Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Live Alive: Pearl Jam

While some bands quickly become one-trick ponies, incapable of altering the formula that brought them initial success, Pearl Jam has given the finger and shown that their fans deserve more than just the same old approach. Each and every album within the Pearl Jam catalogue has its own distinct flavor and amazingly, not one of them taints a musical reputation, any other 80’s or 90’s band has been able to achieve.

I don’t care if Papa Roach and Linkin Park sold a gazillion albums, and neither do they nor their fans. They have always walked to the beat of their drum and have often treaded in dangerous waters simply for the sake of honesty and artistic integrity. You simply don’t take on Ticket Master if you want people to see you. Well that’s exactly what they did. After this band found out that the monopolizing giant had added service charges to their show tickets, they canceled the summer tour and boycotted the company in protest.

That’s because this band comes alive when they’re live. They look up to the Who and Led Zeppelin who knew what it meant to deliver live. They are known for giving two encores and for some of those encores to be longer than some concerts from the likes of mega stars that didn’t have enough Fiji Water to feed their egos.

I’ve been to three Pearl Jam shows and though that may not seem like a lot, please take into account that I’m not filthy rich, that I live in Puerto Rico and that I need to invest some serious cash each and every time I’ve seen them live. By the way, each experience has not only been worth every penny; they have EACH succeeded in exceeding my expectations and have humbled me as a fan and more than once I’ve found myself torn between doing a Garth and shrieking I’m not worthy and just crying out of sheer joy.

When you think of Pearl Jam live, you need to take into account that they have what they call “two shirt nights”, where so much sweat has bled on stage that they need to change outfits just to not risk electrocution. Hell, when they have back to back nights, it’s a wonder they shower at all.

That’s why they’re my favorite band in the world. They know what they mean to their fans and they always strive to go further. They are not complacent in their relationship and constantly do things that in the short and long run will reward fans of all ages for decades to come. When you look to comparisons, you just need to look back and see the following for bands like The Who or The Grateful Dead. If you’ve ever heard the stories, you know that those fans can get a bit raucous to say the least, which is funny because being one of the Ten Clan, I can tell you that it’s an experience worth living to be in the crowd when the band is blazing through “Do the Evolution” and suddenly all lights come on and the entire crowd chants hallelujah in the über cynical ode to our wanting evolutionary cycle.

You see while religious types have church to go to, real fans have a travelling church, and in the case of Pearl Jam, it’s almost a circus. Plus, make sure to get there early because surprises tend to happen at Pearl Jam shows. Eddie comes out to play a three song acoustic set or he jams with the opening band or special guests make a special appearance truly making the word special mean something for a change. You are the fan and they are playing for you. Not twelve songs. Not Fifteen. Normally sets range upwards of 26 songs and you can bet your butt that they’re exhausted, but that doesn’t mean they won’t finish a concert with Baba O’Reilly, Porch, or Rocking in the Free World.

That’s another thing. Covers played by artists are rarely as special as the original, but with Pearl Jam, you have versions of Baba, Reign O’er Me, Crazy Mary, Masters of War, Rocking in the Free world and countless others that truly give the original a run for their money, live. You could say that such a feat says something about a band, but I disagree… I think it says everything about a band.

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