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Pearl Jam @ The Greek

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The band broke at about 10:10 PM and came back to play for another half hour which brought out the first surprise of the evening, a spot on version of the Victoria Williams’ penned “Crazy Mary” off of Sweet Relief in which Eddie indulged in the song’s visceral lyrics by swigging from a bottle of wine. He then hit the microphone for one of his only other diatribes which began by him saying that he was quite sick. As a sidebar, he also said that their contract prohibits displayed advertising, which there supposedly had been, so he intimated that the band could have cancelled, but yet there he stood. Vedder seemed to want sympathy as if he, the eternal martyr, was grueling on, against his beliefs and own failing health, on our behalf. The ironic response came in the lyrics of the next song as he introduced his ukulele and strummed through “Soon Forget” off of Binaural. From there the Jammers rollicked through a heated rendition of “Fuckin Up” and finished up under the house lights with an emotional rendering of “Yellow Ledbetter” that featured a feedback drenched wall of sound from Mike McCready long after the rest of the band had departed the stage.

So all of this propaganda and nary a performance review. Pearl Jam has indeed endured and will continue to sell out arenas, though their record sales are now mediocre compared with the early days, but guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard, bassist Jeff Ament and new drummer Matt Cameron are one HELL of a band who sound phenomenal. But as the “Butty Man” fan next to me surmised at the end of the show, “I saw them back on the first tour and I recall that they were a bit more animated”. Yes, like with all great rock bands from The Stones, to Zeppelin, to Metallica to U2, there are those of us who were THERE in the early days to witness these bands, that when they were ON, destroyed all expectations and elevated the fiefdom of the power of rock N roll to that of a religious experience.

Will I tell tall tales about the Greek show when it hits the shelves as a DVD? I’m from Los Angeles, of course I will, but the real deal will always be Pearl Jam at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago in 1993. Furious Epic Records and Sony Music staffers could not gain access to their private balcony and stood outside the roped off area as it was left empty. As Pearl Jam hit the stage, the members of U2 and their entourage filtered into the VIP area prepared to judge the ‘new kids on the block’. Eddie was already reaching beyond himself each and every night but with the elder statesman of rock looking on, he led his band through a gritty inspired performance that was an otherworldly display of passion laced with the ultimate conviction of a young hungry band. “Animated” is a gross understatement. Remembering that show isn’t waxing nostalgia, it’s brazenly proclaiming, I was THERE! With this vivid memory, many of us pilgrimage to see Pearl Jam every few years hoping to catch a glimpse of the former fire and on this night at the Greek, the sonic embers drifted amongst the smell of cedar but that now mythical wick will never be lit again.

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