more specifically, the four of us squeezed into the better pair of seats we had) just minutes before the Metamorphosis music began playing. The lights soon went down, that deafening cheer peaked, and after 150 blocks, a few blisters, and eight sore knees the show was finally upon us.
Loud is the word that I think would best describe last night’s show. It was deafeningly loud. This was my 11th show (Elana’s 3rd, Ezra’s 4th, Gilad’s 6th) and I don’t think any of us have heard a louder show. It may not have been the rarities-fest of a Philly 4 , or the unbelievable setlists of Cleveland or Boston, but what it lacked in obscurity it made up for in band intensity and a louder than life crowd.
The band kicked it off with Sometimes, the same song that I heard at my first ever show (9/4/00). Then followed that up with Breakerfall, Last Exit, and Animal – an amazing start to any show. The Fixer and Severed Hand followed, after which we had the pleasure of hearing Small Town – always a treat in a place like MSG (“I just wanna scream – HELLO” is absolutely awe-inspiring in a place like that). I Am Mine into Comatose into my absolute favorite from Backspacer – Force Of Nature which Ed described as “a song about a good person in a bad relationship.” I’d been waiting to hear that one since the album came out, and as I missed it in Philly, I was really happy to hear it tonight. Evenflow followed, and despite the fact that I’ve heard it 11 times live, I still love hearing Mike go nuts during that solo – there’s a reason they play that one almost every night, and I’ve never had a complaint about it. (Though I would like to complain about the drunken buffoons who snuck into our section and pushing past us to leave and come back – especially during Evenflow. As Elana said, there must have been a pot of gold in the bathroom, because neither of us had ever seen people head to the facilities so many times in one show. But I digress.)
We continued with Lowlight, which Eddie dedicated to a son/father combo where they father is ill and wan’t going to make the show, but was able to make it in the end. Down had Ed’s commentary on Mike’s incessant pick-throwing by altering the lyrics to “I think I’ll throw all my picks away.” We followed that up with I Got Id, Army Reserve (a first for me), and Insignificance (which Ezra really wanted to hear). After this, Eddie began speaking about the floor shaking at MSG, and then the band launched into Unthought Known. Maybe I’ve never been close enough to the floor to feel it before (we were in section 106) but the floor began to really rumble as Ed growls about “Gems and RHINESTONES!” Do The Evolution followed and ended the first set. (Note: Got Some was on the setlist as the first set closer, but it seems the band skipped it. Sorry Julie.)
Before the band came out for the second set, the string quartet made their way onstage. When the band came out Eddie introduced The End as “the saddest song we know.” Eddie then plays a raucous version of Lukin with the strings, before moving back to his acoustic for Just Breathe (maybe the second saddest song they know). You Are follows – song I truly love, and one that only a Matt Cameron could have written. Boom is introduced next and Love Reign O’er Me follows. I’ve seen it three times already, but I can’t imagine ever getting bored of it. It’s probably one of the greatest vocal songs ever written, and that Eddie sings it so well is such a treat every time. This gem of a song was followed with the the knockout punches of State of Love and Trust, Once – a first for me, which I had been waiting to hear since I first heard Ten as a 5th grader, and Porch – which is quietly creeping up as one of my favorite live PJ songs. End set two.
The third set (or second encore, if you prefer) was pretty awesome as well. Jeremy, Leash (“Troubled Souls Unite!!”), Makind (a first for me), Crazy Mary, I Believe In Miracles, Alive, and Indifference. To me, that’s a perfect final set – a combination of the classics, the covers, the rarities, and the Indifference closer.
Overall, the show was wrought with emotion, exhaustion, fun, and did I say exhaustion? Thank goodness I just graduated, because sleeping until noon was totally necessary today. This is it for me for this tour – one and done – but I have no regrets. An awesome show, three never-before seen songs, and having my bros and Elana with me was more than I could ask for. Thanks again PJ, so twenty years of awesome music. Here’s to twenty more.