Pearl Jam - live in Denver 10.22.2014

*** update at very bottom - 11.19.14

Went to see Pearl Jam last night.  It was incredible, and incredibly unique.  There was a couple special things about this show that I didn’t know until I arrived and the band mentioned it.   The first is that this was the last night of the tour.  I had no idea, but that is a great sign.  It means the band is going to blow it out tonight, and leave nothing behind.

They did that in spades.

The second was that last night was exactly the 25th anniversary of their first gig together.  Again, this would prove to be a fruitful revelation.  Ed told a story about this (he tells a lot of stories live.  That is what always makes this an intimate show every time) – On this exact night 25 years ago****, the band played their first gig.  The very next day they went in and recorded their 6 song demo.  The very next day after that, Ed flew home back to San Diego to his job at a gas station.  The very next day after that, he gave his notice.   “some week, huh?”

The show started very early, 7:30 pm.  Also, there was no opener.  This is incredibly unusual.  In the 5 or 600 hundred professional national live shows I have been to, this has happened maybe 5 times.  Why so early?  Did they have to get home?  Was there a curfew at the Pepsi Center?  No.  It appears that was so they could play for almost 4 hours.

The venue was the Pepsi Center, which is our basketball and hockey arena.  I imagine most or all of the tour took place in these venues.  It is where I have seen the last 4 Pearl Jam shows.  Basically, they are too big to play the sheds, or Red Rocks.  The ‘sheds’ generally hold 15,000 people.  Red Rocks holds about 10,000.  These basketball arenas hold about 20,000 people (that is almost always about 16,000 seated, and then another 4,000 on the floor.   They needed the space, the show sold out early.

Pearl Jam doesn’t come around a lot, at least to our neck of the woods.  Last time they were here was almost 9 years ago.  That show was with Tom Petty.  It was amazing, as Tom Petty (and Benmont) played with Pearl Jam… and Ed came out and sang with Petty’s band.  Here is an amazing video from the show I was at.

Editors note Feb 2018 - When Petty did this tour with Pearl Jam, he billed it as their last big tour.  Rolling Stone did a whole thing on Petty saying they can't keep doing this.  I mention this because Tom said the exact same thing on this last tour, right before he died.  Everyone thought it was so prophetic that he called this the last tour and died.  Sorry, he told us that in 2006.   Jesus, look at that clip above.  It is featured in the brilliant Tom Petty documentary.  Can't believe I was there to see it.

Quite impressively, Ed mentioned this show, and that he remembered it.  I doubt that.  They have probably played about 300 shows in the last 9 years.  They probably have an assistant/historian who feeds them this info before each show.  I have seen Pearl Jam a lot.  Every possible chance I could.  I would guess it has been between ten and fifteen shows – dating all the way back to 1991.  First time I saw them I had never heard of them.  They were just thrown on the bill with some headliners- Nirvana and Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Let that sink in, I saw Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and the Chili Peppers together.  Nirvana was just breaking with Nevermind, but they weren’t huge.  They weren’t even the headliners, the Chili Peppers were. 

Sorry, back to my point.  In seeing them so many times, I notice Ed has an amazing ability.  He makes you feel every single show is a very special show to him.  Last night, he talked about how much he loved Denver and how the city was so close to his heart.  Well, bullshit.  They haven’t been here in 4 albums, and Eddie didn’t come here on his solo tours, either.  Last night, though, he made it feel like his favorite place on earth.  He always says things like “I will never forgot this night.  I can’t believe how special this town and this crowd is.”  Because I collect their bootlegs, I know he does his in every town.  I remember his saying that back in 1993 in Phoenix.  He said something like “this is the most important show we have played.  I will never forget this city or this night”.  It doesn’t feel like schmaltz, though.  He really makes it feel like you just happened to catch him on the happiest night of his life.

We (wifey and I) had great seats.  We got them through the fan club, where I have been a member since 1997.  They give priority to fan club seating before general onsale, and in that they give weighting to length of membership.  So, we were close, and with a perfect siteline.  Initially, we had the choice of floor or seating.  Because I have a bad back, I chose seating.  I couldn’t imagine standing for 2 hours.  The show was so great and powerful and fun, I ended up standing and rocking out the whole time…  for four hours!  I didn’t even think anything of it until we left to climb the stairs.  Man, I instantly felt four hours of jumping around like an idiot.

Next; I mentioned the setlist was very unique.  I was disjointed and bizarre.  It was as if they put all their songs in a bingo hopper and just played whatever randomly came out.  Other interesting thing about the song choice and the general vibe – it left like the last night of a long residency in town.  They took so many musical chances, and played SO many songs I had never heard live.  This included a brief acoustic set, and all the members playing acoustics through the show.  This has never before happened when I have seen them live.  Ed played guitar, a LOT.  This is also unusual.  Normally, he may play for 4 or 5 songs.  Last night he probably played on 20 songs.  He has gotten quite good over the years.

The setlist is here.  It was exhaustive in a most impressive way.  Just off memory today, I was able to jot down 25 songs, including everything off Ten.  In checking the setlist, they played 40 songs.  Couple with that Ed stopping to tell long winded and wonderful stories every few songs.  There was a playfulness to the show.  They were just having fun in a manner I have never seen before.  During Rearview Mirror, Mike McCready took to running around the stage.  He did laps through the entire song (about 7 minutes) and was, of course, playing guitar the whole time.  After a bit, the band caught on to this and started to fuck with him.  They put equipment in the way, made him jump stuff, and tried to knock him over every time he passed.  Mind you, this was all during a tight and powerful and super fast performance.  Just McCready running at top speed in circles around the huge stage for no discernible reason.  As I mentioned, there truly was a loose and relaxed fun feeling that was new to me.

As I mentioned, the full setlist is linked above.  Here are some of the standout performances for me.  Leash.  Here is the studio cut, it is one of my absolute favorite songs.  LowLight – this is a beautiful and haunting acoustic jam that I don’t know if they have ever played live.  Betterman – this song becomes magic live.  They play it almost every show, and for good reason.  For the first verse, Eddie gets out of the way and watches the audience sing it to him.  It is really something to listen to 20,000 people sing a song together in perfect form.  Here, it is too cool to explain, so watch this clip from a couple years ago.  Fast forward to 2:40.

As always, Ed had a wine bottle in tow.  Tonight, though, he went through a LOT of wine.  About 4 bottles, and that doesn't count him handing it out to the audience, either.  By the end of the show, he was pretty toasty, as evidenced by him falling a lot.  The crowd was too, so we loved every minute of it.  Here is a great pic from last night I stole from another forum.

Of course, in this marathon show they played all the ‘hits’:  given to fly, alive, sirens, black, even flow, etc.  They played so many songs that I didn’t know about 6 or 7 of them.  That never happens.   I am obviously a huge fanboy.  I have every official release, and about 12 different live show bootlegs.

A note about the ‘bootlegs’.  Quite bravely, Pearl Jam officially allowed recording shows early in their career.  As soon as the technology became available, they began releasing every single live show.  Even more impressive, they allow you to buy the show in advance, and get an un-mastered MP3 of that show the very night it happens.  A lot of bands use this now:  the Dead, Jimmy Buffet, Metallica, and several others.  In fact, the Dead actually sells CDs of the show you were at THAT night!  As you walk out of the venue, they have a whole recording studio you can stop by and get freshly burned CDs of the show that just ended ten minutes ago.  Pearl Jam pioneered ALL of this.  When they started doing all this, the industry went nuts.  The industry hates live show releases.  They don’t make any money off them, and they feel that live shows cannibalize the market for official studio releases – which is where they make all their money.  Well, Pearl Jam (and the Dead long before them) figured out if you are fanatic enough to listen to shitty and oddly mixed live bootlegs, you are certainly enough of a fan who will buy the official releases as well.

Speaking of bootlegs, here is a video I took last night.  It is the band doing ‘Imagine’.  The video is shaky, its just from my telephone.  However, the audio is incredible.  Put some headphones on and give it a listen… you will feel like you were there.  Or, at least you will feel like I was there.

I don’t know what else to say about the show.  It was incredible on every level.  Like only the Dead, when I am at a Pearl Jam show I simply feel like I am hanging out with old friends again.  You can’t buy that feeling.   Well, I guess you can for about $100.  That was the ticket cost after fees and such.  Quite worth a nearly four hour experience.  Thank you to the band for 23 years of amazing live experiences.

*** a further note about bootlegging and the history of it.  I have written somewhat exhaustively on the topic.  Feel free to take a peek.  Start here, then go here, and then here.

****  correction and editors note to self:  it was 24 years ago.  Way to do your research, lazy boy.


update 11.18.14 >

Next week, the Denver Pearl Jam show described above goes on-sale through the band's website.  Link is here, along with all the others shows from that tour.  In fact, you can buy soundboard recordging of every Pearl Jam show from the last ten years through the band.

the prices are reasonable.  It's $8 for a download, or $18 for a hard copy CD to be shipped to you.  Since the shows are all 3 to 4 hours long, you are getting 3 to 4 CDs.  Even if you weren't at show, you should buy this.  Plus, any Atltanta shows.  For some reason, the band has ALWAYS killed in Atltana



Anonymous said…
Nice post, but it was 24 years as a band together. 1990-2014.
Mike O'Connor said…
I loved the Dead and now Pearl Jam. I couldn't agree more how each audience feels like old friends. This was a magical show.
Kevin of Parker said…
Mike, I too am a Deadhead. Did I mention that up in the review? I was lucky enough (or... I am old enough) to follow the Dead on summer tours while Jerry was still alive. What a time! Everything you have heard or read about that era is true.

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