Pearl Jam Descends on Buffalo
Stop #2 for the North American Lightning Bolt Tour 2013
By: Lawrence Napoli and Cat Carlson
So many have been eagerly anticipating Pearl Jam’s return to the touring circuit that as soon as it was announced, scoring tickets for any of the venues instantly became a hot commodity and awfully complicated if you weren’t waiting in a line at the box office or some website well in advance. My own adventure had me perusing tickets.com with multiple laptops only to be held in a virtual waiting line for which fate alone would determine the quality of my seats. Despite the three ring circus that process wound up being, I was pleased with getting tickets at all because Pearl Jam happens to be my girlfriend’s favorite band. I, unfortunately, am not a “music guy” and more of a “movie guy” and was only modestly familiar with their work mostly from the early to mid 90s, but I was very excited to go to a live rock show because the word everywhere was that they always put on great shows. As for me, only a recent addition to the Ten Club and relative novice in all things Pearl Jam; stop #2 in the North American Lightning Bolt Tour was nothing short of electrically charged adrenaline that cycled from the stage, into First Niagara Center, onto the audience and back. It was an amazing show, and I felt so privileged to catch Vedder and co. towards the beginning of a tour with fresh legs.
The show itself started 45 minutes late as we were all wondering how on Earth an opening band could delay the main event for so long. As it turned out, there was NO opening band as Pearl Jam approached the stage with minimal effects and maximum fanfare. “Light,” “light bulbs,” and “lightning” were ever present on the stage as lighting effects which were obvious references to their upcoming album Lightning Bolt, but what I wasn’t expecting was the maximum energy being exerted and sustained by Pearl Jam and Vedder himself for the duration of a three hour show. As soon as they came out, everyone stood up and no one sat down until the last encore was taken. What follows is an incomplete set list for the evening: just a few notables and moments my girlfriend, Cat and I found most interesting.
Pearl Jam started out with a song from the new album called “Pendulum” which would be one of the slower numbers in comparison to the rest of the evening and followed up with “Low Light” from the Yield album of 1998. Both songs set the mood right away and allowed the audience to ease into the concert.
Then came “Sometimes” (No Code, 1996) and “Corduroy” (Vitalogy, 1994) and anyone could clearly see Eddie was really starting to shift gears to a whole new level. The dial was set immediately to 9 and Eddie toasts wine to the crowd. But then another new song from Lightning Bolt strikes with “Mind Your Manners” (the first release off said album) and pushes that dial to 10 with the evening’s first really good, fever-pitched, song.
“Do the Evolution” (Yield, 1998) was the first of many sing-a-longs where Eddie was both pushing and feeding off of the crowd’s energy. I particularly enjoyed my girlfriend’s own participation as her enthusiasm easily conducted to my own. Eddie takes another moment to speak to Buffalo, gives another toast and promises that Pearl Jam would start pacing themselves because at this point it would’ve been invonceivable for the intensity to get any higher.
“Immortality” (Vitalogy, 1994) is one of my girlfriend’s favorite songs and according to her is “not one of their standard grunge rock” and “more of a ballad.” It’s the kind of song that reached fans and non-fans due to it peaking at #10 on the billboard mainstream rock charts at that time in history.
“Sirens,” another new release from Lightning Bolt was my personal favorite for the entire evening which is a much more intimate song with mellow tones and on the opposite end of the style spectrum from “Mind Your Manners.” My girlfriend notes how this song indicates how wide the scope of this new album will wind up being.
“Once,” from PJ’s debut album Ten was a full blown love fest that got the whole crowd singing with Eddie and sometimes tagging him out all together. All the fans know the old songs and to many, PJ’s first album still happens to be the best.
The evening goes on a bit more with a relentless barrage of song after song, when Eddie takes another time out to talk about one of his mentors, Neil Young, and the story of how the song “I Got Shit” was created. This got a good laugh from the crowd as he proceeded to play “I Got Shit” (Merkin Ball, 1995) which is another of Cat’s favorite songs which once again reached popularity on several ratings charts from the mid 90s.
The first encore started with Eddie addressing the audience very intimately as he thanked us all for the great energy he was receiving from the audience which, according to Cat (who was present the last time they came to Buffalo), was most certainly a vast improvement! Vedder always tries to personalize shows to the community he’s in and mentioned how the Sabres insignia was one of the coolest looking hockey logos around – which naturally got a rise from the audience.
Pearl Jam proceeds with “Off He Goes” (No Code, 1996) which Eddie describes as a song about what happens when you don’t get enough time at home. Is this perhaps a self portrait? Is this merely the price one pays for fortune and glory?
Vedder then takes another pause with the audience to share how his youngest daughter scored her first goal in soccer that day and that while he felt really bad about missing it, the crowd’s good energy and a good show so far certainly made him feel better. It really makes you feel for talented entertainers whose professions require them to be on the global move because their art is a double edged sword of success: passion & price. Vedder follows that statement with “Future Days,” another new song from Lightning Bolt which was a perfect bookend to that moment.
Eddie then made a very nice gesture to the ¼ of the arena that was seated behind the band for the entire evening thus far by playing “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” (Vs., 1993). It was another high energy, high participation song and a nice reward for a lot of people that got some pretty crappy seats, but it really made me wonder why the First Niagara Center would be so greedy to sell those seats in the first place. Sure, it gave a bunch of people an opportunity to see the show at all, but I really hoped they paid a fraction of the price.
The second encore had Eddie talking to the audience about what the proper nomenclature is for describing a native of Buffalo, NY. “Are you a Buffalonian? A Buffaloite? (Jeff interjects a Bison?).” At this point, Vedder mentions that his favorite person from Buffalo is Vincent Gallo. (Sigh) I give the man a slight pass for the simple fact that Gallo is probably the only person Eddie Vedder has ever met from Buffalo. Some people really dig Gallo’s experimental art, but I don’t care one little bit for the film Gallo is most known for in Buffalo ’66. I haven’t seen a more depressing, self-absorbed, narrative on film that quite honestly, couldn’t paint Western New York in worse light. Perhaps Vedder was unaware that the classy Gallo sells his own sperm on the merchandising link of his own website vincentgallo.com? I could go on and on, but that’s a whole other article.
Vedder follows that particular failed attempt at personalizing to the crowd (because the Gallo reference got zero reaction from anyone but me) with “Go” (Vs., 1993).
The show wrapped up around 11pm without an appearance form the standard “Yellow Ledbetter” and instead closed with a cover of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” (Teenage Wasteland). This is Eddie’s regular tambourine-smashing act that had as much energy (if not more) than he had at 8:30.
This was an amazing show to experience and that’s coming from a non Pearl Jam acolyte. My girlfriend Cat had a wonderful time as she was moving and clapping to the music all evening. She made specific note of how this was a much better show than the last one she witnessed in Buffalo. As an additional side note, the interactive scenery that deployed from above the stage at various times during the show was a little atypical for Pearl Jam. It involved a tiered string of rustic-style light bulbs that seemed to evoke some kind of Tesla imagery for obvious reasons. Eddie and the rest of the band played with them regularly as they would be lowered so close to the stage that any of them could bat them around with their hands or their guitars. Cat predicts that Vedder will most certainly shatter one of them before the North American tour is done.
Even if you aren’t a fan of Pearl Jam, but like good rock music performed live, do your best to get some tickets for the Lightning Bolt Tour.