Reviews

Pearl Jam: 31 October 2009 - Philadelphia

Sachyn Mital

This was Pearl Jam’s final night out of four at Philadelphia’s Spectrum and during the surreal evening, Pearl Jam astounded the audience with rarities and unleashed their energy in a fitting finale for the historic Spectrum.

Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam

City: Philadelphia
Venue: The Spectrum
Date: 2009-10-31

This was Pearl Jam’s final night out of four at Philadelphia’s Spectrum and during the surreal evening, Pearl Jam astounded the audience with rarities and unleashed their energy in a fitting finale for the historic Spectrum. Addressing the audience, Eddie Vedder suggested that if the band got enough encouragement “We’ll play some real fucked up shit”. He need not have worried because encouragement he would get, as excitement and anticipation enveloped Pearl Jam’s fourth Philadelphia show and the crowd sensed they were in for a real treat.

Pearl Jam’s energy could hardly be contained for their final North American tour stop, but the additional atmosphere of the Halloween reverie, the fact the Phillies were facing adversaries the Yankees next door for Game 3 of the World Series and the event being the final show at the historical Spectrum, gave the evening a unique and surreal twist. Pearl Jam paid their respects to the Spectrum for its fantastic sound, its rich musical legacy, and its glorious sports moments, as home to the Flyers and the 76ers, by sharing the spotlight with it throughout the evening. Mournfully, Vedder asked “If the Romans kept their Coliseum, why can’t we keep ours?”

Pearl Jam has a loyal and rabid fanbase, following the band around for show after show comparing each and every little detail. Combined with the fervent Phillies fans, whose pent up team spirit seemed verging on explosion, the audience reciprocated every ounce of energy from the band. The screaming (and testosterone) increased at the appearance of a decked out ring-card girl carrying the score from the rivalry next door, at least while the home team was in the lead, adding to the circus mood.

In recognition of the venue’s legacy, the band took stage to the “Rocky” theme, following a video montage of legendary Spectrum moments, as Vedder proclaimed “This is it!” In a later heartfelt moment, Vedder showed appreciation for the service of a stagehand, 89-year-old Charlie Difabio, who has worked at the venue its entire 42 years, by giving Difavio the opportunity to see the arena from the stage. Taking advantage of the setting, bassist Jeff Ament, dressed up in a Wilt Chamberlain 76ers jersey, sang “Sweet Lew” about his feeling let down after meeting Kareem Abdul Jabaar. Vedder meanwhile dribbled a basketball over on the side then tossed it into the outstretched arms of the audience. This was just one of the rare songs Pearl Jam played, the others equally strange and unexpected.

While a ukulele in hand may not be an exceptional sight, Vedder seemed outlandish strapping on an accordion bathed in the green light. The appropriately odd, Sprechstimme “Bugs” resounded from this contraption, but failed to succeed initially leading Vedder to express his desire to smash it. But with the help of positive reinforcement from the audience, the accordion survived and the second attempt at “Bugs” went off without a hitch.

Cryptically talking about a message Backspacer artist, Tom Tomorrow, received from a mysterious donor with a request that a song be played in exchange for a large donation, Vedder advised the donor to get out his check. The presence of the music stand at his side became more transparent when the band went into “Out of my Mind”, a song not heard live since ’94 and one I that never heard at all, when Vedder began tossing lyric sheets out into the crowd. Another request came from a lady in a bright red Phillies jersey near the front and was fulfilled, prompting the crowd to cheer loudly for “Rats” from the VS album. Someone in the crowd even hurled two fake rats tied together up to the stage, which Vedder dangled from his mic stand, and things became progressively more absurd as a giant rat ran across the stage.

Pearl Jam even got into the Halloween spirit at the beginning of the third set. Returning to the stage in Devo costumes, garbed in yellow jumpsuits and red pyramid hats, they performed “Whip It”. Whip in hand, Vedder and the boys played the song with a blithe spirit for the amusement (and digital cameras) of the audience.

In so much as routine Pearl Jam songs go, third song “Corduroy” got everyone clapping along, while on “Elderly Woman” (and just about every other song) the audience sang. Before “Better Man” specifically, Vedder explained that he just wanted to hear it again in the venue, and let the audience sing the lead for a while. The song had the standard bit of “Save it For Later” tagged onto the end while earlier “Its Ok” and “Another Brick in the Wall” were pinned onto the end of “Daughter”. The band played favorite live standards “Do the Evolution”, “Porch” and “Black” mixed in with the new “Speed of Sound”, “Amongst the Waves” and “Just Breathe”, the latter two featuring the assistance of a string quartet.

Neil Young’s classic “Rockin’ in the Free World” appeared to be the final hurrah for the Spectrum, when massive amounts of confetti started shooting into the air and balloons rained down from the ceiling, but in a unexpected encore, with the house lights on and people already leaving, the band came back to the stage, stomping balloons to clear the way and rock out with classic closer “Yellow Ledbetter” and finishing with Mike McCready soloing a fiery rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

The night earned its place in history for Pearl Jam devotees, as it will stand out as one of the most memorable shows for the special songs as well as Pearl Jam’s energy that spiritually brought down the house. Just as the Spectrum will forever remain ingrained as a cultural landmark, Pearl Jam’s performance reinforced their rightful place in the rock pantheon. Vedder asserted that it was their night when he debunked the rumors of special guest appearances, like Young or Springsteen (or Dave Matthews or Bon Jovi). Jokingly asking “Who the fuck starts those rumors?” Vedder reassured the audience that “We don’t need those guys because you’ve got me”.

Full disclaimer: This was reviewer’s 16th Pearl Jam show and he has been a 10 Club Member since 1998.

Setlist:

First Set: Why Go, Last Exit, Corduroy, Severed Hand, The Fixer, Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town, You Are, Amongst the Waves, Evenflow, Pilate, Unthought Known, Daughter/It's Okay/Another Brick in the Wall, Part II, Johnny Guitar, Rats, I'm Open, I Got Id, Glorified G, Out of My Mind, Black, Insignificance, Life Wasted

Second Set: Just Breathe, The End, Low Light, Speed of Sound, Jeremy, Inside Job, Bugs, Spin the Black Circle, Porch

Third Set: Whip It, Got Some, Crown of Thorns, Satan's Bed, Sweet Lew, Do the Evolution, Better Man, Smile, Alive, Rockin in the Free World, Yellow Ledbetter/The Star-Spangled Banner

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image