Friday, November 1, 2013

An Evening with Pearl Jam in Charlotte

"An Evening with Pearl Jam" may not be entirely accurate, at least, not when describing the way that I experience Pearl Jam.  I've never been one of the fans that follows Pearl Jam from town to town to experience the variation in setlists.  When asked how I can be this blogging super-fan and have only seen them live seven times, I often cite kids and money, but to be completely honest, the thought of traveling long distances to see Pearl Jam then waking up the next morning with tinnitus and a hangover only to rush to the car or plane and head to the next town has never got me very excited.  I'd like to think that this frees me up to spend my rare chances to see the band fully immersed in the band and the city they're visiting for a full day, but to be honest, I met very few people who didn't go whole-hog into this show, regardless of whether it was #1 or #12.

So, what do you get for your commitment?  Turns out, quite a bit.

The band was clearly in a great mood.  Maybe they were lifted by the news that Lightning Bolt just finished its second week at the top of the charts or that they were one festival away from heading home for a break or maybe they're just stoked that Jeff didn't leave the band to play bass for Arcade Fire.  Regardless, I was close enough to see faces, and they were beaming.  

The main set was an exciting mix of surprises.  Low Light, Present Tense, Setting Forth, and Immortality may not be the rarest of the rare, but their surely on some bucket lists, and they sounded great!  When they finally stopped to talk, Ed apologized for having taken a decade to return to North Carolina and admitted that he was bitter over Charlotte's ability to reclaim an NBA team after the loss of the Hornets while Seattle still suffers.

Quickly, they got over it, because not only did they treat us to what will surely come to be known as one of the greatest versions of Lightning Bolt this tour, they also fired up the first-ever live performance of Getaway.  I'm not sure how hearing this song live compares to playing it on the stereo at home while my kids and I jump around the room it a fit of "dancing," but it was probably close.  And then, at the end of the main set, things really felt like they were blowing up.  

I'm no stranger to a long jam session at the Pearl Jam show, but as they delved into their early catalog to end the main set with Rearviewmirror, then at end the first encore with Porch, Mike McCready was deep into the trance that often takes him over when he is really shredding.  The band was up and down the stage playing, jumping, laughing, and thrashing about as hard as I can imagine these guys are able.  As it turns out, that was really just a set up for the final encore which included covers of The Real Me (The Who) and All Along the Watchtower (Dylan) and a version of Alive that led Ed into the crowd and saw Mike trekking all around the general admission section.  By the end, those around me were so dazed, you could tell we were all pondering rushing the stage and demanding the band come back out for Yellow Ledbetter (it didn't happen).  If the band is anything like me, they'll need that break between legs to recover from this show.

If you read my last review, you may know that the fans around me have a major impact on my enjoyment of the show.  I don't doubt that's true for everyone.  Music Midtown (2012) made me very apprehensive about buying general admission tickets, but the fans I met in the pit were fantastic.  Everyone was fun to talk to and super polite.  One guy even asked my permission before pushing past me to get close to the stage.  If I had been willing to leave the arena during the show, I would have bought a few of you some beers.

I also want to praise the decision to open up merch tents outside the venue (and publishing when and where it will be open).  I know at the Wrigley show this led to much sweating and gnashing of teeth, but in Charlotte the line was survivable and buying a poster at 1 o'clock meant I could enjoy a show without desperately trying to protect my one, expensive memento from spilled beer and shoving fans.  

Thanks, guys.  I'll see you guys when you get back to North Carolina.  Let's try to keep the gap under 5 years this time.