Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pearl Jam - July 9, 2003

The night after one of their most famous performances in the history of the band, Pearl Jam was set to rock Madison Square Garden once again. After a historic performance the evening before (which eventually was released as the band’s live DVD documentation of the Riot Act tour), it would be impossible for the band to give an even better performance. The most the fans could hope for was one of equal greatness.

With Pearl Jam having played until well past curfew the night before and in the middle of a long world tour, the question arose, was Pearl Jam up to the task? Could they bring the energy for a second night in a row when they must have been exhausted? Any other band may have phoned it in that night, but this was Pearl Jam. Seasoned professionals who never shy away from a challenge, Pearl Jam was ready to give their all for night two at the Garden.

Sitting up high in the 400s, I was ecstatic to see Pearl Jam in action. Witnessing them live at Madison Square Garden was the icing on the cake. As I’ve stated in several concert memoirs of the past, there is nothing like seeing a concert at the Garden. It is still my favorite venue to see live performances, and I don’t think there will ever be another venue that compares to it.

Pearl Jam came onto the stage and promptly started the night with the slow yet gorgeous, “Crazy Mary.” Leading off with such a unique opener, fans immediately knew Pearl Jam planned to equal their performance of the evening before. “Save You,” Hail, Hail,” “Whipping,” and “Corduroy” all followed, with fans going equally insane for each song. Then it came time for one of my favorite treats of the night.

The first time that I saw Pearl Jam in concert was with my best friend Tommy. We wanted to hear only two songs that evening, “Red Mosquito” and “Glorified G.” Unfortunately, neither song was played. Instead, Pearl Jam decided to make it up to me with their Garden performance. When the opening notes of “Red Mosquito” hit the air, I exploded into thunderous applause. I can’t recall feeling happier at a concert than I was at that moment. I sang every word back to the band at the top of my lungs along with 18,000 other fans. And that was only the beginning of the night.

Throughout Pearl Jam’s performance, Eddie Vedder made several mentions to the historic event that took place the evening before. At the time, I didn’t know what had transpired, but looking back now and watching the DVD from the previous concert showed me what an amazing two nights at The Garden it was for Pearl Jam.

A lot of songs from their latest album at the time, Riot Act, were played, which was to be expected. On top of these fantastic songs, the band reached deep into their catalog for a lot of crowd pleasing favorites--- “Given To Fly,” “Evacuation,” the one-two combo of “Untitled” into “MFC,” and even more. Pearl Jam was not going to settle for having given one grandiose performance at Madison Square Garden. No, they had their sights set on two.

Classic favorites like “Deep,” the beloved slow ballad “Present Tense,” and “State Of Love And Trust” all got dusted off for a listen. Their performance of “Deep” was immaculate and Eddie sounded better than ever. Perhaps it was all the wine that he consumed while onstage. The main set closer was a beautiful rendition of “Porch” that left me wondering what else the band had to give. The energy level bestowed upon us was unbelievable and second to none. When Pearl Jam performs a concert, they make it an event, and they make sure that every fan goes home satisfied.

For the first encore, we received a rare treat. Eddie walked on stage with a guitar and performed a fantastic cover of John Lennon’s “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.” A crowd sing-along came next with “Elderly Woman,” which produced chills over my entire body. Hearing the entire audience sing back to the band was stupendous. And then Pearl Jam topped themselves, giving me my second gift of the night.

Immediately following “Elderly Woman,” Pearl Jam launched into “Glorified G,” which found me almost fainting. Both songs that I had wanted to hear the first time I saw the band in concert were performed on that hot July night in New York City. I could have left then, ecstatic and contented. However, the band still had more gas in the tank. The rarely, if ever, performed “All Or None” came next and was followed by an intense version of “Do The Evolution.” This was the song that found the stage vibrating the evening before and night two almost gave a repeat performance.

“Alive” came out as the first encore closer and the crowd went wild. Anytime that “Alive” is played, it’s an incredible, delightful moment of a Pearl Jam concert. That night was no exception and when the band walked off the stage after “Alive,” I figured they were done. What more could they give us? Shame on me for questioning the greatness that is Pearl Jam.

The band returned to the stage for a second encore and before playing some music, Eddie took a moment to read some signs in the audience. One was a request for fans to come on stage and play “Rockin’ In The Free World,” with the band which was promptly denied. Another sign coyly stated “play “Leash,” you pussies. Eddie made a joke about being insulted and the band ripped into “Go,” which wasn’t as grand as “Leash” would have been, but still great to hear. Years later, the band would give us “Leash,” but that is another review.

Pearl Jam wrapped up the show with “Rockin’ In The Free World,” and one of the greatest versions of “Yellow Ledbetter” that I ever heard. Once again, Pearl Jam proved to the fans, themselves, and the rest of the world that they are one of the greatest live bands in the history of rock. Their second night at The Garden was just as stunning as their first night had been. The band never gave up, never just went through the motions, and gave their all to their adoring public. It was another solid reminder of what makes Pearl Jam so terrific.

Set List
Crazy Mary
Save You
Hail, Hail
Red Mosquito
I Am Mine
Get Right
Given To Fly
Even Flow
I Believe In Miracles
Present Tense
State Of Love And Trust
First Encore
You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away
Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
Glorified G
All Or None
Do The Evolution
Second Encore
Know Your Rights
Rockin’ In The Free World
Yellow Ledbetter

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