Diving Into My Pearl Jam Bootlegs

I decided to relive all the Pearl Jam shows I’ve attended over the years via the fantastic bootleg series the band have provided fans since 2000. It took about a week to listen to all the shows in chronological order but I’m glad I did it. Some of the moments on these bootlegs literally transported me back in time. Maybe some of you were at these gigs as well. Looking forward to a new Pearl Jam album and tour in 2019. Enjoy. 

Phoenix, October 21, 2000

My first taste of the Pearl Jam live experience came my freshman year of college at Arizona State on the Binaural tour. It rained all day and night. The first rain I ever encountered while living in Arizona made for a wet and sloppy time on the lawn that evening. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Eddie even remarked during the show they only put this stop on the tour so the band could finally get some sunshine. Highlights of the gig included hearing both “Long Road” and “I Got Shit” in the same setlist (That has got to be a rare combination), a  hilarious Uncle John story, a cover of The La’s “Timeless Melody”, “Betterman” with the “Romanza” guitar intro with Eddie belting the final chorus note for almost 20 full seconds and lastly “Yellow Ledbetter” ending with a medley of Van Halen riffs (“Ain’t Talking About Love” & “Eruption”). Unfortunately this concert is now known as “the show before the show”. Pearl Jam’s 10th anniversary concert was looming the following night in Las Vegas and with that came all the glory, hype and the first ever Pearl Jam performance of “Crown of Thorns”. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the Phoenix show because it was my first, the setlist was energetic and it left me hungry for more. A lot more.

Camden, July 5, 2003

In stark contrast to the rainy Phoenix show back in October 2000, the Camden/Philadelphia gig over 4th of July weekend was a hot and steamy affair. Temperatures were in the high 90s and the humidity was extremely dense. The band took the stage and rifled through “Can’t Keep”, “Brain of J”, “Save You”, “Do The Evolution”, “Spin The Black Circle” and “Green Disease” at a breakneck pace before finally acknowledging the crowd after “Given To Fly”. Mike McCready’s ferocious guitar solo in “Even Flow” seemed to last about 2-3 minutes in length with the crowd loving every second of it. What made this show unique for me was what occurred in the middle when fireworks were being displayed over the Delaware river right above the Tweeter Center amphitheater. The band when realizing this during a 9 minute, politically charged version of “Wishlist”, decided to launch into “Rockin’ In The Free World” mid show for probably the first time in the band’s history. Eddie said it would be the soundtrack to the beautiful sights above but also the “sounds of Afghanistan”. Other highlights in the set included “Breath”, the joyous b-side bounce of “Down”, an epic performance of “Black” and a tender cover of “Hide Your Love Away”. Not a bad way to spend a 4th of July weekend in the city of Brotherly Love.                                    

New York, July 9, 2003

Night 2 at Madison Square Garden had very big shoes to fill after the legendary setlist that was unleashed the night prior. That evening saw Ben Harper joining the band for two songs (“Daughter” and “Indifference”), a cover of John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth”, the 4th ever performance of “Crown of Thorns” by Pearl Jam and the stage shaking noticeably after the run of “Breath”, “Betterman” and “Do The Evolution” to end the first encore. Needless to say, night 2 had its work cut out for it. Pearl Jam kicked off the festivities by playing a rip roaring version of “Crazy Mary” with some incredible organ work by Boom Gaspar. By far my favorite ever version of this song. Please check it out if you’ve never heard it before. From there the boys leaned on some old faithfuls to get the crowd fired up; “Hail, Hail”, “Corduroy”, “Dissident”, a soaring “I Am Mine”, “Given To Fly” and “Even Flow”. Following “Even Flow” Eddie decided to call Johnny Ramone from the stage and play him a Ramones song. Johnny’s phone went to voicemail so Eddie and the Garden sang him “I Believe In Miracles”. Other highlights from the first set were “Untitled”, “Present Tense”, a gorgeous rendition of “Nothingman”, the punky love ballad “State of Love and Trust” and a super charged “Porch”. The first encore break was memorable for Ed reading fan made signs in the crowd that included my personal favorite which read “PLAY ‘LEASH’ YOU PUSSIES!”. Didn’t happen but funny regardless. Eddie also told stories of how people met, fell in love, married and named their children after band members. The final stretch of the show featured a lively crowd singalong to “Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town”, the understated “Alone of None” and a fist pumping “Alive” to end the first encore. I always believed Pearl Jam could easily end their performances with “Alive” rather than the cliche “Yellow Ledbetter”. Great song but it’s tiring when 90% of their gigs end with it. MSG night 2 will never get the glory and prestige of the first night which got a special DVD release but for me, pound for pound, song for song, night 2 is just as good as anything the band did the night prior. Great show. Fantastic bootleg. 

Newark, June 3, 2006

Another hot stormy evening in New Jersey as Pearl Jam looked to complete the final gig on their current tour leg. Severe thunder and lightning storms were plaguing the area for much of the last two days or so. This would later impact the show for a few minutes when several microphones cut out in the middle of “Animal”. I’m not the worlds biggest fan of their self titled/Avocado album so I wasn’t sure what to expect with the show tonight. All in all it felt like a pretty eclectic setlist overall. Songs like “Rats”, “Garden”, “Hard To Imagine”, “Don’t Gimme No Lip” and “Leaving Here” were dusted off. It seemed like the band was going to empty the tank tonight with a month off before their next gig. It was great hearing Stone take lead vocals for “Don’t Gimme No Lip” and finally hearing “Hard To Imagine “ which was on my bucket list for years. If memory serves correct, Mike had a double neck red guitar like Jimmy Page for “Inside Job”, by far my favorite track off the Avocado LP. So glad they performed it. 

Newark, August 7, 2008 (Eddie solo)

Pearl Jam do not sell bootlegs of solo Eddie gigs so I’ll have to rely on my memory to paint a picture of the evening. First off the NJ Pac Center is absolutely beautiful to look at. Eddie even mentioned during the show that NJ Pac is now his favorite venue to perform at. Despite being solo Eddie did not lay up for one single second. He still performed a robust 29 song set with a strong mix of solo compositions, cover tunes and Pearl Jam throwbacks. The moments I really locked in on during the performance were Daniel Johnston’s “Walking The Cow”, Cat Stevens’ “Don’t Be Shy”, “Man of The Hour”, an unreleased Pearl Jam song “Unthought Unknown”, “Rise”, “Porch”, Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open The Door” and “Hard Sun”. A fan asked Eddie near the conclusion of the gig what the lyrics for “Yellow Ledbetter” are. He then went into a very emotional tale on the origins and subject matter for the song. Some deep stuff on a Persian Gulf War veteran returning home and basically being shunned from the community he grew up in. Echoes of Vietnam could be felt strongly in Eddie’s words. Lessons are still being learned it seems. I took some pretty good videos during the show (including the “Yellow Ledbetter” story) that were quickly taken down from YouTube based on copyright infringement. A shame really. Gigs like this should live on just like standard Pearl Jam bootlegs. That story was tremendous and worth a listen from all Pearl Jam fans. 

Newark, May 18, 2010

My third straight Newark show. Each one vastly different than the previous one with great surprises along the way. This was my first time in the new Prudential Center and it is a beautiful arena. Pearl Jam would break it in with a rather unique setlist approach. The running order of songs felt like the band were picking the tunes out of a hat. Early appearances of “Alone”, “Immortality” and even “Whipping” popping up in the second encore. That seemed out of place to me but that was the overall theme on the evening. The biggest surprise song for the night was by far “Brother” (with lyrics) getting played. I think it was the 8th time ever and hasn’t been performed since this Newark show. So honored to get this old Ten era throwback. Another shocker was getting the lone Backspacer tour performance of “Footsteps”. Been dying to hear that one live for many many years and it did not disappoint. Other highlights of the gig were Eddie wearing a Walter Payton jersey, getting a Tom Waits cover “Jersey Girl” for just the second time by the band and “All Along The Watchtower” assisted by Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses. It was nice for the show to end with something random and fresh as opposed to the standard “Yellow Ledbetter”. 

New York, May 2, 2016

The energy for a Madison Square Garden show is always next level stuff. I hadn’t caught a Pearl Jam show there since July 9, 2003. The second of two epic stops at the world’s most famous arena. That was almost 13 years ago. Where did all that time go? All those yesterdays. Crazy man. Crazy. The band came out with roaring renditions of “Corduroy”, “Mind Your Manners”, “Once”, “Animal” and “Given To Fly” to open the Garden Party. Next Eddie welcomed two of the newest members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to the stage….Rick Nielsen and Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick to perform their monster 1978 hit “Surrender”. Already this gig had the feeling of a very special night. Next the band launched into the “MAN” trilogy but this time with a little wrinkle to kick things off, “Elderly WoMAN Behind The Counter In A Small Town” into “NothingMAN” followed by “LeatherMAN” and finally “BetterMAN”. An incredible four song run that really brought the Garden to a boiling point. I’m not sure how many times prior the band played these four songs together like this. I’ve seen prior setlist over the years feature the “Nothingman”, “Leatherman” and “Betterman” trilogy but never with “Small Town” mixed in. Either way it was an awesome experience to say the least. Pearl Jam went all meta on us next by busting out “Garden” while in the Garden. I wanted this badly back in 2003. Glad I got it in 2016. Underrated Ten track and my buddy Anthony’s go to strip club jam. It took over 16 years but I finally got to hear “Jeremy” live. Bad ass tune as always and like millions of others when they were 11-12 years old, fell in love with the band via this song. I’ve always been a fan of the slow burner “All or None”. The guitar solo reminds me of mid 70s Pink Floyd. That flowed into my favorite track off Lightning Bolt, that being “Pendulum”. Great atmosphere created not only in the studio but also in a live setting. Really dig the lyrics as well. Another standout moment during the gig was the back to back appearances of “Breath” and “State of Love and Trust” from the movie Singles. Gotta be a rare combo to hear both like that. Stellar stuff. Pearl Jam had one final surprise up their sleeve for the audience. Sting joined the group unannounced for a cover of “Driven To Tears”. Definitely didn’t see that coming. Nobody did. Interesting that no songs from Binaural, Avocado or Backspacer were performed thus the setlist had a greatest hits feel to it. The lesson of the night is to never miss a Garden Party if you have the opportunity. Pearl Jam always slay at these gigs. 

Madison Square Garden and the Infinite setlist….

The Smashing Pumpkins reunion tour finally rolled into New York last night. It wasn’t a complete original lineup reunion because bass player D’arcy Wretzky still has extreme beef with Billy Corgan that doesn’t look to ever be resolved. Be that as it may, getting guitarist James Iha, drummer Jimmy Chamberlain and Billy Corgan on stage this summer for the first time since 2000 is a milestone event for the band and all their fans from their 90s heyday.

This was my first proper time seeing the Pumpkins. I had previous seen the short lived Zwan fronted by Corgan at the Y100 Christmas music festival back in 2002. That band was good, not great and left you wanting more. A lot more. Over the years I also turned down many opportunities to see the Pumpkins when it was full of replacement players, sometimes Jimmy on drums but always Billy at the front. Those lineups and incarnations of the band had no magic or spark. Just a revolving door of sidemen. It was Smashing Pumpkins in name only. It felt like a cash grab with an established rock brand to hide behind. I wanted to see the real thing. I wanted my 90s Pumpkins back for one more night of glory.

Well I’m happy to report that Thursday night I got exactly that, vintage, raw and loud Smashing Pumpkins. The setlist ran 3 hours plus, featured classics from their first 5 albums (plus new single “Solora”). There really weren’t too many opportunities to catch your breath, grab another beer or make a bathroom break. The hits just kept on coming. One after another like a never ending invasion of mid 90s alt rock radio staples: “Disarm”, “Today”, “Cherub Rock”, “Zero”, “Tonight Tonight”, “1979” and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”. It was like Guitar Hero on steroids. Monster guitar solos, big drums and Corgan sounding exactly like he did 25 years ago. I was highly impressed with how unchanged his voice sounds after all these years.

The Pumpkins also played a diverse array of cover songs “Space Oddity”, “Landslide”, “Stairway To Heaven” and “Baby Mine”. The best cover being David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” with a full on glam rock interpretation. A clear highlight of the show and it suited Billy’s voice quite well. It was interesting to hear “Stairway To Heaven” live since not many of us caught Led Zeppelin live but the song felt very rushed and carefree. I’d have preferred more original Pumpkins material. Songs like “I Am One”, “Ugly” or even “Perfect”. With an enormous back catalogue why play any covers at all?

Besides the big hit singles that were played, it was a pleasure to have the chance to hear some deeper cuts I never imagined I would hear live (“Eye”, “For Martha”, “The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning”, “Soma”). Glad James Iha got a chance to shine by singing leads vocals on “Blew Away”.

There were definitely some odd ball moments throughout the night. I’m pretty sure Corgan started the night in a dress or maybe it was a kilt. Either way it looked strange and unflattering. The giant video monitor behind the stage showed mostly images and videos of Billy (a solid 95%) with some random shots of James and Jimmy. No traces of D’arcy. The video interludes were also puzzling. Mark McGraph of Sugar Ray fame involved in two of them. I would love to know the connection between the Pumpkins and Mark McGraph. Two polar opposite bands from the 90s for sure. Maybe he’s just a really really big fan like the rest of us? Who knows.

At one point during the show a religious shrine of some sort was paraded around the seating area on the floor. No idea what that was supposed to signify. It was never explained or acknowledged by the band. Speaking of that, the Pumpkins had very few words for the crowd all evening long. I expected more banter, especially from Billy. That guy loves to talk and he had 18,000 open ears.

The band didn’t really stick the ending like I wish they would have. The encore was a whimper. The new single “Solara” is just a standard loud rocker. It feels more like a Smashing Pumpkins song from 2007-2013 than the 90s version of the group. Also ending the overall show with “Baby Mine” from the film Dumbo was a peculiar choice. So many fans flooded for the exits. They really should have concluded the night with one of their biggest hits, a song like “Today”, “Tonight Tonight” or “1979”. Send the people home in their happiest state.

8/1/2018 – MSG

Disarm

Rocket

Siva

Rhinoceros

Space Oddity (David Bowie cover)

Drown

Zero

The Everlasting Gaze

Stand Inside Your Love

Thirty-Three

Eye

Soma

Blew Away

For Martha

To Sheila

Mayonaise

Porcelina of the Vast Oceans

Landslide (Fleetwood Mac cover)

Tonight, Tonight

Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin cover)

Cherub Rock

1979

Ava Adore

Try, Try, Try

The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning

Hummer

Today

Bullet With Butterfly Wings

Muzzle

Encore:

Solara

Baby Mine (Betty Noyes cover)

Radiohead Are Happy To Serve You….

Saturday, July 14th, marked the forth and final sold out show for Radiohead at Madison Square Garden this week. Each evening a little more unique than the previous. One never knows what oldie or rarity the band might unearth on any given night. Already in Chicago during the tour’s first stop, “Blow Out”, was performed for the first time since 2008. A real treat for those in the audience as Pablo Honey era songs outside “Creep” are rarely attempted. Could we be so lucky at MSG night 4?

The band came out of the gate like a slow lumbering beast, the gentle piano and keyboards of “Daydreaming” swirling and swelling to a crescendo of Thom Yorke pledging he is “Just happy to serve………you.”. Radiohead quickly flipped the script after the Neil Young tinged “Desert Island Disk” by transforming the entire arena into a giant pulsating rave party with “Ful Stop”. That is one of the many aspects I love about this band. The diversity in style and scope between one song to the next. They keep you on your toes at all times. A sensory overload for sure.

Highlights from the main set included a slower version of “Kid A” with drummer Phil Selway supplying a military like backbeat, the punky “2+2 = 5” with Thom spitting out pure venom, “Videotape” with a new backing keyboard by Jonny Greenwood, the rejected James Bond theme “Spectre”, the Romeo & Juliet inspired “Exit Music (For A Film)” featuring fantastic guitar noodling by Jonny and finally the Can infused “There There”. Each time I hear it live I become more and more convinced that this tune is one of their greatest masterpieces. The guitar solo finale by Jonny was absolutely savage. He was playing like a man with his hair on fire. One of my favorite moments of any Radiohead show I’ve ever attended. A song like this is very very hard to top, so naturally Radiohead one upped it by playing “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” which is an all-timer in its own right.

For me the encores at a Radiohead show are like unwrapping presents on Christmas Morning. What will the band give us tonight? What jaw dropping relic from the past or unreleased ditty could the band pull from their deep catalogue? At first it seemed the band were going to play it straight and simple with some old faithfuls like the always incredible “Idioteque”, the Ice Storm themed “House of Cards”, the sad guitar finger plucking of “Present Tense” and the rip roaring “Bodysnatchers”. However, the real gift in the first encore was the addition of “The Tourist”. It has only been played sparingly since the year 2000 but it seems the band have fallen back in love with the song as it has popped up several times since 2017.

Encore 2 began with just Thom acoustically and Jonny on his laptop working on vocal loops as the duo launched into the somber “Give Up The Ghost”. I was surprised the band next performed “Optimistic”. One of the finer moments from Kid A but to me it deserves placement earlier in the main setlist. Doesn’t really have the feel of encore type song. I’d have looked towards “My Iron Lung”, “Let Down” or “Reckoner” but that’s just me. With one song left to play on the night, you knew it was either going to be “Karma Police” or “Creep”. Maybe even both like the last time I caught Radiohead at the Garden in 2016. The band elected for “Karma Police” and it quickly became the biggest singalong moment of the evening. I love that when the song finishes Thom keeps strumming and lets the arena sing the chorus as the band slowly slips off stage one by one.

There have been a lot of whispers over the last few weeks that director Paul Thomas Anderson and Radiohead are secretly working on a tour documentary of this North American summer tour. I really hope that comes to fruition. It would be nice to see a spiritual successor to their previous documentary Meeting People Is Easy (1998). That film showed the pain and agony of becoming one of the worlds biggest rock bands. It would now be nice to cap it off with a celebration of all that Radiohead have accomplished over the last 25 years. It has truly been an extraordinary run, a run which hopefully has many more chapters yet to be written.

7/14/2018 – Night 4 

Daydreaming

Desert Island Disk

Ful Stop

2+2=5

Kid A

All I Need

Videotape

No Surprises

Bloom

Everything In Its Right Place

Lotus Flower

The Numbers

Weird Fishes/Arpeggi

Spectre

Exit Music (For A Film)

There There

Street Spirit

Encore:

Idioteque

House of Cards

The Present Tense

Bodysnatchers

The Tourist

Encore 2:

Give Up The Ghost

Optimistic

Karma Police