Tuesday, April 22, 2008

setting forth in the universe

To start, a disclaimer: I have been listening to Pearl Jam since I was 12 (I am 28 now). So it probably goes without saying that their music has been a large part of my life, and has gotten me through a lot of tough times. If someone had told me back then that in 2008 I would be watching Eddie Vedder perform an acoustic version of “Porch” in a 2000 seat theatre in Vancouver, I would have told them they were crazy.

The soundtrack to Into The Wild is one of my favorite albums from last year. So when Eddie Vedder announced that he would be doing a short solo tour on the West Coast, I knew that I had to go. So it was with excitement and nervous anticipation that I took the train from Seattle to Vancouver on April 2nd. I’ve seen Pearl Jam live many times, but I knew that Eddie Vedder solo would be an entirely different experience, and I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect.

Seeing the first show of a tour is kind of risky, I guess. A lot of the songs are unpolished. The stage setup is new, especially since Ed has never toured solo before. In all the Pearl Jam shows I’ve seen, I've never thought that he looked as nervous onstage as he in Vancouver. No, I guess "nervous" isn't the right word, maybe he was just a little bit unsure of what to expect from the audience and from himself. But he didn't need to be. Right after the concert, I wrote in my journal that “this was one of those rare concerts when, without even realizing it, i was completely in the moment for over 2 hours.” I was leaning forward in my seat, singing along, clapping so hard that my hands hurt. I didn't even pay attention to the people around me.

When Ed walked onstage, it seemed like he was sitting down for an evening with friends. The stage consisted of a stool, a table with a reel-to-reel tape recorder on it, a Corona box, and an open suitcase. Whenever the guitar tech would come out with a new instrument, he wore a white lab coat. (It only occurred to me later when reading reviews of the concert that this was probably an homage to the fact that these shows are an experiment).

The setlist was, as you might expect, a mix of Pearl Jam songs and songs from Into the Wild. But it was, interestingly enough, the covers that were the highlights of the evening for me. Covers of James Taylors’ Millworker and Bruce Springsteen’s Growing Up have hardly left my cd player since this concert. One of my favorite parts of Pearl Jam concerts (and, I suppose now, Eddie Vedder concerts) is hearing their choice of covers, because not only do they pick songs by artists they admire, but I think they also choose songs whose lyrics inspire their own music. The songs that Ed chose to cover certainly, I think, speak to the central themes of identity and longing in Into the Wild.

Seeing this show made me gain an entirely new appreciation for the Into the Wild soundtrack. I adore the album, and as I said, it is one of my favorites from last year. However, my one complaint is a big one - many of the songs seem incomplete. But live, even though they are the same length, they seem to take on an entirely new life. I think the fact that this was the opening night shone through on a few of these songs. Ed completely messed up Guaranteed, stopped, and then people started applauding. With a grin on his face, he said, “You shouldn’t encourage bad behavior.” Then he started the song again, and played it perfectly. Moments like this made the show feel like I was almost intruding on something private.

At the end of the show, Ed said something like, “thank you for participating in this different conversation.” I think that what elevated this concert was not just the music (although that was, simply, amazing), but also the whole atmosphere. From the playbills handed out by the ushers, to the set up of the stage, to the stories Ed told onstage, this was truly one of the best musical experiences I have ever had. After the show was over, all I wanted to do was quit my job and follow his tour all the way down the coast. Alas, I can’t do that, but I have already started planning my next vacation around a Pearl Jam show.

1 comment:

Kristine said...

SOUNDS AMAZING. I am so sorry I missed it Megan.