Pearl Jam: Rockin' in the Free World

Pearl JamMy two favourite bands live are The Tragically Hip and Pearl Jam. When James showed up, I made a decision to restrict my concert going activities to these two bands. I've been faithful to this rule ever since.

Last night, I saw Pearl Jam at the ACC. There's a long and exceptional story that precedes this fact, perhaps my very best story ever, but I can't and won't share it here. The culmination of these efforts was this comped ticket and this aftershow pass. On with the show...

Porch Unplugged - Armed with the knowledge Ed Vedder was performing an acoustic song by himself prior to the opening band on this tour, we were sure to be in our seats by 19:30 EDT. Ed didn't disappoint, taking a seat on his stool for a spectacular unplugged rendition of one of my favourite Ten tracks, "Porch". It reminded me of the MTV Unplugged show Pearl Jam did when they took "Porch" to a whole new level and blew my mind. This was a perfect opening.

Sleater-Kinney - Sleater-Kinney is one of those bands you've heard of, but really don't know. I listened with open ears and tried to enjoy their set, but I couldn't help but dislike it. It's not that I was indifferent, it's that I really hated their wall of non-melodious sound accompanied by annoying as hell singing. Imagine a cross between Geddy Lee and Grace Slick only really, really awful. How Sleater-Kinney managed to secure a record contract I'll never know. Perhaps it's the novelty of being a group of female rockers? An all male band with the same skills would never have made it out of the garage.

The Show - From the hypnotic opening of "Release" through the closing chords of "Yellow Ledbetter", this was an amazing show. Ed and the gang reminded me why they are the worlds greatest live act. The crowd was electric, even starting the wave before the opening number. Highlights included an emotionally charged "Better Man" which included what may be the loudest cheer in ACC history, manic guitar jamming on "Evenflow", a rip-roaring "Cordoroy" and a tender and beautiful tribute to Neil Young, "Harvest Moon".

This tour is not in support of a new album and is therefore hit-laden. You name it, we got it last night from "Alive" to "Rearviewmirror" to "Black" and "Jeremy". We got the disco ball for "Wishlist", the "WMA" tag on "Daughter" and a very special moment I'll elaborate on in the next paragraph.

Rocking in the Free World - During the first encore, Ed said some very kind things about Neil Young and performed "Harvest Moon" in his honour. Neil Young is another of my musical heroes, so this was a perfect salute. Then, during the second encore, just before the night ending "Yellow Ledbetter", Pearl Jam broke into their second Neil Young song of the night. We were blessed with "Rockin' in the Free World", a song I recently put on my list of ten essential Canadian songs. I love this damn song, and nobody covers it like Pearl Jam.

With "Rockin' in the Free World" bringing down the house, the house lights went on. The crowd was going wild, singing along and basking in the final glows of an all-too-perfect night. As if things weren't awesome enough, Ed was joined on stage by a special guest. It was none other than Bono of U2. Bono and Ed took turns on the mic for what seemed like an eternity and the entire place went nuts. It was a surreal moment and one that I'll never forget. At the conclusion of the song, the two exchanged a hug, Bono returned to his seat at the side of the stage beside The Edge and the band played "Yellow Ledbetter" with the lights still on.

May Pearl Jam never burn out or fade away. Thanks R.W.!


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