Flannel over shirts, the tousled ‘I forgot to shower yet that only makes me cooler’ style, and Nirvana and Pearl Jam: defining factors of cool in the early nineties. Nearly a decade later Nirvana’s front man has committed suicide, flannel shirts have been secured to a dark corner of the closet, and people again believe that showering is necessary; the early 90s lifestyle seems to have all but disappeared. Yet, the week of July 7th 2003, Pearl Jam still had the prowess to sell out two back-to-back concerts at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
For an alternative band to withstand the bubblegum pop princess era it takes more than a striking albeit dirty front man and some lucky breaks; it takes a band like Pearl Jam. On July 8th and July 9th, Pearl Jam was able to integrate modern urban styles with their alternative tracks making for quite an exciting two nights.
July 8th’s lineup had all the ingredients for an amazing show right up to the more than 14,000 dollar price fined unto Pearl Jam for playing past the 11:30 or so Madison Square Garden ‘get off the stage’ deadline. A guest appearance in the first encore by underground hero Ben Harper during “Daughter”/”With My Own Two Hands” and a follow-up appearance in the second encore during “Indifference” led some fans to tears of excitement, and others into a land of ‘chill music’ bliss. The set-list spanned a majority of their 7 albums over the past decade and included: “Love Boat Captain,” “Last Exit,” “Save You,” “Green Disease,” while the first encore contained: “You Are,” “Thumbing My Way”, “Daughter/With My Own Two Hands” featuring Ben Harper, “Crown Of Thorns,” “Breath,” “Better Man,” “Do The Evolution” and the second encore concluded with: “Crazy Mary,” “Indifference” with Ben Harper, “Sonic Reducer” with Tony from the Buzzcocks, “Baba O’Riley,” and “Yellow Ledbetter.” Lights went up throughout the Garden during Vedders “shoutout” to Pete Townsend with an alterna-rendition of The Who’s “Baba O’Rielly”, allowing each fan to view the excitement of their fellow Pearl Jam fanatics each throwing 10 fingers up in the air in honor of PJ’s first album: Ten. The night ended with front man Vedder kissing bassist Jeff Ament’s forehead due to both his astonishment at the crowds vigor and enthusiasm, and the three bottles of wine consumed on stage shared amongst the band members throughout the span of the show.
With July 8th’s rampantly invigorating show a mere memory, fans were questioning whether Vedder and his boys could possibly enlighten them any further with even better live music; yet July 9th’s music did not prove resilient when compared to its previous night predecessor. With fewer Pearl Jam old time favorites, (no “Better Man,” no “Daughter”) and no guest appearance, it was purely raw Pearl Jam, which is by no means unfortunate; yet, it doesn’t live up to the high expectations set forth by the previous night. Highlighting the evening was an alternative-enthusiast pleasing rendition of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World,” which was accompanied by, among others: “Corduroy,” “Red Mosquito,” “Dissident,” and “I Am Mine.” Pearl Jam’s midsummer night concerts in the city were a dream indeed for loyal fans.
Archived article by Samantha Sichel