Performer: Pearl Jam
Songwriter: Eddie Vedder
Original Release: Vs.
Definitive Version: None. The ones from either Dissident, Live in Atlanta, 1994, or Toronto, 2000, are difficult to beat, though.
I introduced Scott to Pearl Jam soon after I found them in 1992, but it didn’t take, even after Vs. came out. He still was game to see them in concert—why not given it was for free?—and that’s when it hit him.
Actually, it happened before the show. I can’t remember the details—it might have been when Shani and I picked him up before the concert in Indianapolis—but one time I met Scott in a shopping center parking lot after he had just gotten off work. As I walked up to his car, I could see he was in his shirt and tie, with his shades on, just sitting. He almost looked like he was asleep. As I got closer, I could hear this song clearly. When I got to Scott, he just said, “Man, I love this song.”
So when we saw Pearl Jam, he was ready. So was everyone else. I talked a bit about the show awhile back, and I’ll have a bit more to say another time, but it was one of the few occasions where the result actually beat the high level of anticipation ahead of time.
The crowd was warmed up sufficiently as the roadies swapped out the stage from Kings X’s gear to Pearl Jam’s, and at the end, the roadies all huddled up on stage like the band on the cover of Ten, and the crowd just starting roaring.
Scott and I, of course, played the What’s on First game, and I had absolutely no idea. When Eddie Vedder came out wearing a Cubs hat (traitor—he famously wore a backwards Sox cap on Pearl Jam’s seminal first SNL appearance) and strapped on the guitar, I knew what was coming. Up to that time, I knew of only one song on which he played guitar—this one.
“Ah, Scott, they’re gonna play your favorite song!” I yelled over the tumult. Sure enough, the boys cranked up Rearviewmirror as the mosh pit erupted in a shower of bodies.
Like I said, the energy of the show—on stage and in the crowd—was unlike anything I’d seen before or since. When Pearl Jam launched into Even Flow, which was about midway through the first set, I counted 10 people crowd surfing at once. It was controlled mayhem.
As an official fan of The Who, I’m familiar with the practice of bands smashing up the gear on stage. I’ve never seen anyone do it live, but the closest I ever came was Louisville. The band had worked itself into a frenzy by the end of Blood, and Mike McCready, as the song was ending, took his guitar and chucked it full force into his amp, scattering all the candles and figurines that had been placed atop it. He then dutifully picked up all the figurines and set them back in their proper places as the song closed in a feedback whine.
That wasn’t even the final song of the set. Alive, which came next, was the final song, but the guitar and amps remained intact.
Pearl Jam played no fewer than six songs that hadn’t been released on an album, including one that, as far as I know, never has been released. When Pearl Jam released Vitalogy later in 1994, I knew half of the songs between Louisville and the broadcast Atlanta concert a week later.
And when all was said and done, as Scott, Shani and I drove silently back to Muncie in need of BFWs (I’ll explain at a later date), Scott had come around to my way of thinking: Pearl Jam is a freakin’ great band. It took two years, but it took.