Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sunday CD Review: DVD - Pearl Jam - Live At The Garden

Capturing what was arguably their best performance ever at Madison Square Garden and what some fans consider the best concert in their illustrious history, Pearl Jam released a 2-DVD set entitled, Live at the Garden.

On July 6, 2003, Pearl Jam played the first of two nights at Madison Square Garden during their world tour in support of Riot Act. What they did not realize when they took the stage was that they were about to perform one of the greatest concerts of their career.

Opening the evening with the effervescent Love Boat Captain Pearl Jam set forth upon the evening with one goal in mind, ensnare every fan in the building through music and give them all their money’s worth. Pearl Jam always strives for perfection and enthusiastic performances, but this hot July night saw the group really going above and beyond their normal call of duty.

It would be six songs in before lead singer extraordinaire, Eddie Vedder, would even address the crowd. For the early part of the night, Pearl Jam was satisfied to let the music be the conversation maker. Classic Pearl Jam hits performed with extra bounce and energy are contained on these DVDs from this magical night. Fan favorites such as Evenflow, Black, Daughter, Wishlist, and RearviewMirror were all played with amped up energy and reckless abandon.

Armed with a never ending bottle of wine that was continually sipped from, Vedder was in rare form himself, singing like a man possessed. He appeared as a subdued modern day Morrison, doing whatever he wanted and breaking all the rules. His hair being shorter than it had been in years, added to the mystique of Eddie, notoriously shy, but on this night he was alive and vibrant.

The camera work and editing on the discs was done near perfect with just the right amount of shots of Eddie intertwined with the crowd, and then solo spotlights on other members of the band. Mike McCreedy’s humorous guitar antics and encapsulating solos are produced just right, and Jeff Ahment’s boundless energy is portrayed. There are also plenty of shots of the man behind the drum kit, Mike Cameron.

The stunning event of the night came later in the evening and would serve as the catalyst that set forth the solidification that this was their best Garden performance ever. After Do The Evolution the band stopped and disappeared from the stage for a moment. Upon their return, Eddie explained their departure. He said that during the last song, the entire stage started to shake violently. He said that it scared the hell out of them. The band then learned that only three other performers in the history of the Garden were able to have their stage shaken by fans: Bruce Springsteen, Iron Maiden, and The Grateful Dead. That is some excellent company to be in.

Fully rejuvenated by the experience, the band played on, going well past their curfew hour of 11PM. As Eddie said, the fans had made the band rich beyond their wildest dreams, so they were going to play anyway, even though there would be a $20,000 fine awaiting them at the concert’s conclusion. However, due to the uniqueness of the night, Madison Square Garden would later wave the fee.

Rarities like Crazy Mary, Indifference, and Sonic Reducer were pulled out in the encore. They would be followed by two big show closers: a blistering cover of The Who’s Baba O’Riley, which the band has played for many years, and the requisite last song of the night Yellow Ledbetter, which as much as they play it, never gets old.

It’s fantastic that Pearl Jam captured this historical evening on film and released it as a full concert on DVD to be cherished by fans over and over again. There is definitely a lot of replay value in this concert and it should be enjoyed for many years to come.

Bonus tracks contained on the second disc include: Throw Your Arms Around Me, Dead Man, Bushleaguer, Fortunate Son, Down, and an amazing performance of All Those Yesterdays. These songs were filmed at other venues during the Riot Act world tour.

Without question, this is one of the finest pieces in the Pearl Jam catalog, and if you own no live DVDs or CDs, this is the one to buy. Seek it out and add it to your collection. You will not be disappointed. Be sure to bring your own bottle of wine though, Eddie can’t share through the television.

Ryo’s Rating: 9.5 out of 10

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