I’ve taken a little longer than I intended to put this post together. I wanted to write a super detailed review, to help me keep all these moments in my head, so nothing slips away. But we all know it doesn’t work that way. We all knew that Wrigley was going to be something special, and it was epic for more reasons than one.
I flew into Chicago a few days before the show, with my Official Pearl Jam buddy, C, who I’ve only been without at one subpar show. We got there early, wanting to soak up the atmosphere. Wrigleyville is fun, and it was overrun with the usual suspects. It was sweltering, but everything seemed to be buzzing, everyone was smiling. We had 10C field tickets, and after a delightful dinner with an esteemed member of the PJFam, we got through the gates quickly, and wandered around like little league players before they put up barricades and netting over the ivy. I’m not a Cubs fan (except in the sympathetic kind of way), but I’m a Red Sox fan, and I get fuzzy nostalgic feelings in a gorgeous old ballpark like Wrigley. It smells familiar, and standing in the middle of that field, scoreboard overhead, peering into the dugouts, it already felt like an event.
Our seats were good, on Mike’s side on the field. Everyone always says this, but it’s true: half the fun at these shows is meeting other fans. We were surrounded by great folks. We chatted with two super friendly guys in front of us, from Nashville; one of them had bought a sweet little PJ onesie for his three-week old newborn. Amazing, and relatable, to see his excitement for passing on the PJ love to his kiddos.
Looking around before the show started, everyone had a goofy grin plastered all over their face. There was a generally giddy, electric feeling: we all knew we were part of something special. C had been checking the weather obsessively all week, so we both had one eye on the sky, but it seemed like the bad weather had passed us by. They started late, and one of the last songs they played over the intercoms before coming out was a cruel one, because it had all these stops and starts that had us craning towards the stage.
And then, “Release”. Honestly, I can name on one hand the things that make me feel better than screaming out the lyrics to that song with 40,000 Faithfull. It’s incomparable, and I felt that surging rush of joy and power and hope. And it felt like everyone around me was feeling the same thing.
I still can’t believe we got “Present Tense”, much less that we got it so early on. I thought since they’d opened with it at London they might not play it again. It’s not my favorite song, but I love it. And this took everything to another level. It’s been a long time since I recognized that passion in EV’s eyes. Not to say he doesn’t give it all every time, but something about this felt different. If you were watching the big screens when they were showing him, I don’t know. Chills, goosebumps, and everything else you can think of to signal incredibly strong emotions, I had them. I’ve never really liked how he changes the lyrics to “all en-fucking trip…” (what does that even mean?) but it worked here. It was powerful. Everything about this was powerful, not just EV. I don’t know if this is a different arrangement or what, but holy Jesus, it about knocked me over. This was super early on, but it was the absolute highlight for me. And if you’ve got better video, please send it my way!
About those big screens? They were awesome, especially for vertically-challenged folks like me who otherwise wouldn’t have seen anything. But they also detract, I think; I spend a lot of time watching Pearl Jam videos (I know, you never would have guessed) and it puts some distance between the band and the fans. Plus, there weren’t any shots of the whole band, and that made me a little sad. And the weird effects made me say: go home video guys, you’re drunk.
I was surprised by how slow they started out (though when they played “Hold On” FOURTH it confirmed that something epic was underway). I was delighted we got “Low Light”, and “Come Back” was a first for me, and Ed’s dedication before that one was beautiful (you should go read the post on the PJ forum if you haven’t yet). I was ready for them to rock out, but in retrospect, I think the slow start helped us get through the delay.
C and I saw our first PJ show in 1998, at the Tibetan Freedom Concert in DC. A girl there got struck by lightning, in the stands. When Ed came out and told us we might have to take a break, it was almost a relief. At Wrigley, we’d seen the lightning in the sky and it was hard to be fully immersed when we were worrying about it. Standing around in the concourse was a bummer, of course, but it was pretty amazing to see how well-behaved and mellow people generally were. My phone died before we even got out there, so we didn’t know much, but there was never much worry that things wouldn’t go on.
And holy moly, go on they did. Ernie Banks coming out was as touching as anything I’ve seen at a live concert. They played DTE, which is a requirement for shows I attend (they’ve only failed me once). I still can’t believe we got to hear TWO never before heard songs (both of which I haven’t listened to again but intend to, even if “Future Days” made me gag a little, in a good-natured way of course. Curse these happily married rock stars! I need angst!). MYM was as rocking and ridiculously awesome live as I had hoped, and then it just became almost comical: Leatherman. Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns. Mother. BUGS. [and this Bugs was GOOD. None of the weird vocal stuff he’s done live before. Just straightforward awesome.]
Was it the most epic set list of all time? No, but it was pretty fucking awesome. Faithfull, All Night, Porch, Wasted Reprise. So much goodness,
And they were tight. Ed didn’t fuck up the lyrics, he was focused and willing us all into having as much fun as he was. Jeff in particular sounded great, I thought, and Matt was his usual awesome self. Mike was a rockstar, and Stone looked like a grumpy monster, but he was playing the shit out of everything. There wasn’t much banter, probably because of the looming curfew, and, like the rest of us, I wanted them to say “fuck the curfew” and keep playing, but we were also all totally exhausted and understood. We all understood that the saddest person of all was Ed. I think he would have made them play til dawn if he thought it wouldn’t keep him out in the future.
The trek home was epic, I climbed into bed at 4:30, more than 12 hours after I picked up my tickets. But it was so, so worth it. I’ll see you in the Fall, gentlemen, and I can’t wait. Thank you!