Live At Soldier Field

by George Reilly on February 3, 2004

What would it take to approach Pearl Jam about turning their legendary July 11, 1995, Soldier Field, Chicago show into a colored, double-LP, limited edition release for fans? That was the question that Alex Luke at St. Louis FM Station 105.7 KPNT “The Point” was asking. The concert was the first of the tour where Pearl Jam’s set was broadcast by Monkeywrench Radio, and Pearl Jam along with Alex Luke thought it would be a great opportunity to release the show for the fans. Icing on the cake was that it was the longest concert Pearl Jam had ever performed at that time. This artifactor takes a look at the end result of an far-fetched idea that became a reality.

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Front Cover

Front Cover

In late 1996 – over a year after the show itself – The Point, Vintage Vinyl and Reel George Productions issued Spin the Black Circle / Live at Soldier Field in two formats: Double Vinyl in gatefold packaging, and a 2-CD set in jewel case. Both items have serial number “VV000001″ (“VV” for Vintage Vinyl) and were each produced in quantities of 530 units. At a time when bootlegs were expensive, risky and unofficial, this release was free, soundboard-quality, and official. Official? Sony/Epic did not officially release this, so “endorsed by the band” might be a better way to put it.

George Gimarc of Reel George Productions, who produced Spin The Black Circle/Live at Soldier Field, put it best when he said that this release was basically “the band bootlegging the bootleggers.” It was a way for Pearl Jam along with The Point and nearby St. Louis record shop Vintage Vinyl to give away a beautifully packaged soundboard recording of the Soldier Field show. Pearl Jam was thrilled with the fact that a double LP on marbled colored vinyl would be one of the formats being produced along with the double CD set.

Spin the White Circle

Spin the White Circle

Production started in August of 1996, right around the time Pearl Jam’s forth studio album No Code had been released. George Gimarc was sent a tape entitled “Monkeywrench Radio Live” from Pearl Jam, and he began to put the show into production. There were to be about 500 double CD sets and 500 double vinyl sets to be produced. The order was placed for 550 of the vinyl sets to be pressed, and in the end a total of 530 or so were made. Originally, the records were supposed to be manufactured with a white swirl on clear vinyl, exhibiting a “pearly” look. However, after the pressing company ran out of the color that was picked, they took it upon themselves to press the music onto a toothpaste-green marbled vinyl.

Gatefold Sleeve

Gatefold Sleeve

All artwork and design was done by Bobby Greeson. The artwork on the front of the packaging, which wraps around to the back on the LP jacket is a nice prism-like color blend with bold black text along with little Pearl Jam caricatures popping through stars. If the caricatures look familiar, it is because they were taken from an old cartoon style t-shirt. The gatefold packaging opens up to a nice black and white photo of rock-n-roll nick-naks and Pearl Jam memorabilia: a guitar (Mike’s?), a few guitar picks, guitar strings, a bottle of something, an ash tray, a set list (which is not in Ed’s handwriting) and a folded up Mookie Blaylock t-shirt.

Over top of the photo, the liner notes reiterate the grass-roots approach to the production of the release:

“Thanks to Lou Prinz & “Pappa” Ray at Vintage Vinyl, Alex Luke (who actually got it) at KPNT, Reel George, Bobby Greeson, Leslie Connaly, Tracy Munoz, Steve Powell and special thanks to the nameless and anonymous members of Pearl Jam and Sony/Epic who allowed us to avoid the lawyers and get this done for the fans.”

To promote the release, there were 700 posters printed out of Colby Poster (www.colbyposter.com) in Los Angeles, CA to accompany the release of Spin The Black Circle/Live at Soldier Field. They have the exact same artwork as the CD and LP packaging. You can see one of these posters pinned on a telephone poll on the back of the CD insert (shown to the right). The back of the CD insert also shows a scene of Chicago at dusk along superimposed with two fans wearing Pearl Jam shirts, presumably the same Mookie Blaylock shirt that is folded up in the gatefold photo and the cartoon shirt used to design the cover artwork. The LP jackets and CD liners were printed at Dorado Press, San Fernando, CA (http://www.doradopress.com).

Back of CD

Back of CD

On October 8, 1996 the CDs were shipped, and the LPs were shipped a few weeks later. Vintage Vinyl and The Point announced that there would be a limited Pearl Jam live release, and all you had to do was drop by the record store or radio station to grab your copy, one per customer. They were mainly distributed from Vintage Vinyl, along with the posters. Fans went crazy over this and all of the vinyl and CDs expectedly disappeared rather quickly!

The odd thing about this release is the liberty taken with the songs on the discs themselves. The actual selist reads like this contains portions of the show:

Main Set First Encore Second Encore
  1. Release
  2. Go
  3. Last Exit
  4. Spin the Black Circle
  5. Tremor Christ
  6. Corduroy
  7. Whipping
  8. I Got Shit
  9. Dissident
  10. Even Flow
  11. Improv/Sick o’ Pussies
  12. Deep
  13. Jeremy
  14. Glorified G
  1. Daughter/
    (This Boy)/
    (The Real Me)/
    (W.M.A.)/
    (ABitW-II)
  2. Animal
  3. Habit
  4. Jam/Lukin
  5. Not for You
  6. Little Wing (teaser)
  7. Elderly Woman
  8. Immortality
  9. Alive
  10. Porch
  1. Everyday People
  2. Let My Love Open the Door
  3. Better Man
  4. Rearviewmirror
  5. Black
  6. Blood
  1. Yellow Ledbetter

The intro of “Release” is the song’s usual start as the calm before the storm, yielding to a flurry of heavy and mid-tempo songs including “Go”, “Whipping” and “Corduroy”. A monster “Daughter” with its four song tags(!) brings the intimacy of this stadium down to the size of a campfire. The then-new songs “Habit and “Lukin” peak the crowd’s interested before the one-two punch of “Alive” and “Porch” to end the 24-song first set. Rare covers “Everyday People” and “Let My Love Open the Door” start the heavyweight first encore, continuing with “Better Man”, “RVM”, “Black”. “Blood” ends in a snarl of drums, feedback and screaming – a sonic tempest twisting Chicago like a tornado. “Yellow Ledbetter” serves as CPR for a crowd that has witnessed the longest Pearl Jam show at the time.

In other words, Pearl Jams are masters of show flow, and this setlist is the quintessential example. It is understandable for cost and space reasons that the double-vinyl required the axe of a few songs, but the exclusion of “Release”, “Porch” and “Blood” are startling exemptions considering their positions in the setlist as show-opener and set closers. The double-CD contains some adherence to the setlist, but then somehow diverges into mid-set songs to end the set.

The LP contains portions of the show:

Side One Side Two Side Three Side Four
  1. Go
  2. Spin The Black Circle
  3. Whipping
  4. I Got Id
  5. Last Exit
  1. Daughter / WMA / ABitW
  2. Animal
  3. Elderly Woman…
  4. Alive
  1. Jeremy
  2. EvenFlow
  3. Everyday People
  4. Let My Love Open the Door
  1. Rearviewmirror
  2. Black
  3. Yellow Ledbetter

The CD includes the entire set, but takes liberties with the song order:

Disc One Disc Two
  1. Release
  2. Go
  3. Last Exit
  4. Spin the Black Circle
  5. Tremor Christ
  6. Whipping
  7. I got id
  8. even flow
  9. Deep
  10. Jeremy
  11. Glorified G
  12. Daughter
  13. Animal
  14. Habit
  15. Elderly Woman
  1. Immortality
  2. Alive
  3. Porch
  4. Everyday People
  5. Let My Love Open the Door
  6. Rearviewmirror
  7. Black
  8. Blood
  9. Yellow Ledbetter
  10. Corduroy
  11. Dissident
  12. Not For You
  13. Better Man

Now almost eight years after its initial release, collectors are having a hard time getting their hands on this rare piece. With such a limited production amount, and although it is not an official Pearl Jam release, Spin The Black Circle/Live At Soldier Field remains one of the most sought after pieces around. With such beautiful packaging and live Pearl Jam on marbled, colored vinyl, what’s not to like?

George Reilly

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