Sliding Out of Reverse

“This was my 14th Pearl Jam show and it was the best one yet, though I say that after each time I see them. But tonight, they played “Light Years” which is my favorite song and the most beautiful version of “In Hiding” with everyone screaming along,” an enthralled fan who traveled 3,000 miles tells Rob Bleetstein on the radio after show.

Have you ever noticed how you subconsciously hug the people you came to a Pearl Jam concert with at the end of the show? Why is that? Well,…

“Goodnight, goodbye,” Eddie Vedder concludes, sporting a backwards baseball cap of the home team that he caught one-handed from a hurling fan. He just stepped back to the mic grabbing it in his signature style after locking arms with his PJ comrades and taking a bow in perfect unison before the adoring crowd.

photo by: Michael Young

Mike McCready has his eyes closed, head tilted back, and left foot elevated on his pedal board. He’s wailing the “Star Spangled Banner” as Vedder and Matt Cameron embrace. Stone Gossard drifts out of sight for a moment and then returns with a Heineken. After a friendly bass toss, Jeff Ament is taking a moment to himself, down on his knees in front of McCready’s amplifiers – just marveling in the moment of both McCready’s shredding and the high of spiritually enriching the lives of and unifying 18,000 people… once again.

You hear the single opening “E” note strike of “Yellow Ledbetter”. The house lights come on and immediately a giant circle forms where Ten Club members chain-link themselves together and sway in harmony while singing every word. You see a Brazilian, Greek and Australian flag fly high above the group. Each flag waves in the air just as everyone belts out “but they don’t wavvvvveeee.”

photo by: Michael Young

Song number 33 wraps up and you can feel the building emotion of – “This is it” mixed with a “Wow, what an experience this has been, let’s take it home.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah”…. you launch your dominant arm to the air on Vedder’s queue after he sprints from the left side of the stage to the right, ascending over the top of everyone like Air Jordan. (Of course Danny Clinch was right there and captured it perfectly)

“We’re all still alive,,,, yeah yeah yeah….”

That really just happened. Someone unexpected just came out and joined the band for a once-in-a-lifetime cover. Or your cup has re-filled a bit due to tears of joy streaming down your face because you finally got to witness in-person, “Crown of Thorns”. The eye swelling starts at the opening piano riff. You just know.

The venue lights have shifted into an overdrive gear. They are tested to the max to match the intensity of the “Rearviewmirror” outro. A bar-chord is struck thunderously four times in a row with Vedder and Ament jumping, with the exact same knees tucked, neck of the guitar vertically upright positioning. They land with such atomic force, yet gracefully each time and it’s like their respective axes are looking at you saying “Save me, no, not again…. oh shit, away we go.”

“Rearviewmirror” was not introduced. Vedder just simply started teasing the riff before take-off. This is a point of the evening where you’re about to have a moment to yourself. Where you took a drive today and saw things, saw things, saw things……. once and for all, you’re far away and you can hardly believe, finally the shades are raised.

photo by: Michael Young

Yes! It happened again! What was once a one-time, heart pounding moment of the stage shaking during “Do the Evolution” is now a regular occurrence – in this church with people singing in the choir. What makes the stage shake is not the jumping and dancing. It’s the singing. Because there is nothing more powerful then all walks of life singing together.

You see the Texas Longhorn logo stool make an appearance and you know it’s time for an intimate portion of the night to take over. Three, maybe four songs and you have no idea what they could be. It’s one of the most flexible spots of the set because out of an extensive and prolific catalog of songs – so many can be stripped down and called into this spot. As can a rarity. And if there’s something you’d like to do, just let me continue to …..follow the strangest tribe.

A lightning bolt beams off Vedder’s scarlet telecaster pick guard. He’s sending a signal to each section of the venue – I see you, I hear you, I feel you…. I’m coming out there with you. Someone’s body is about to explode from the intensity being transmitted through Vedder grabbing their hand during the final “Hear my name, take a goooood look, this could be the day.” You’re a bit jealous but then get distracted at the fact that lyric is still one of the greatest and most inspiring of all time. Song number 17 always packs a bunch – it goes straight from Vedder’s palm-muting, boot-stomping guitar intro to your heart like an arrow.

Oh man, that version of “Immortality” was so deep and personal. And how special that a local veteran was just recognized for being home safe in his/her community. “Army Reserve” in your honor, salute and thank you. A local non-profit like Given To Live was just given a shout out. You’re so proud to know those folks and contribute to their great cause.

“Sirens” is extended while everyone sings an outro of “Oh oh, ah ah” together. It sounds so sweet and gentle – you’re loved ones voices ring in your head as you glide with such melody. Because it’s a fragile thing this life we lead and if you think too much you can get over-whelmed by the grace by which we live.

A healthy smoke raises from the grounds. You’re not concerned because you know it was from McCready absolutely crushing the “Even Flow” solo with his ’59, sunburst strat plastered to the back of his head. It reminds you of that moment in the PJ20 film where Chris Cornell talks about McCready being on another guitar planet when he’s in the zone. By the way…. Loud Love, Chris. Your thought of quietly a few times throughout the night.

You recognize, damn, I have a voice. It’s my voice and it really means something. It’s unique, it’s beautiful, it’s my own and damnit I’m going to use it because the in-between is mine.

The “I’m in hidddddddinnnng, I’m in hidddddddding” coming from the Ten Club section of the floor is absolutely deafening. And you love every second of it.  With your arms raised in a V you spot a new friend you just made at the Wishlist pre-party. You give each other a high five in perfect stride, not missing a beat with your “I surfaced and all around me was enlightened.” How appropriate… and true.

Like the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, there’s a notable lyric change – “But first he was stripped, and then he was stabbed by the faceless men, well fuckers, WE still stand.” Oh hell yes we do. Oh hell yes they do. Oh hell yes we all do and we are so proud to be a part of this community and fans of this band. Together, we are the wave.

photo by: Michael Young

“Once dissolved we are free to grow, what is human, what is more? I’ll answer this when I get home.”

“I just want to scream, hellllllooooo.” And just as Gossard suggests on SiriusXM’s Pearl Jam radio, the night has opened up and now there’s a brand new feel of acquaintance.

The rev your engine intro to “Corduroy” followed by, “The waiting drove me mad” is the best opening to a song ever. That guitar riff is as fine as the red bottle of wine at Vedder’s feet…. It just keeps getting better as the years go by.

photo by: Michael Young

It was none of the above (below).

What’s the opener going to be? Well, last night they opened with “Long Road” so it won’t be that. The last time they played this city they opened with “Wash” and it probably won’t be that again, because it’s not raining tonight. We are standing before a beautiful sunset. “Wash” was such a special occurrence last time, and usually not on the setlist more than a handful of times per tour. The person in front of you says it’s going to be “Pendulum” because they see Ament’s stand-up bass being carried out. But the person behind you just belted out “Release Meeeee” totally unprompted. So it could be that, too.

“Good Evening”, Vedder greets the crowd. There are over 1,400 words written here about the experience that is Pearl Jam live before the words “Good Evening” yet the excitement, anticipation and pure joy can all be rolled into those 11 letters.

In the dark (or in the light as of late) the band takes the stage. Cameron pops up behind the drumkit often raising his right arm in the air with a subtle waive. Vedder’s hands are full – clutching a notebook, some loose pages and fresh bottle. Individually and collectively – they have the eye of the tiger. Every. Single. Time.

The house lights go down. Finally, it’s time – and really, there is just no feeling in the world or written words that can describe it.

Intro music hits the venue speakers….  (for proper feeling insert the Ten intro/outro).

All photos by Michael Young from Artist Waves at Pearl Jam / Fenway Park one year ago today (9/4/18).