Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Binaural Concert

Eddie Vedder’s first bit of patter during Tuesday’s concert referred to the band’s very first Toronto show back in 1991, when they played just seven songs.  Then he joked “tonight we’ll play nine…or 11 or 13….or maybe 15, 16, 17…” and eventually went up to thirty.  We all laughed and cheered, not thinking he was serious.


Three hours later, Pearl Jam had cranked out a whopping 33 songs in an epic concert.  Not to sound like Stefon, but this one had everything — covers, forgotten lyrics, an ENTIRE ALBUM.  It was pretty mind-blowing.  I guess since the band found themselves with an unexpected day to recover (the planned Wednesday show was pushed to Thursday due to Raptors playoff basketball), they decided to let it all hang out tonight.

Tonight’s cast of characters…the stalwart concertgoer known as my buddy Trev, seeing his whopping sixth Pearl Jam show!  Katie, seeing her fourth Pearl Jam show!  Amanda, seeing “only” her second Pearl Jam show (geez, pick up the pace Amanda)! 

Pearl Jam is more or less just touring for the hell of it since they don’t have a new album out, and thus without any need to play newer songs, it gives them quite a bit of freedom with the setlists.  (Not that they necessarily need it, since PJ has always been apt to play anything on any given night.)  I checked out some of their other setlists from this tour and it’s a very wide array of stuff, from both their own catalogue and random cover songs.  What I’m about to write will break Trevor’s heart, but in PJ’s show in Ottawa a few days ago, Eddie briefly sang U2’s “All I Want Is You.”  As longtime blog readers know, this is Trevor’s favourite U2 song, and he has yet to hear it performed live despite attending four different U2 shows in his life.  Now he can’t even hear it from Pearl Jam.  Give the man a break, life!

I’ve never been at a concert where a band plays a whole record from start to finish.  These types of shows are becoming more popular these days, sometimes with ‘legacy’ artists exploring an old work (i.e. Bruce Springsteen’s current River Tour) or bands who essentially have just one popular album so they might as well openly advertise playing it from start to finish (i.e. Weezer).  The decision to play “Binaural,” however, was really out of nowhere.  Of all the records to play from start to finish, they go with one that didn’t really have any big hits and featured a back half that was kinda obscure even by hardcore Pearl Jam fan standards.  Katie kept asking “what song is this, again?” and at one point even busted out the dreaded “how many more songs are in this album?”  She had the record, you see, but hadn’t listened to it in many moons.  She also thought it was titled Bi-Lateral, so yeah, this one wasn’t exactly on her list of deserted island albums.

Still, it was fun hearing some of those songs live for the first time.  Imagine some diehard Pearl Jam fan whose favourite song was on that record and whose mind was absolutely blown to hear it live for the first time.  Or, even if Binaural isn’t one of your favourites, the band proceeded to play literally an entire concert afterwards, so it was hard to be too angry.  I guess I’m just pleased I didn’t pay to see the “Riot Act” setlist, or perhaps even the “Vitalogy” setlist given how that is one of the classic-or-garbage track listings of all time. 

Like the last time I attended a Pearl Jam show at the ACC, the drunken buffoonery from people in our section was off the charts.  The meathead pair of couples next to us got up to either get beers or go to the washroom no less than 15 times during the show.  There was also one spaced-out fellow who had to be removed by security for standing in the aisle and leaning over the upper deck’s guard railing for much of the show, and also another more (shall we say) “aggressively spaced-out” fellow who almost started a fight with a seemingly innocent guy in the row in front of us.  That’s not to mention the jerk sitting next to Katie that kept elbowing her, which caused her to switch seats with Trev.  Naturally, those guys left soon after, lest they incur the wrath of Trev, a noted former rugby player who is unofficially known as the Demon Wolverhampton.

Drunken idiots aside, nothing could’ve halted my enthusiasm for the show.  Pearl Jam just keep getting better and better with age.  Here’s the setlist….

* Go
* Do The Evolution
* Mind Your Manners
….interestingly, this was the only song played from an album released after 2000.  It’s not like Pearl Jam to ignore their recent history so thoroughly, but I guess they figured that with the focus on Binaural, they were already giving the audience a fair dose of songs that weren’t hits.
* Breakerfall
* Gods’ Dice
* Evacuation
…introduced by Eddie with a shoutout to those combating the Fort McMurray fires.
* Light Years…it was around here that it dawned on Trev and I that yes, Binaural was being played start to finish.
* Nothing As It Seems
* Thin Air
* Insignificance
* Of The Girl
* Grievance
* Rival
* Sleight Of Hand
…stopped and restarted after a couple of bars since Eddie seemed to forget some lyrics or came in too soon.  See, even the band itself has issue with the back halves of their lesser-known albums!
* Soon Forget…complete with Eddie on ukulele and potshots at Donald Trump.
* Parting Ways
* Corduroy
* Once
* Reviewmirror

***encore #1***
* Imagine….yep, the John Lennon cover
* Let Me Sleep….yep, a Christmas song played in May.
* Comfortably Numb….yep, a Pink Floyd cover, complete with face-melting solo from Mike McCready.
* Even Flow….speaking of McCready, boy, this guy.  He did his usual “play the solo while holding the guitar behind his head” trick, with the added difficulty of going into the front row to do it.  Mah god!
* Down
* Better Man
….between the crowd singing along and the band’s upbeat arrangement, this was a pretty rollicking good time for a song about a woman stuck in an unhappy marriage.
* Porch
***encore #2***
* Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
* Given To Fly
* State Of Love And Trust
* Black
* The Real Me
….yep, a Who cover
* Alive
* Rockin’ In The Free World
….yep, a Neil Young cover, though unlike the last ACC show, Neil himself didn’t appear to join in.  Instead it was Donna Grantis (from Prince’s band) joining in to shred on the guitar.

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