Austin City Limits Reports = PJriffic!

by Kathy Davis on October 5, 2009

First, you cry:  How could Pearl Jam perform a Jane’s Addiction song with a member of Jane’s Addiction and I not be there to see it??? Oh, the humanity!  That’s what went on in Austin, Texas on Sunday night as our boys closed out the three day Austin City Limits festival.  We’ll get to that show report in a minute; here is the TFT-style coverage of what went on deep in the heart of Texas over the weekend.  It was a PJ-filled festival with something Jam-related going on each night!

Friday night October 2nd: Ed and Kings Of Leon Our fave singer Ed Vedder got the ball rolling with dual tambourines keeping his hands busy as he joined pals Kings Of Leon on the KOL tune  “Slow Night So Long”. Here’s some footage from the YouTubes:

Saturday October 3rd-Show Taping:  Pearl Jam taped a concert performance for future broadcast November 21st on the PBS Series “Austin City Limits” in front of 270 fans, friends and ”warriors”.   ::spoiler alert:: Via PJ’s Official Message Board, here is a TwitPic from NotForYou of the taping setlist:

setlist as played - may be edited for broadcast

setlist as played - may be edited for broadcast

 Also from NotForYou, here is a copy of the unique (and likely very limited edition, eh?) poster from the night of the taping: ACLTapingPosterCrop

 Our own Jessica L. was lucky enough to be in the house for the taping, and wrote about the experience on Billboard.com here - here’s a titilating excerpt – click to the article for the complete write-up.

 Eddie Vedder and bassist Jeff Ament kicked off the intimate, conversational show with quiet songs, “establishing the scene,” Vedder said, with a nod to local music (Austin songwriter Daniel Johnston‘s “Walking The Cow”). After a pair of “Backspacer” ballads — the wistful  “Just Breathe” and “The End” –  the full band rocked into the single “The Fixer.” 

Before long, Vedder and the band were riffing with the crowd as if everyone was mingling at a party rather than at the taping of a legendary TV music series. “This room is like driving an old Buick,” Vedder said with obvious affection for the 35-year-old show whose set was designated a rock landmark by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just two days ago.

The crowd, which included a large contingent of Iraq war veterans from the group Wounded Warriors invited personally by the band, participated in between-song banter that added a festive flow to the night. Vedder talked about song origins (how a Johnny Guitar Watson album cover became the song “Johnny Guitar”), goofed on guitarist Mike McCready’s spandexy 80s past, and was drawn into signing various vets’ prosthetic limbs right before doing the 60-second punk pummel of “Lukin” — with a string section instructed to play whatever they feel.

Longtime Seattle music critic Gene Stout was also in attendance at the taping; here is what he had to say about it:

Pearl Jam’s episode, which airs Nov. 21, was taped Saturday night at the historic studio, a day before the band was scheduled to close the festival with a Sunday night performance at the Livestrong stage.

I attended Saturday’s Pearl Jam taping with fewer than 400 other guests, among them actors Meg Ryan and Laura Dern. Pearl Jam rocked the house with a two-hour performance that will be edited into an hourlong show that fans won’t want to miss.

It was electric, like the group’s recent tour kickoff concert in Seattle, though far more intimate. More about the taping in a moment.

The KLRU studio was recently designated an American music landmark by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with the crossroads in Clarksdale, Miss. (the birthplace of blues), the Whisky-a-Go-Go in Los Angeles and the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, where Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens performed their last concert.

“Austin City Limits” is the longest-running music series on TV. This season, the show will feature such acts as Ben Harper and Relentless7 Oct. 10 (taped in March during the SXSW conference and festival), Kenny Chesney Oct. 17, Elvis Costello Nov. 7 and Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel Nov. 14 (commemorating the show’s first season in the mid-’70s).

The spartan KLRU studio looks like a small, college gymnasium with bleachers, a camera boom as big as a T. Rex and a backdrop of the Austin skyline behind the stage. In 2011, the program will move to a new, state-of-the-art studio in downtown Austin.

Before introducing Pearl Jam, Terry Lickona, the longtime host and producer of “Austin City Limits,” announced the evening’s special guests: a group of “Wounded Warriors” who had served in Iraq.

Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder came out first for an acoustic segment featuring “Walking the Cow” by Texas songwriter Daniel Johnston, “Just Breathe” and “The End” from the band’s new hit album, “Backspacer.”

“Does it sound right to you?” Vedder asked the audience as he fumbled with a guitar. The answer was a resounding, “Yes!”

“Well, I guess that’s what counts,” he said good-naturedly. “But I want to enjoy it too, selfishly.”

With band members Mike McCready, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, Matt Cameron and keyboardist Boom Gaspare on stage, Pearl Jam launched into a spirited set of rockers and ballads. Vedder was in a bouyant mood, telling a humorous story about Johnny “Guitar” Watson before the band played a blistering “Johnny Guitar,” also from the new album.

Vedder teased the trim and fit McCready, who once played in a glam-rock band called Shadow, saying he was the “only guy who could wear Spandex and still be baggy.”

Vedder, occasionally swigging from a bottle of red wine, was clearly pleased with the sound and vibe of the room, despite minor glitches.

“This room, it’s like driving a Buick,” he said affectionately, to hearty laughter from the audience.

Vedder was far more reverent when he talked about the Wounded Warriors.

“I consider it an honor to be able to play for you here tonight,” he said.

He then began a rambling, heartfelt monlogue about compassion and tolerance, saying, “Maybe the only thing we should be intolerant of is intolerance.”

His comments preceeded a raucous version of “Do the Evolution” that animated the entire band.

Greeting a friend from Austin in the audience, Vedder told a story of climbing the scaffolding on the Texas state capitol building during a renovation in the ’90s.

“Got Some,” from “Backspacer,” featured Cameron’s thundering drum work.

After a short break, Vedder invited Ben Harper to the stage for a wild version of “Red Mosquito,” featuring Harper on lap steel. The band roared to life for a song that will be among many highlights in the Nov. 21 episode.

It was Harper’s fourth appearance at the ACL studio; his first was with Taj Mahal years ago.

Another amazing moment was when Vedder invited the “ACL Choir,” as he called the audience, to join in on the chorus of the tender ballad “Better Man.”

Vedder joked that the studio director had offered Pearl Jam the gig as house band, and the group broke into a kind of hotel-lounge segment that brought laughter from the crowd.

The taping ended with McCready’s powerful interpretation of Jimi Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner.” The Wounded Warriors placed their right hands over their hearts, along with much of the audience. It was an amazing finale.

I couldn’t help wishing that Seattle had a music TV series like “Austin City Limits,” in light of the abundance of local talent in the Northwest and the volume of national touring acts.

A dear friend who was at the Simulcast viewing e-mailed me this lovely little detail:

EV went into the crowd during the show to sign the artificial legs of three “Wounded Warriors” — guys from Iraq who were invited there by the band.  A guy said he would “give a leg” for an EV pick and that’s what it turned out to be, so EV gave him four picks.  Mike gave his guitar away to one of the guys!  Boom was crying at an EV story about Boom watching ACL with his “pop” and how Boom said he would play the show some day…

Lastly, here are reports on the taping  from Austin Music Source’s Chad Swiatecki. First his preliminary report:

Apt words from Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder during his band’s first taping of “Austin City Limits” at the KLRU studios on the University of Texas campus. The ACL studio of course has lots of years and miles on it, while Pearl Jam now is nosing into that old guard stratum — and doing so more than comfortably if the two-hour spectacle the band put on Saturday night is any indication.

The 17 songs were, of course, kinda heavy on material from the band’s new album “Backspacer” that, while good and played with all the drive and vigor of older material, don’t feel as lived in yet. The new ballad “Just Breathe” took on warmth from the intimate setting and a string quartet led by Austin’s Will Taylor of Strings Attached (“They’re Pearl Jam for a day” Vedder wryly remarked at the start) and rockers “Johnny Guitar” and “Got Some” had all the oomph needed to make them feel at home amongst more veteran material.

An outing like this is all about the little moments and reveals afforded by a small room, and there were plenty of them: Vedder going on a well-intended but messy ramble about the human condition prior to “Do The Evolution”; Mike McCready closing a second encore with a feedback-drenched “Star Spangled Banner”; Vedder and bassist Jeff Ament opening the night with Daniel Johnston’s “Walking The Cow”; Vedder bringing Taylor and company out for the encore on a head-scratching solo run through “Lukin” with the instructions “Just play whatever you think sounds good”; touring partner Ben Harper joining the band on slide guitar for “Red Mosquito”; and turning The Police’s “Driven To Tears” into a three-guitar workout.

After teasing about becoming the ACL studio’s house band (with a 12 bar lounge jazz run from the band) it was on to straight-up classics like “Better Man” (the opening verse sung by the audience) and takes on “Porch” and Victoria Williams’ “Crazy Mary” that gave guitarists MCready and Stone Gossard plenty of time in the solo spotlight while Vedder did that stagger-bop dance thing he’s nowhere close to retiring 20 years into this whole ride.

Not that he needs to. Everything works for this band, whether writ large on an arena or festival stage or in the closed confines it took to fabulously Saturday night.

And finally, Chad sums up highlights of the taping after the dust in his mind settled a bit:

The highlights, in no particular order:

  1. The band invited several injured military veterans from the Wounded Warrior Project of San Antonio to the taping. At the start of the first encore, singer Eddie Vedder came out to do a solo take on “Lukin” (more on that in a second) but forgot a guitar pick, so he jokingly asked a nearby audience member for one of the picks guitarist Stone Gossard had passed out at the close of the first set. At this, one of several veterans in the audience with prosthetic legs shouted to Vedder, “I’ll trade you my leg for a pick!”, prompting an “are you serious?” look from Vedder. A moment later the singer was bounding across the stage, leg in hand, while gathering up a guitar pick and drum sticks from Matt Cameron’s drum kit to give to the soldier. Vedder then autographed the prosthetic and two others before telling the rest of the veterans he’d be back after the show to sign anything they wanted. A truly endearing and cool exchange that just can’t happen in any other performing environment.
  2. As mentioned in the review of the show, guitarist Mike McCready closed the night by transitioning from the band’s cover of Victoria Williams’ “Crazy Mary” to going solo on a crackling, feedback-drenched playing of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Couple that with Vedder recounting his five-year-old daughter making him recite the Pledge of Allegiance with him over the phone before a recent show and it’s hard to believe that during the George Bush presidency this band was assailing the direction of the country with the type of vitriol that would’ve gotten it blacklisted during the Joe McCarthy years.
  3. Back to “Lukin”: so this barely one minute ball of fury has always been one of the weirder bits in the band’s canon, and definitely wasn’t up for consideration by most as a tune Vedder would pull out to do pretty much solo at a taping of one of the most hallowed music programs in history. But there it was like a sore thumb, with Vedder bringing a string quartet led by Austin’s Will Taylor back out to back him up, with the instructions that the tune was in E and the string players should just crank out whatever they thought sounded good. “Is that E minor or major?” one of the players asked, at which point Vedder laughed and admitted he wasn’t sure. “I don’t even know what a third is. You’re blowing my cover now.” Not that it mattered much. Vedder abused his acoustic guitar while the strings did their best to be heard above the din. One of those head-scratching moments the band does mostly just to keep itself and audiences from getting bored.
  4. The weirdo cover requirement got met with a set-opening take on Austin native Daniel Johnston’s “Walking The Cow” (featuring only Vedder and bassist Jeff Ament) and “Driven To Tears” by The Police, a nearly 30-year-old political lament beefed up with three guitars. Vedder said he hoped the latter song will lose its social significance some day, which might sound like an ineloquent putdown but was more a lament that not a lot has changed since the Reagan years.
  5. Recording equipment was obviously barred from the premises for audience members so I can’t do justice to the rambling monologue Vedder delivered prior to “Do The Evolution” with anything close to 100 percent accuracy. I just know it started with something about the need for human compassion, and how that’s getting lost as mankind develops technologically, and how maybe we should find a way to measure how well we look out for one another instead of using yard sticks like GDP or something, and how… well, you get the idea. After a couple minutes Vedder trailed off and admitted “… I guess I’m not really going anywhere in particular with this” before finally saying “It’s evolution, baby” and kicking off one of the band’s few enduring mid-period rockers. There’s a reason the guy’s a singer and not an orator. Thankfully, he does the first very, very, very well.

Sunday October 4th- Performance on the “Live Strong” stage:  The good old PJ Official Message Board is chock full of excellent reports of Pearl Jam’s Festival-closing performance in a very muddy and damp Zilker Park in Austin, TX.   Board Member LukinFan moderated the relays from mfc2006, and both did an excellent job summing up the fun:

October 4, 2009 Austin City Limits, Austin, Texas

Set List: Why Go, (Interstellar Overdrive)/Corduroy, Got Some, Not For You/(Modern Girl by Sleater Kinney), Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town, Given To Fly, World Wide Suicide, Even Flow, Unthought Known, Daughter/(WMA), Hail Hail, Insignificance, Present Tense, State Of Love And Trust, The Fixer, Go

Encore: Jazz Odyssey, Red Mosquito w/Ben Harper, Do The Evolution, The Real Me, Alive, Mountain Song w/Perry Farrell, Rockin’ In The Free World

Notes on Ed quotes/antics: “Ben and I were up until 8 am last night working on music”;  Ed gave props to The Dead Weather and Them Crooked Vultures
(at one point) did the Robot and was VERY chatty tonight with the crowd.

 
Initial reports of Ed crowd surfing during RITFW were later corrected – he did go out into the audience but he “jumped off the stage down the middle of the crowd (separated by barriers) and did a mud slide”; “He didn’t crowd surf.  He ran and slid on his belly in the mud.”

There were 2 different posters from the evening, one a limited edition (qty 500?) poster from the Ames Booth:

ltd edition poster

ltd edition poster

and another general release, also limited:

pjAmesAustinTruck

good evening, campers!

The official Austin City Limits Flickr page has many great PJ photos of the night,  and here are some choice ones for you to enjoy:

the whole gang with Ben

the whole gang with Ben

Ed flyin'

Ed floatin' back down

 

loving how into it Ed is

loving how into it Ed is

Perry comin' down the mountain with Mikey

Perry comin' down the mountain with Mikey

Perry gets big air

Perry gets big air

Ed rains on self

Ed rains on self

Rock! On to LA and San Diego for Kathy D. :) See you there!

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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