The slightest bit of light and I can see you clear
“Jeff and I were talking earlier, … and then in the paper,… everything. I don’t know if it’s that life seems more precious nowadays or I feel like I’ve got so much more to lose than I did when I was 25, or 20, or even 30. But nowadays it can happen overnight, it can happen in your sleep, it can happen to any of us. Maybe when you get a little older, and I think we are all getting a little older, I look out at the faces and you know, some of them are a little older than they used to be, but still good-looking faces! That’s the thing… you’re all looking good,…trying to keep up with you. Is it just me or is it you too? You start thinking about how precious life is and then you think about tragic events and people are killed in innocent situations, it just makes me think that we need to protect each other, it’s like we are all alone in this together.” ~ Eddie Vedder, Fenway Park, August 7, 2016 during the “Sirens” outro.
I was standing right behind second base on the plastic tiles covering the sacred outfield of Fenway Park. My left arm was around my wife — who was seven months pregnant with our twin boys. My right hand was holding a draft beer that was serving as a catchers mit, collecting tears like fastballs, as they dropped from my face.
“Sirens”, the beautifully, emotional track number four, off Pearl Jam’s latest record, Lightning Bolt, always triggered this reaction from me. But on this Sunday, a hot summer’s night placed in a surreal setting, it was green monster-sized. And I loved it.
Hear the Sirens:
When Lightning Bolt, the band’s tenth record, was about to be released, we were first introduced to “Mind Your Manners”. A long-song-played-quickly, and packed into an electric two minutes and thirty-nine seconds. I then remember reading interviews from both producer, Brendan O’Brien and photographer Danny Clinch. In discussing the album they were both a part of (O’Brien — producer, Clinch — photographer, video director for “Sirens”, short-filmmaker) the one thing that stuck out to me was how they each said something along the lines of… “and then there’s this song “Sirens”. It’s just special.”
The music of “Sirens” was written by guitarist, Mike McCready. Vedder penned the lyrics upon hearing sirens from his hotel room late one night / early morning when the band was in Los Angeles recording Lightning Bolt. Jeff Ament and McCready later recalled the potency of those sirens. Upon hearing Vedder’s words for the first time, McCready too, shared in the outpouring of emotion.
On September 18th, 2013, about a month before the official debut of Lightning Bolt, “Sirens” was released. You had the option to first listen to the song via a gorgeous, heartfelt video Clinch made of Pearl Jam performing “Sirens” live. No thrills, just the band on a stage, alone in it together, delivering the song straight from the gut.
I was mesmerized. Boy, were O’Brien and Clinch right. This is a special wave containing some of the most stunning lyrics in the entire PJ catalog. Two things stuck out at me right away(the first two tear triggers):
The first was — a genuine moment at the 4:10 mark in the video. As the McCready solo winds down and Vedder picks up the guitar, they look at each other. McCready gives a slight head-nod and a smile like, “I got you, let’s bring this home.” Then the anthem of an outro kicks in — unlike anything else the band had ever done before. “Aah ah, oh oh,” sung by all five members in perfect harmony. So, in late 2013, we had Pearl Jam, stronger than ever, locked arm-in-arm, as they released their tenth record. We knew they would have their silver anniversary and the Rock n’ Roll hall of fame in the short years ahead of them. And here they are, all five on one stage singing in unison for the first time in this particular fashion, with a sun-resembling light overhead. Perhaps it was the band sharing with us the McCready-Vedder connection of, “I got you, stay with us. We still stand.”
Just To Know We’re Safe I am a Grateful Man:
October 15, 2013: Lightning Bolt release day — I attend the show at the DCU Center in Worchester, MA. It’s the first time I hear “Sirens” live. The band is proud as they casually mention how Lightning Bolt has already been well-received across the globe. About halfway through set-one, “Sirens” is performed. At the line, “Let me catch my breath and reach across the bed, just to know we’re safe I am a grateful man,” I begin to think about my wife who was at home in bed, pregnant with our precious daughter that was born a few weeks later (The PJ concert, wife pregnant thing, is a complete coincidence ? ). Our oldest son, who was two at the time, was sleeping in the room next door. In this moment it occurs to me, this is the first Pearl Jam record where I am a father. Life was completely different in 2009 when Backspacer was released. “Sirens” subconsciously captured my world through these new eyes. Gone are the days of “for me” and here is this new perspective on life, seeing the world (and hearing music) through the state of being a father and making it the best place I can for my children. “All things change, let this remain.”
It’s a fragile thing
This life we lead
If I think too much I can get over-
Whelmed by the grace
By which we live our lives:
One of my biggest heroes in life is Steve Gleason. Living with ALS since January of 2011, Gleason has a courage and zest for life unlike anyone else I’ve ever seen. I lost my aunt to ALS in early 2013. She, like Gleason, was full of spirit and in lockstep with the incredible movements of Team Gleason at the time. She fought as hard as she could, and always with a smile. Gleason, a renowned Pearl Jam fan, has been synonymous with optimism. He was one of four individuals selected by the band to conduct an in-studio interview to coincide with the release of Lightning Bolt. Since that time, we’ve seen Gleason, a personal friend of McCready’s, introduce the band in New Orleans, collaborate on the setlist in his hometown of Spokane, and make an appearance on stage at Wrigley Field, discussing how “Inside Job” (how I choose to feel, is how I am) inspires his life. In late 2013, ESPN ran a segment with Gleason on how Pearl Jam’s music has been such an incredible part of his life. In this he quotes, the “it’s a fragile thing…” lyric above.
I think of Gleason often when I hear songs like “Sirens” and “Inside Job.” We at Artist Waves contribute to Team Gleason and their incredible efforts to make life better for those living with ALS and ultimately find a cure. Gleason’s strength mirrors the power of “Sirens”. Underneath the surface of the song lies, the Team Gleason slogan, ‘No White Flags’.
The Fear Goes Away:
“Take care of each other as much as you can. Don’t worry so much about buying gifts, but just love each other as much as you can. That’s what we’re gonna to try to do.” -Stone Gossard, from Pearl Jam’s recent holiday message to fans.
2017 was a tough year. Though it certainly had times of beauty, it also came with enormous challenges. There were many junctures of “what is going in the world?” Some being just unspeakable. As the last AW article of it’s kind for 2017, I am convinced this is the way to turn into ’18. This is the note to end on and the note to start clean from. As Gossard eluded to, take care of each other. We are all … alone in this together (also a great Star Anna song). I will refocus on what stirs the passionate pot of feeling that is “Sirens” — and how it taught me to be grateful. Life is about moments. For me, nothing makes those moments shine like my kids and family. Being totally present takes effort, but it makes you appreciate the fragility of life, and at the end of that exhale is a reminder to take nothing for granted. Alive or not, subscribe to your heroes, keep the promise, and live your way. As PJ does and promts, let’s come together, and let the arts lead the way. Lock arms, and on the “Sirens” stage…
Aah ah, oh oh
Aah ah, oh oh
ICYMI: our interview with Danny Clinch on the making of ‘Let’s Play Two’
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