Live Rock Revelations
I’m 28 years-old and tonight, I’m high. These two facts, I believe, make me wise and perceptive when it comes to fully comprehending the Pearl Jam concert I’ve come to see in Boise, Idaho.
It’s been a few years since I’ve seen these guys live. But we’ve been through so much together over the past decade, I like to think I understand them. None of us are spring chickens anymore, but back in the day, we all did stupid things that were perceived as cool, and sometimes, we wish it was still all that simple.
Rewind to 1992 when Pearl Jam played in a grange hall in Bozeman, Montana on their “Ten” tour. Getting an interview with the band was no problem. Neither was video taping the sound check as Vedder belted out Jeremy like he truly meant it. Sitting in a wheat field with bassist Jeff Ament for nearly an hour was a thrill. We spoke about Temple of the Dog, the L.A. riots, and the Beastie Boys. His down to earth nature made conversation easy. The concert itself was a beautiful thing. Sweaty young rockers pounding on the barn floored venue, thousands of miles away from any big city, and MTV for that matter.
Having seen eight Pearl Jam shows since that night, I consider myself a thoughtful, yet serious fan. But this recent tour sparked a crucial question. Where should I see these guys? Europe? Vegas? Seattle? Why not Boise?
Now, I can tell you why not Boise.
Why did Pearl Jam even include Boise on their tour? No one seems to know, including front man Eddie Vedder. Of course, he tried to compliment the locals by saying, “We’ve never made it here before, but now that we have, we can say we’re a real band.” Please, someone, blow more smoke up my ass. They had two dates left, both in their hometown of Seattle; they were exhausted from touring, and (I’m guessing) generally despised everything the ultra-conservative, white state of Idaho stands for. The only possible answer: they did it for the fans. They had cancelled previous concerts in Boise twice before. They came to redeem themselves.
Perhaps as we age it gets harder to fake it and easier to detect insincerity. That goes for everywhere... in the bedroom, on the telephone, and most definitely on stage. I couldn’t blame them... rushing through every popular song they’ve ever had. Vedder sang “Jeremy” at a tempo three times faster than I’ve ever heard him use live, or on any of Pearl Jam’s albums. I stood just off to the side of the stage trying to understand what was going on. All I could think of was that I should have flown to my hometown of Seattle for the Pearl Jam grand finale. Maybe then their hearts would be in it.
This is the second largest concert I’ve attended in the past two weeks. Both have been disappointing. Why? Now I know it’s me. I’ve grown up, and so have the bands. No one can fake it. And to expect five guys to pull off a year-long, international tour and to make it a killer show every night is just too much.
It’s time to check out smaller venues and remember my musical heroes the way they and I used to be. Young, stupid and wild. That’s the way life should be—even if now it’s only in our heads.
By the way, my friends in Seattle say the last shows were “killer” and that Pearl Jam “went off” on stage along with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Live and learn.