Monday, September 12, 2011

Pearl Jam (and NEIL YOUNG!) At The ACC

You never have to worry about spoilers when you're writing about a Pearl Jam concert, since PJ are known for drastic setlist overhauls on a nightly basis. So if you're reading this and thinking "Aw man, they're playing 'Porch' on this tour?! That's awesome, but I would've gone nuts hearing that not knowing it was coming!", never fear. It's even money that PJ doesn't even play the song again for the rest of this tour….so, uh, I guess you're disappointed in another way.

Every Pearl Jam show is a singular entity unto itself. For instance, Sunday evening's concert in Toronto featured perhaps the best grand finales I've ever seen in all my years of attending rock shows. Pearl Jam ended things off with "Rockin' In The Free World" and just when you thought they were wrapping up the song, NEIL FUCKING YOUNG HIMSELF comes on stage to take over and blow everyone's mind with ten minutes of shredding guitar solos. The arena went ballistic. Now, in fairness, given the number of big stars in town for the Toronto International Film Festival, we had whispered before the concert about how cool it would be if Young, or Bono, or the Edge made guest appearances. Random hypotheticals are nothing compared to actually seeing a capital-L Legend like Young stroll onto the stage and wail like there was no tomorrow.

Even without Young's appearance, this was still a show to remember. It was my second Pearl Jam concert, having first seen the band in London in 2005 at the John Labatt Centre, and I was accompanied by my pals Eric (his first PJ show) and Trev (his third….we saw them together in London and Trevor ranks Pearl Jam's 2006 concert in Toronto as the finest of his life) this time around. If the stage was at 12 o'clock, our seats were roughly at 5 o'clock up in the upper bowl, so we had a pretty good view of things. The bad news was that we were interrupted literally a dozen times during the show by various pieces of human garbage in our row who kept getting up to a) get beer, b) use the bathroom and c) presumably buy a beer and then drink it while actually urinating, eliminating the middle man. Also of note were the guys behind us who kept yelling for the band to play 'Crazy Mary' after every song. It was irritating but, admittedly, it would've been pretty awesome had 'Crazy Mary' actually been played.

This mini-tour from the band is to celebrate its 20th anniversary and to promote the "Pearl Jam Twenty" documentary, directed by Cameron Crowe, premiering at TIFF this week. Pearl Jam setlists are pretty varied on any tour, but with no specific album to promote in this case, literally any song from the band's huge catalogue is fair game to be played during a concert. Indeed, Sunday's show saw almost every album represented (nothing from 'Riot Act' or 'Pearl Jam,' though songs from both records were played during PJ's show in Montreal a few days ago) plus a few random B-sides and covers. One of those covers (Mother Love Bone's "Crown Of Thorns") was one of the highlights of the show, to boot.

Did I have a criticism of the show? Nope! This one was pretty easy to write. What am I supposed to do, complain that possibly my favourite Pearl Jam song ("No Way") wasn't played, given the nature of the band's random setlists? Nope! If anything, I'm pleased that "Hey Foxymophandlemama, That's Me" didn't make an appearance. Don't click on the link, please, save yourself.

Great show, Pearl Jam. Great show. The setlist….

Long Road
Do The Evolution
Got Some
Nothing As it Seems
Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
Setting Forth
Not For You (snippet from 'Modern Girl' by Sleater-Kinney)
Given To Fly
Just Breathe
Off He Goes
Daughter (snippet from "It's Ok" by Dead Moon)
Unthought Known
The Fixer
***********first encore***********
Better Man
***********second encore*********
Chloe Dancer/Crown Of Thorns (Mother Love Bone cover)
Rockin' In The Free World (w/Neil Young)

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