This was the first show of the tour, and being a Ten Club member finally paid off, as I managed to score fucking pit tickets! First time I'd ever had halfway decent PJ seats, let alone the best possible. And joining me that evening was the proprietor of this here blog, Mr. Neil Orbin, so it was bound to be an epic night.
Got into the Burgh to pick up the tickets about 4 hours before the show, and managed to hear a little of soundcheck, which was pretty cool (though the song I heard, Brain of J, was sadly left off the setlist that night). There was already a sizable fanclub line and huge merchandise line, and the area around the stadium was already buzzing. Now all that is around this area of Pittsburgh is the shitty-but-awesomely-named Souper Bowl, so thankfully Neil's buddies knew of a joint a little further down towards the city. We went to the bar and proceeded to get loose. In my stupor, I was still able to observe the growing throng of PJ fans in the general area, and what struck me most was the passion everyone had for the band. From my conversations with everyone with PJ shit on, it was clear that many people were willing to travel long distances to see them, and had done so in the past as well as for tonight's show. Some people in our crew were even going up to Buffalo the next day (at which I got kind of jealous, if only because that just never even occurred to me!) It was awesome to see that the band still has such a following, and has affected so many other people lives in the same way they have mine.
About an hour before showtime, we headed to the hotel adjoining Consol to drop off tickets for my mom. I honestly shudder to think how lame my music taste might be without her; she turned me on to Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and The Who at an early age, and when I bought Ten as my first record in 1992, it was ostensibly as her birthday present (and she still hasn't forgiven me for hijacking our copy when I went to college). She was going with some people in her law firm, but as always was the coolest person in the joint. We then headed into the show, and, surreally, WENT DOWN TO THE PIT AREA of Consol. Walking up to the stage and looking at it, it felt like the 100s of other shows I'd been to in the past; like Clutch or Amon Amarth was about to play. It didn't really register that Eddie Vedder and Mike McCready would be as far from me as the people singing karaoke on Wednesday night. I hope every real Pearl Jam fan gets to experience this at some point.
The show itself was energetic, with the band in good spirits because it was the first show of the tour. The highlight for me was Animal, which I hadn't heard in years (and was one of songs that I keyed on as a young kid just wanting something that rocks, unaware that metal existed yet). I also felt fortunate that we got Faithfull, in light of the fact that it would be the only time I saw the song in the 4 shows I saw on this tour. And of course, Why Go, which (even above Porch and Alive) should be the Ten PJ staple. I defy anyone to name a better live rendition of a Ten song than Why Go. It's just too much fun. I was also excited to hear Unthought Known. It is easily the best song they've written since Yield (and I am actually a big fan of all of those records, outside of Riot Act), and the song structure just plays so well live. Every night, guys.
One of the slight bummers that I noticed on this tour was the death of the killer first PJ encore. Go back and look at your PJ bootlegs from the late 90s to early/mid 2000s. The first encore was where they just killed it most of the time, but anymore they come acoustic for the first 1/2 to 2/3, and even then its pretty standard stuff, Do the Evolution, Porch, and the like. Pittsburgh was a bit different for two big reasons. First, they played Footsteps, which has become Neil's favorite song of theirs. It made me really happy that he got to see it. Second, Eddie, being the giant baseball fan that he is, brought out Jason Grilli and played Whipping, his entrance song. Grilli proceeded to jam his incredibly drunken balls off on stage. And before leaving, Grilli got some mic time, where he proceeded to say "Fuck" and "Yeah" enough times to confirm that he is in fact the best dude ever.
Second encore gave us Black, which is always a McCready work out, and the obligatory Rockin in the Free World/Yellow Ledbetter close out. And you know what? The last few shows I saw did NOT feature that ending, so I was happy to have it. There's nothing quite like a whole stadium, Pearl Jammed to their cores, exhausted, singing nonsensical words while Eddie makes up whatever tonight's Yellow Ledbetter lyrics will consist of. It's a PJ right of passage, and I was happy to have it back.
All in all, nothing crazy with the set, but enough standouts + incredibly good seats made it one of the most memorable PJ shows of my life. Stay tuned for the next 3 installments..