TwoFeetThick @ EV Nashville 2

by Kathy Davis on June 20, 2009

June 18th, Nashville TN. EV Solo Night 2. Normally I’m one of those people who prints out and carries the venue seating chart around in my purse on show day.  I thought since I had been to the Ryman the night before, I didn’t need it, I knew where MF7 was. I was thinking, “okay, the front sections on the floor are MF1,2,3 and the way the floor fans out a bit, the back sections of the floor are MF 4,5,6,7, so I’m in the back of the floor in row V. V for Vedder. Works for me.

So a ticket comes my way that was closer to the front of  section MF7, and I was happy to be closer to the front of my back section of the floor.  I show the ticket to the usher and said “I know where it is, no worries”,  she said “you need to follow the wall and go down there”, pointing me to close to the front.  I figured okay, that’s the only way to this seat, whatever usher lady.  The front of house usher takes me down to my MF-7 row C #2 seat. In the second row.  On Mike’s side. (We all do that don’t we? No matter what show we go to, if we’re talking to a Pearl Jam person, if we say ‘we’re on Mike’s side’ everyone knows what that means, even if Mike isn’t there. Stage right, to the left of Ed as we look at him.)  I said “Um…this is MF-7? Row C?”  “Yes ma’am.”  I just sat down, put my head on my knees and laughed.  Inconceivable.  There isn’t a bad seat in the Ryman, but to sit in the second row and clearly see the denim blue of Ed’s eyes, well…the blessing of being close isn’t lost on me.  Deep gratitude to the powers that be for making that happen.

But enough of that. I got over the shock and enjoyed the hell out of Liam Finn once again (I never grow tired of him and EJ); he played many new songs and has such firey energy and passion, it’s a hoot and a half to watch.  Instruments falling over and missteps are easily forgiven because he’s just too much fun, and the Ryman crowd was very much on his side.

Showtime.  The Harvest Gold-colored curtain drawn in place after Liam’s set ended was  pulled open, “Tuolumne” starts up once again, and Ed’s little cocoon of suitcases, circle of stringed instruments and stool ready and waiting. I tried to drink in as much as I could before the man walked out, and noticed the picture of  Indian Chief Bear’s Belly (go to my notes from last tour from San Diego 1  for more on this) on Ed’s side table, another setlist written in calligraphy

thanks to 100pacer from the Message Pit

thanks to 100pacer from the Message Pit

on the black brightly lit music stand, a little shallow wooden bowl that may or may not have been in the shape of a guitar (it could have been a pineapple?).  Water and the cranberry colored liquid.  Amongst the stringed instruments was a banjo.  ‘Different stuff tonight – different songs -oooooo!’ I thought.

Out comes our boy in gray cords, gray CBGB’s shirt, blue/white/yellow plaid long-sleeved flannel. Shite kickers again – those boots are made for stomping.  What  a surprise it was to hear “Far Behind” start the set!  I so dig Ed using his feet as an instrument; the stomping that accompanies the guitar interlude  before “subtle voices in the wind”.  It’s just such a neat way to accent the crescendo of the song by intensifying the stomp volume as the guitar builds and rises up with Ed and the crowd singing “watch me leave it all behind!”

White Fender on, sleeves of flannel rolled up.  “Brain Damage” – in case it hasn’t been said before, this is what part of the Pink Floyd song Ed sings:

The lunatic is in my head.
The lunatic is in my head
You raise the blade, you make the change
You re-arrange me ’til I’m sane.
You lock the door
And throw away the key
There’s someone in my head but it’s not me.

And in case you didn’t know, the song is the one that contains the line “see you on the dark side of the moon.”  It’s a nice little intro to “Sometimes”.  For some reason, I noticed the lighting tonight – interesting what the mind does on the second show of a mini-run.  Four red lights shone down from the bank of lights suspended across the back of the stage to shine on the brick walls of the alleyway backdrop and give the stage a warm glow. I get a kick out of the table behind Ed center stage, on which sits his Into The Wild Golden Globe statue, old Frogs-gifted bat wings  jutting out either side of the award, and how the whole thing is wrapped in a black T-shirt.

A lovely moment invited us all to the party after Ed sang  “sometimes I reach to myself – here god” – he added “you must be here god”, and “invited the congregation” to sing, conducting us in with a raise and nod of his head to sing a reprise of ”Sometimes”  ”seek my part….devote myself…” all the way to the end of the song.  We waivered just a wee bit by the time we got to the “Sometimes I know, sometimes I rise” section, but he only had to give us a quiet word or two to get us back on track.  A lovely way to bond us all.

As a singer myself who had trouble remembering lyrics when I was fronting my band back in the day and ALSO used lyric sheets on occasion,  I am completely in favor of Ed’s lyric sheets and thank him for validating my own need for them. I can remember words to his songs, but not my own.  The one he uses  for “Sometimes”  is the best!  After the song ended he moved it to the floor to his right facing out so it was right in front of me, propped on a monitor.  Yay! Yeah, I’m gonna go there.   The white computer-typed sheet is taped to a panel of an empty beverage box (could it be the other part of the hollowed out Corona box that he has on stage? Am I taking it too far noticing that?).  About 1/2″ roman letters that read like this:

KNOW            RISE

FALL           DON’T

CRINGE        LOVE

WALK          KNEEL

SPEAK

Acoustic guitar is put on silently - I believe the crisp clean sound comes from a Takamine, but it very well could be a Martin.  Ed not speaking gave some in the crowd license to fill the silence – and they were immediately shushed by fellow audience members.  It’s nice that others in the crowd don’t want the distraction either.   ”Girl From The North Country” is a pleasant enough tune – not a fave, decently received.  More shushing before “I Am Mine”.  There are a couple of banks of lights across the bottom rear of the stage to light the backdrops from underneath, and orange gels warmed the stage with a sunset-y glow during the song.  Again, Ed’s gift for casting his gaze out  to connect with the crowd mesmerized me. Verse 2, the balcony got the laser-beam focus, from Ed’s left to his right, then the main floor was similarly bathed.  I Am Mine, and you are yours, but we are together now - communicated with his gaze.   You know what?  Our singer can play the hell out of that acoustic.  The strumming is viciously precise, one of Ed’s feet leaving the floor and remaining elevated to give the guitar a leg up while he attacks the solo with Townsend- like speed and ferocity.  It builds and builds and the crowd is drawn out into cheers as Ed launches into “and the feelings that gets left behind”.  At this stage of the game, there is no need to hide that I’ve been to enough PJ and Ed shows to know Ed’s body language on stage pretty well, and I find it endearing when he bungles a lyric - he closes his eyes and raises his eyebrows, and sometimes throws his head back.  We got all of that toward the end of I Am Mine, something was slightly off.  Who cares though?  When he’s wrong he’s right, I say.

The little Martin guitar made an appearance next – its rich, trebley sound adding a bit of majesty to the finger-picked notes of “I’m Open”, which Ed introduced with ”This is appropriate in a church.”   Story time after, begun with ”I went to church once”, to much laughter.  Ed smiled big, mock-chiding us for not believing him.

He told us when he was 12 or 13, in San Diego, he’d “just got a guitar”…and of course since it was quiet when he paused the story, crowd-yelling leaked through the pores.  “Church story…am I boring you? I don’t have to tell it…”  He spun away from his crowd, and I think he was just going to start the next song , but plenty of emphatic “NO!”‘s encouraged Ed to continue - it seems that he got that some of us were frustrated too.  He added “If someone next to you yells out something stupid, just hit them in the face.”   Funny, but point made.  Ed assured us that if we did hit someone, and there was a legal case made against us,  he’d hold a benefit concert for our defense.  He continued the story, mentioning that he was taking guitar lessons after he first got the guitar, and some broad in the balcony yelled “I love you” or something and Ed blurted “see-someone hit her.”  More laughter.  He pressed on, talking of his guitar teacher being a mean fucker who “would only teach me barre chords, but thank god” he did because it meant I could play “every Ramones song”.  (Barre chords are the ones where the index finger goes across the fretboard and the other fingers make the chord).

So some family member got Ed and others to go to church, and in the back of the pews was a chord book. He reminisced about looking through the book and seeing the fret box patterns with all these “open boxes”, talking about how incredulous he was at the time to discover that you could get the same notes as complex barre chords waaaaay easier.  Having small hands and being a typical kid he was “looking for the easy way out, so I have to” confess in these hallowed walls that I “stole that (chord) book from the church…so I hereby repent.”

For some reason, I noticed the mother-of-pearl inlay around the sound hole right before he launched into “Man Of The Hour.”  Ed seemed to be in some sort of zen space during the song; I noticed his eyes were closed during the intro…then the first verse…then the first chorus.  I like how after he delivered the line “goodbye for now”, he just strummed a final chord at the same time and ended the song instead of playing the outro.

White Fender back on; Ed told us “I got some good news today – that’s very unusual, you know the feeling.”  He explained that for the last 10 years he’d been involved in helping to free the West Memphis Three, and had gotten to know one of the defendants very well, Damien Echols. “In order to dedicate 10 years” to a cause, “you’d have to be pretty” well-informed about it  (in other words he would support the cause if he wasn’t convinced of the boys’ innocence).   He continued telling us that he’d be going to be able to go see Damien while he was in the area, and for the first time it would be a contact visit.  He said the Three’s plight was a “dire situation” and the news was welcomed – “not that we’re gonna hold hands or anything” though that “probably will happen” - and that past visits were “difficult with glass between them.”

Our singer introduced the appropriately timed “Dead Man” saying it was from a film about someone who did do it. Opening chord:  clunker. Without missing a beat, Ed said “That in itself was a crime.” Pure comedy. Second attempt, second bungle.  He mentally rehearsed, announcing “I think I got it.”  And he did.  After “cast a shadow”, eyes were closed and red lights bathed the stage.  The dimness for me served to highlight the fact that the light attached to Ed’s setlist music stand is remarkably bright, almost distractingly so.

Backdrop of “behind the stage prop flats” is pulled across, and Ed tried to introduce the next song, explaining this is a song from another movie, and paused, forgetting the film, and hearing the strums prior it was clear it was “No Ceiling”, so I said “Into The Wild” (come on, somebody hit me in the face!) and a couple of other people did, and I forget Ed’s words but I know he laughed at himself.  I do enjoy how his guitar finger-picking over verse 1 accentuates the gentleness of “there’s nothing left to be concealed.” It felt exposed, like Chris McCandless’ imagined thoughts.  Maybe I think about it too much. (YOU THINK?)

“Guaranteed” is so tenderly delivered that crowd singing is that much more obvious, and the song is definitely a favorite; the cheek-raising smile confirmed that he liked our vocal accompaniment.  My favorite part though is when Vedward urgently delivers the line “I’m alive” with a dramatic flair that elicits instant applause.   Mandolin put on next, and a few shouts, this time it seemed to be mostly song titles. “Ledbetter” was particularly loud and obvious, and Ed told us that we should know him well enough at this point to know I “don’t respond well to authority” and that he certainly doesn’t respond to people “yelling at me.”  It was funny.  He explained that it must be an inherited trait because my “ffffffffffucking little daughter is the same way.”  Obstinate, and if you tell me to do something, “I’m going to do the opposite”. Those F’s werent a typo btw, he drew out the “f” sound like that because I think he didn’t want to say the “f” word and refer to his daughter in the same sentence. But it still made us all laugh.  He addressed the crowd again after someone called out “I love you!”, saying “I love you too but you always hurt the ones you love and I’m about to want to hurt you.”

The man pressed on, fingers on fretboard, ready to play, then Ed realized with an “Oh” and by showing it to us that he needed a special pick for the mandolin.  “Rise” does indeed rise, and no more so than when Ed expertly strums the song out, swaying beautifully in his seat back and forth with the rhythm of the strums.  He seemed as carried away by it as we were. After, Ed pulled out the tululele (the uke shaped like a Fender guitar), but spoke a minute about his pal the mandolin, and how the being where they were, he’d never seen so many of them in his life. He reiterated the story from the night before about going to Gruhn’s guitars and seeing tons of mandolins and that they were “fucking expensive” instruments, and “this one is kind of a cheap date” so “I’m gonna stick with the cheap date.” I focused on the tululele of course, and noticed that there is a Hawaii sticker below the lower string pegs and an arrow drawn on the white scratch plate pointing toward the sound hole. Ah, the blessings of sitting close. Of course, had I not been close I’d have been looking at it with binocs anyway.  Me = needs professional help.  “Soon Forget” was well-delivered – do I detect a lyric sheet? Ed paused after the line “we’re all whistling” and many people immediately did so, and he let it continue for a bit, even joining in, smiling broadly.

Harmonica on for “Driftin’” and “Hide Your Love”. More red lights warming the stage,  and a silly pause toward the end of  “Hide You Love” when Ed said, exasperated, “I forgot the fucking chord!”  After the tune, a fun admission from our man: “You haven’t lived until you’ve played the Ryman” and gotten “your beard stuck in the harmonica” holder.  He related also that he’d been having “hair issues” lately, maybe it was just a “bad haircut”…and “I feel a mohawk coming on.” (To which I say “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!”)

“Wishlist” sure has a different treatment in this solo setting. Much faster, Ed stomping his foot from the get-go and the crowd clapping along right away. I like.  More hilarity, this one time-release formula style after the next song began – Ed told us about how the night before there was a woman sitting in the orchestra pit doing sign language, and that he was really hoping she’d be here again tonight because he was “dying to see her do this one.” And he launched into “Lukin.”

Lights up, and the electric back on.  The  guitar intro to the next song establishes the rhythm, and only a hint of what is to be coming with I think four bars, each one with Ed playing a longer preview of the full intro and stopping with tuneless stratching the strings to create the rhythm of the song. By the time Ed starts the full guitar intro of “Porch” , the place erupts.  It’s so fun as Ed lets out a bit more of the song with each pass through, and people get what it is and one by one start standing up, unable to stand it anymore and having to rock out.  Self included.  And DAMNIT if Ed’s virtuosity doesn’t come through again as he played the solo with such expertise and passion that those that were still seated when it started were definitely standing when it was through and singing the final “Hear my name.”  When we are all letting it out at the top of our lungs “touch you-hold you-feel you ever hold…. ever again…”, there is no better communion with congregation and celebrant.  He had us, and we had him.

Main set over at 9:56:55.  Ed back on at 9:59:29. I know the millesecond, because there was a giant red led clock mounted on the wall above monitor goddess Karrie Keyes offstage that I could see perfectly from my seat.  Ed said on his return “What can I say but thank you very much. I’d never been in the Ryman until yesterday and it feels like home.”  He said he was hanging around with a friend of his, a local who took him around the nooks and crannies of the auditorium, even into the attic. He reiterated about the picture of Minnie Pearl in the dressing room, and how she looked “outrageously hot”, and a couple of people yelled “Howwwwdeeee!” which was her signature introduction line.  I’m old enough to remember her (she passed on in 1996) and laughed (and, guilty pleasure, I used to watch syndicated U.S. TV show Hee Haw every Saturday night), as did Ed.   He intimated that later he would be doing one for her, saying her real name “Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon.”

Time for encores, time for duets; Ed told us that after someone like Sean Penn comes into your life, it “morphs into a life that was much more exciting than the life you had” before, finding yourself paddling down the Colorado River and meeting amazing people.  He introduced “Society” songwriter, Marin County California’s Jerry Hannan who took the stage with a humble gait, head slightly down.  When he sat, the looked at one another, and I think they discussed “who’s got the solo” since the night before each thought the other had it. Jerry would be the one. He took the first verse and chorus, Ed took the second, and Ed ended the song by holding the “me” in without me in a nice long sustain over their mutual strumming.

Liam Finn is brought on next for “Throw Your Arms Around Me”, and Ed teased him saying they’d played a lot of these shows over the past year or so and tonight was the first time that he “fucked up more than I did” but “let’s sing it to the summer sky, yeah?”  Liam took verse one, and Ed had a leg up off the floor again, before verse 2, very into the strumming. Number of places kissed tonight:  165.  Eliza Jane Barnes is next for “Golden State”, and there was some talk about her being the only female presence onstage that led her to say she “has multiple husbands”, to which Ed replied “Big Love in reverse.”  (You know that’s the HBO series about a polygamist husband, right?)  Ed reminded us that the song has an intro that sounds like another song, but isnt’ that song – he plays the intro to “Setting Forth” before Golden State, because he confessed yesterday he couldn’t learn the Golden State intro and the Setting Forth one fit in.

Story time again, this one about local boys Kings Of Leon.  Ed told of him hanging out with them after Bonnaroo last year, and how the boys have this property, and a little house that their cousin takes care of, a pretty good chunk of land. Ed was there, the boys, their girlfriends, their Mom…but he and the boys were tipping a few, and indulging in “assorted”  things. He spoke of getting pretty over-indulged, and one of the boys asking Ed, “You ever shoot skeet?”  “No.”  The singer mentioned that he’s not one for guns, but that he has actually shot a handgun before, because he used to be a security guard. People laughed, and Ed smiled and said “why is that fucking funny?” that I used to do that job, or that I shot a handgun?  He talked of how shooting the gun to get the gun license meant the difference between making $8 an hour vs. $6 an hour, so he got the license.    Story continues with Ed setting up hanging out with these guys, out on the open land, middle of summer heat with their white tank tops and tight skinny jeans and pointy boots and how he’s even played basketball with them and they still rock those outfits and are “committed to that shit.” So elaborate setup of skeet apparatus ensues, all gather, Ed there with a rifle with Followills and family in a half circle behind him. Illustrating the imbibement of “the assortment”, Ed says he is glad he has his guitar to simulate holding a rifle.  He sways drunkenly to show us how well the “assortment” of substances was helping his aim – not.  The three skeet “cylinders” are released, Ed tries to fire and misses one after the other after the other.  A committee of brothers and cousin start advising him…”don’t shoot all 3″ just wait and aim, “close one eye” and other suggestions.   So three more clay skeet discs are loaded, Ed takes aim… and “that thing fucking exPLODed” everywhere – to much whooping and hollering from us and doubtless Followills as well. The punchline – “there were skinny jeans and pointy boots flying everywhere” had me rolling.  A catchphrase we will be throwing out whenever we want a chuckle.   Ed said it proves he should just stick with “competitive axe throwing.”  And into “Small Town” he went.

This song is so special live for me on so many levels.  Having seen lots of shows since 1992, I’ve heard it a lot and I’ve seen the joy it elicits on people’s faces and heard the eruption of recognition when it starts.  I cry pretty much every time the crowd, the entire crowd nearly to a person sings out with abandon, “I just want to scream HELLO” and the rest of that verse. A lovely couple up in the balcony, arms around one another, swaying, “my god it’s been to long, never dreamed you’d return”, arms out as they expressively serenaded Ed with his own song.  I tear up as I type…it’s just a gift to see a singer who elicits this focused joy and freedom of spirit.  You know the feeling. The “fade away” at the end of the song is repeated a few extra times

Acoustic guitar with open split at the tuning pegs, again I think it’s the Takamine, is put on, and YES! I get a chill as I realize, it’s the new song “The End.”  Beautifully delivered. Horribly sad, but just lovely.  Lyrics:

What were all those plans we made many years ago
What were all those dreams we shared, now left beside the road?
Behind us in the road?
More than friends I always pledged cause friends they come and go
People change as does everything I wanted to grow old
I just want to grow old.

Slide up next to me  I’m just a human being
I will take the blame – But just the same
This is not me – You see – Believe
I’m better than this don’t leave me so cold
I’m buried beneath the stones
I just want to hold on
And not let your love… enough

I don’t think there’s such a thing

It’s my fault now having caught a sickness in my bones
How it pains to leave you here with the kids on your own
Just don’t let me go – Hell has seen my cell
Cause I can no longer tell Looking out from inside
The bottom of a well – It’s hell – I yell
But no one hears before I disappear – Whisper in my ear
Give me something – Echoing my  unknown future (scene)
My dear -The end -Comes near – I’m here
But not much longer….

‘Nuff said?

Seeing Ed solo is an unparalleled spiritual experience. Seeing him in a building as historically important to music as the Ryman Auditorium adds another intense layer to that.   To be in the room to witness Ed channel the energies that radiate from the walls of the former church was life changing.  There is no better vehicle for Ed’s musical gifts than “Arc”, and loop after loop of gorgeous chants proved this. The song lifted me up, Ed extending it to 5 minutes.  How can I be so lucky?

And still we get one more.  Where I was sitting, I enjoyed the dawn of recognition on Ed’s face when a lovely blonde woman holding a lovely blonde girl sauntered to the front, as people seem to do for “Hard Sun”,  and Ed saw them.   He smiled hugely, and told us “I met a girl yesterday” in the cutest way.  He told us her name was Lilly, and she gave him a beautiful picture that she had drawn.  I read Lilly’s mom’s post on the message pit saying that she has been drawing for 5 of her 10 years!  Edasked Lilly if she wanted to come up and help Ed with the song.  She nodded, and the adorable girl was directed over to the 4 track reel-to-reel. Ed told her to push the button, and she said “this one?” pointing; he nodded, she pushed it and the backing tape started.   He had Lilly sit down in the plastic chair made of two giant feet, and she sat down, looking like we all felt -that she was the luckiest girl on the planet!  She had the most gorgeous, radiant smile.  Ed sings the first verse at the center stage microphone, and the second at a mike stage left (our right).  Lilly was right behind him, and after the verse he pulled the mic and stand back, told her to stand on the chair, and the two of them sung the chorus together.  She had been singing along before that, and the two of them on the mic was that much more adorable. 

Pure joy. Thank you for reading this. I know it’s a bit of a slog through the muck of my mind at the show, but I appreciate having a place to share.  

Kathy Davis ( Twitter: @CrookedArm23 )
A Bay-Area based entrepreneur, co-editor Kathy conceives and writes her share of TFT’s articles and sections. She was co-editor/co-founder of one of the first Pearl Jam fanzines "Footsteps" (1992-1997). Kathy’s first Pearl Jam show was at the Bridge School Benefit on November 1, 1992.

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