Friday night, I got to sing with Pearl Jam!
OK, strictly speaking, so did 32,000 others. But still. Stick that on my CV: Backing singer. For Pearl Jam.
The concert goers seemed to fall into two camps:
1 – Fans of their hit singles and/or just their first album, Ten, who were left feeling somewhat underwhelmed;
2 – Those who owned and enjoyed and loved all their albums and lesser-heard songs (as well as Ten and the commercial hits), and they were left going Hell. Yeah.
But if the rivalry of Tupac v Biggie Smalls, Vanilla Ice v MC Hammer, or Team Jacob v Team Edward has taught us anything, it’s that we will never agree on everything. Or even anything.
For the record though, I was in the Hell. Yeah camp. I own all their albums… well, except for that copy of the latest album that I burned from my boss’ boss, but I swear it’s on my Santa wish list.
And I actually thought the band did a great job of mixing their commercial hits with the more esoteric rockers from across their catalogue, meaning there was something for everyone, including Pearl Jam themselves.
The night almost got off to a bad start as I frantically ripped my room apart looking for my Pearl Jam t-shirt. Couldn’t go without that. Good thing I have a wife to clean up after me.
After a couple of years of turning up to gigs when the doors open and then having to stand around waiting for hours, I decided to be a bit relaxed about this concert. I’d decided to skip opening Kiwi act Liam Finn as I’d seen him at the Big Day Out a couple of years ago and assumed he would as good as I remembered. I definitely wanted to be there for Ben Harper though. I definitely misjudged how finely-tuned stadium concert machines had become though and turned up about half-way through his set with Relentless7, just missing a Queen/Bowie-cover duet with Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder.
I didn’t miss out on sitting down and having the drunk next to me spill an entire beer on my shoes, though.
I accepted his slurred apology and got talking to him, and in return was randomly rewarded with the knowledge that he worked for a private investigator that had been in my work building during the wee small hours of the previous week installing hidden surveillance cameras! Which is bloody lucky, because I was totally planning to steal a whole bunch of company pencils and sell them on the Panmure black market to help pay for Christmas presents for the kids. Phew.
And you’ll never believe this, but there were actually people there smoking drugs! Shocking.
How the scruffy white Rasta sitting in front of us manged to get in with enough to keep the air around us filled with the smell of ganja all night (delivering all those seated nearby a second-hand-high) was truly impressive.
Ben Harper sounded great. Lately I’m used to watching acts in small venues, or being up front in the mosh pit, so it was weird to sit miles away in the stands. I wanted to buy tickets for the general admission area, but at that stage I had no idea who I was going to take with me, and most of the people I know don’t like standing in a mosh pit for hours waiting for the main act to start. As it turns out I was with my little brother in the end, who would’ve totally been up for a bit of elbowing our way to the front. But anyway. Still a great live experience. Pearl Jam came on just five minutes later than the internet and radio said they would. They eased into it with a crowd-pleasing performance of Daughter.
During the second song, Severed Hand, a fight nearly broke out around me as the drunk guy sitting next to me had words with the drunk guy in front of him who was standing up. The guy standing stood his ground and told the guy sitting that it was a concert, so stand up and dance, man! Sitting guy said, Hey Bud, we all paid for seats, which means sitting, and I can’t see with you standing, so sit the fuck down!
Both drunks had good points. But I really just wanted to push both their asses down the stairs and let St Johns deal with them, so I could focus back on the concert.
Eddie Vedder is an engaging front man. Even when he’s stopping to tell moshpitters for the third time to take three steps back and “maintain”. I guess you’d be a little concerned as well had nine people been crushed or trampled to death at one of your past concerts.
It was also a treat to see him rocking an electric guitar for a number of songs.
We knew they were just teasing when they finished their set after an hour and twenty minutes, with an audience-backed Better Man.
We got two encores out of them, with Ben Harper and his ol’ lap slide guitar coming on to help belt out Red Mosquito.
Liam Finn and his daddy Neil were on near the end to help with a very cool Chris Knox tribute of Not Given Lightly. Which confused my brother, who wanted to know why they were singing the Vogels bread song.
My boss, who was seated somewhere in the same section as me, thought Liam Finn was a bit of a muppet for trying to give the song a bit of a punk-edge, but if you’re familiar with Chris Knox’s music then you might actually have thought it appropriate.
Eddie’s voice held out impressively well for the near two and a half hours they were on.
I was hoping that they would close with their bluesy Yellow Ledbetter (an outtake from Ten), and was not disappointed. I love it, even if to this day I can still only make out about 40 per cent of those mumbled lyrics. I basically just made shit up as we went along, to finish off my backing vocal duties. Job done. The shades go down.