Pearl Jam Storms Noblesville

by Kathy Davis on May 8, 2010

Pearl Jam. Verizon Wireless Music Center, aka Deer Creek Amphitheatre before everything was sponsored by something. Friday May 7, 2010 Noblesville  (Indianapolis), Indiana USA.

Set List: Release, Last Exit, Got Some, Why Go, In My Tree, Small Town, Unthought Known, Even Flow, Supersonic, Down, Daughter/WMA/Blitzkrieg Bop (Ramones), Goin’ Back To Indiana (The Corporation) [partial version], Rats, Wishlist, Insignificance, Force Of Nature (dedicated To Hud Mellencamp), Jeremy, The Fixer

1st encore: Just Breathe, Off He Goes, Given To Fly, Lukin, Better Man, Do The Evolution

2nd encore: Garden, Whipping, Alive, Baba O’Riley (Townsend), Yellow Ledbetter/Star Spangled Banner

by Ames Bros. courtesy Inside The Rock Poster Frame

by Ames Bros. courtesy Inside The Rock Poster Frame

I’m from California. We don’t do weather in my part of the country. I’m in the San Francisco Bay Area, and extremes of weather are a rarity. So to say that whilst en route to the Pearl Jam show at the Verizon Music Center in Noblesville, Indiana from our hotel in nearby Indianapolis, receiving a text from a dear friend Matt that read “Show delayed due to weather conditions – stay at the hotel, I’ll keep you posted” – I was rather unnerved. How could it be thundering and cracking lightning practically INTO the venue? It was 80 degrees that morning, strangely windy, but pleasant.  Another friend said some local old timers said “a blow was coming”, and the 30% chance of rain became a 60% chance of rain. By show time, the temperature had plummeted, lighting cracked to our right and left, thunder rumbled in the car, and the sky was pissing down rain.  Traffic and weather meant a 20 minute drive took an hour and forty-five minutes. The only outdoor show of my four show run, delayed due to rain.

Having been in Europe in June of 2000, the first thing on my mind was Roskilde.  10 years ago next month. Of the 24, 000 people that can fit in the Indiana venue, 18,000 of those would be on the uncovered lawn. The rain-soaked, sloping downward lawn.  My pal Matt again texted that they were letting the people from the lawn go back to their cars and I later heard that they turning away people at the gate temporarily until the weather calmed. I was thinking the show would be cancelled if the Sky Gods didn’t stop toying with us.  The 6,000 of us lucky enough to be under the metal roof of the covered pavilion weren’t feeling so lucky. Can you say Lighting Rod? I knew that you could.  I could only imagine our boys being greatly uncomfortable given their history,  and concerned for the safety of everyone. Matt again texted, “Houston, I think we have lift-off”, and when we got to the venue, the skies had calmed, and we could hear Band of Horses starting their set. We parked and made our way across the wet grass through the rapidly increasing lawn crowd, finally getting to our seats after the opening band,  about a half hour before PJ hit the stage. To my great relief, clear skies prevailed, and our band hit the stage at 9:40 p.m.

I gasped when I heard the opening guitar noodlings that begin “Release”. I thought “Wash” maybe, but it made more emotional sense to give us all the release maybe the boys needed after the stress. Just typing out loud there, trying to imagine a more fitting song. The venue was filled to the back of the lawn, and everyone to a person were on their feet. Even the fanned-out layout of the amphitheatre and huge chunk of acoustic-killing grass couldn’t deaden the joyous and uplifting sound of 24,000 of us belting out with all of our lung capacities along with Ed, “Release me”, holding the note long and loud. Chilling. My eyes were closed, my hands were face up and arms out to the sky, the electricity of the moment sparking and crackling in my every pore. I could see the pops of light tingling in me as we all sang.  This is the song that got me in 1992, the moment I knew I was a member of the Church of Pearl Jam for life. That day back in the summer of ’92, “Release” came on my car stereo en route to another record store run of scouring bins for promo PJ shit, and the words really hit me. I started shaking and crying, so much so that I had to pull the car over and just let it flood out. Shit with my own Dad that I never really comprehended the full grasp of until the words of that song encapsulated it. That’s the gift of the power of Pearl Jam. An unbreakable, tangible connection that reinforces my soul.  So that was the gasp when the song started. How could they know? How could Ed know that was the perfect song? Oh yeah, I know…he’s Ed. Our priest, our shaman, our medicine man.

Called it before it began, I just felt that “Last Exit” would be next. A couple of old pals to start out the night. Jumping up and down like a pogo stick for the whole of the song. Yeah, that was me. The band brought the new friend in right after, “Got Some” keeping things charged up. I love the long light strings that crackle and spark, complimenting the yellow orange gels that bathe the stage during the break down.  Next, our good old pal Jeff puts on a solid wood dark natural finish Hamer bass that narrows down the song possibilities – imagine my delight when “Why Go” thunders into the set. The tribal thumpings from Matt’s drums before the chorus grab me by the throat, and we all sing “Why Go Home?”  I stand feet away from my Stoney, watching him repeat those words along with Jeff while Ed sings “what you taught me…put me here don’t come visit.” I am gratefully blessed tonight with my own personal front row center seats – third row directly in front of Stone. He is my center. Ideally, being between Stone and Ed is my center. YEAH,  I am one of the people who WANTS to be on Stone’s side all the time, unlike the masses who want to be whipped into that Mike frenzy over there- which is lovely, don’t get me wrong – I just prefer the pelvic-loosening grooves that Stone’s deep riffs give me live. And I need to see him play them. I’m a moth to a flame with that stuff. It’s the live show foundation, that Pearl Jam groove that Stone, Jeff and Matt create is what gives the rest of the music its launching pad in my humble opinion. After “Why Go”, Ed greets us all with “Helloooo Indiana” to a swell of cheers. He thanks us, giving us “appreciation for your patience” so all can be safe.

A lovely little grin after his assurances and “let’s get it ON!” launches “In My Tree”; I always think of Brandon and the folks at The Sky I Scrape whenever “their” song is played.  Appropriately-colored green gels illuminate the backdrop, and modern styled fronds of white leaf patterns rotate slowly on the fabric, leaf clusters building white over white. Ed is gifted at delivering a song, and we know him well – he feels the lyrics more than concerning himself with accuracy, if you will. I could tell he wanted to get this infrequently played No Code tune right, and the perspective afforded me by multitudinous shows clues me in that he’s got the words at his feet in the composition book and he glances down at them subtly when unsure.  Well done, Shaman. He puts a guitar on at songs end to join in the song with his chiming “arrow” black fender (you know, the one he has the Who arrow drawn on).

Stone gets on the acoustic already, standing between Ed and Matt,  and Ed counts him in for “Small Town”. Before the song Ed thanks the “Indiana gods” for holding the weather at bay, pausing to say that by that, “you know I mean (Indiana native basketball legend) Larry Byrd”.  I dig the purple/red half gels beaming from the overhead lights that cast a warm glow onto the stage. When the whole band joins in with Stone, he Mike and Jeff triangle behind Ed to Matt’s right.  What a gifted singer Ed is; his ability to see things from our perspective and understand the unifying power a song like “Small Town” has over the crowd, connecting his laser-focused blue eyes all across the front row from one end to the other like the sweeping beam of a lighthouse. He takes it in and draws it in at the same time, lit with white lights shining up from his feet, bathing him in an other-worldly glow. No time is wasted after the songs’ end, and the boys  launch into “Unthought Known,” Backspacer’s “Love Boat Captain”esque tune. The intros have the same feel to me live, in fact I was a little fooled for a millisecond.

Jesus, is each song going to get its own paragraph in this review? Oy! Cool your jets, Kathy! My old pal “Evenflow” is next, and this new frequently-given “wild-eyed” look that Ed gets was no more perfect than when he opened his lovely denim and baby blues wide while delivering the line “I can’t help it when I’m happy I look insane”.  The typewriter keys that spell “Pearl Jam” on the backdrop flash in a row like chasing marquee lights during E-Flow; yeah the artistic prop hammers it home that this song is what PJ is all about. Popular, familiar, jam-tastic as Stone, Jeff and Matt form a tight little core so Mike can wail away at the solo. Ed nips off to the side to blow his nose and sneak a puff or two. Bastid!  Then Andy, George and Donnie (I think that’s Mike’s Tech, right?) the guitar techs, are seriously earning their keep, moving out to the guitar players to give them the next instruments for fast changes to keep the set flowing. Usually the dudes go to their techs for the changes. Ed intros the next song as one written by Stone Gossard, the more uncommon “Supersonic” aided by lyric glances. Mike wanders far onto the lip Stage Right (that’s your left as you look at the stage) and gets the crowd rocking over there. Another fast guitar change, but Ed takes a minute to talk before the next song saying it was “inspired by a man called Howard Zinn” who wrote a life-changing and important book called “The People’s History of The United States”, further mentioning that even though he was 87, Howard passed away suddenly in January and that his loss was still felt deeply. “Now here’s an uplifting little ditty called ‘Down’”. Ed grasps at the air while singing “I am loaded told that all’s for naught”, grasping on the “load” and “told”.

Another acoustic for Stone chimes in “Daughter”, and rotating white swirls of blurry triangles dance on the backdrop. Ed slips in a “the rain comes down” to replace one of the “the shades go down” while the guitars noodle away right before the sing-along. We join in some familiarly-patterned “hey-eh-eh-eh”s that echo the legendary Milan singalong, and we get a “hey ho, let’s go” and a lovely snippet of “W.M.A” with “dirties his hands it fucking comes right off”.  The typewriter-key “Pearl Jam” is lit solid. That’s right muthafuckahs, that’s my BAND up there.

We know Ed kinda had a thing for Gary, Indiana natives the Jackson Five as a youth (remember the Jackson 5 cover holiday single “Someday at Christmas”?), so he takes a moment to play – almost complete, and with the aid of lyrics – a slow acoustic version of the Jackson Five song “Goin’ Back To Indiana”. I don’t even think the guys knew what was coming, because they all stood around with arms resting on guitars, huge smiles as Ed sang the song. Cute. Keeping the J5 theme going, the band launched into “Rats”, Stone headbanging a bit during the “Ben, the two of us need look no more” at the end. Yeah, my band are gifted with the threading together of it all.

I have to admit, when it was in heavy rotation on the setlist, “Wishlist” was never one of my favorites.  The infrequency of it now made it really cool to hear again. Remember the broken glass-covered disco ball that always lowered down during this tune back in the day for that dramatic effect? A similar treatment was provided by the lighting rig, using white gels and uneven round light beams to mimic the swirls of the disco ball. It only shone on the peak of the ceiling of the venue, over the back half of the pavilion so I wouldn’t have noticed it had I not turned around to see the “50 million hands upraised and opened toward the skies.” I didn’t hear the improved wishes, and I don’t want to start anything, but I swear I heard Ed say “All I need is (mumble) baby” and “All I need is my sweet lady.” If someone could help me out there…

A nice old Binaural pal “Insignificance” was next, and my homeboy Stone delivered a skilled wah-infused solo, I think on the sunburst SG but I could be wrong there. Next, Ed explained that he was dedicating the next song to a young man there to see the band, a young man who is pursuing boxing, rather successfully apparently, don’t fuck with this kid because the “kid will kick your fuckin’ ass”. The boy’s parents are being very supportive of his pursuits.  The boy’s Dad? John Mellencamp (though Ed called him the disused John “Cougar” Mellencamp). Ed reminded us that you “don’t fuck with John Mellencamp” because his “kid will kick your fuckin’ ass.” The boys name is Hud and this goes out to him. In a doubly appropriate song choice both for Hud and the weather, the boys trotted out the less played Backspacer track “Force of Nature.” Nice. Ed slyly peeped the lyrics (good man!)

Jeff next put on a pretty 12-string Hamer bass with an acoustic guitar body shape, and I was puzzled. Then another wild young boy appeared – King “Jeremy” the wicked. Not the black Hamer, but it did the job nicely giving us a crisp and warm bed for the song. Ed did some weird thing where he moved his lower jaw back and forth while he sang like he was loosening it up or something. Again, I turned around to check out the coordinated PJ fan hand movements of “arms raised in a V”, and was surprised by the lights again – the light of a lemon yellow sun was still beaming in the back of the pavilion floor. If that’s you, Kille, you’re a lighting genius. Swirly rotating shapes of blurry triangles lit the rust-colored crossbars of the roof and backdrop.  God I love watching everyone in the place re-enact Ed in the “Jeremy” video, especially during the “Woah…oh oh oh oh ohhhhhhh’s”. Ed made no bones about how much he digs it too, grabbing the mic stand near the base, turning it around and holding it out toward all of us to goad us into belting out at the top of our longs. During that cool part where Ed sings the “eee’s”, Mike ran back and forth from one side of the stage to the other.  What fun.

A newer familiar pal was next “The Fixer.”  I know peeps are passionate for PJ (hellooo ? ::pointing finger to my own chest::), but that Target TV ad exposure surely helped aid the passion with which the crowd react to this tune, every body pumping their fists and singing the “yeah yeah yeah yeah’s”. How cute is it that all four PJ boys are lined up in a perfect little row across the stage, and all 5 of them sing the “yeahs” with us too? I love that!  Ed grabbed the tips of his black checked flannel shirt and pulled it up over his head in a hood to cover his face while delivering the line “when signals cross”. It’s kinda impactful how Ed gets a spotlight that sets him apart during the verses. Schmart. And I also have to say I loves me some vocal gliss, (insert Kathy’s choral-training geekiness here), that is when you are on one note and you slide your voice up to the next note while still singing and it’s the COOLEST during the verses of this fun little song…on words like “low” “wrong” “lost” “cross”. Ah Ed, you know how to get a girl going, son,  with your skilled ways. With Ed’s “thank you Noblesville” and arms outstretched wide, that’s a wrap at 10.53 p.m.  An hour and 13 minute main set, and a unique set closer to boot.

Back on at 10:57, chairs out, band sitting down, Ed on the small classical acoustic, Jeff on the standup, Stone on the Cherry Gibson.  Ed mentioned that it was a new stage, and that they were “scuffing it up” pretty good.  “Just Breathe” starts things. After, Ed tells us he has friends visiting from Chicago, friends from way back in his youth, they had a gang together…a biker gang…Schwinn bicycles… (ha ha Ed)…he remembered his friend Chris had a yellow one, Andy had a green one and maybe Ed had a red one. Ed spied a couple of young kids in row 4 that were in attendance with their parents, and addressed the young man of perhaps 7 or 8 to enjoy your youth, kid because “shit gets REAL complicated. Mom and Dad got your back” but…enjoy it. He dedicated the next song to his friend Chris, who was to my right in Row 6, and Ed finally found him in the crowd, relieved since he hadn’t seen him and the band had to rush off after the show. “Off He Goes” was for Chris. During the instrumental bit at the end, Ed found Chris’s gaze again and locked in with those blue laser-beams of his, and you could just see the emotion swell up in Ed, watery tears quickly springing up. Sweet moment. Got me a little choked up too.

Nothing like the tribal drums of “Given To Fly” to get me all riled up again. DAMN that song builds so beautifully, you have no choice but to jump up and down like a freakin’ pogo stick by the time it finally explodes on “waves came crashin’ like a fist to the jaw” Bim bam boom…mind-numblingly fast guitar changes, and RIGHT into “Lukin”.  After, Ed told us “my voice hurts after that last one” and he needed help singing.  He said he and Mike were talking backstage and that Mike said to him, “I fucking love the Midwest” and the crowd cheered. A midnight blue light spilled out onto us all, Ed came over Stage Left (our right) and did a bunch of windmills in front of three of my girls up front (hi Laurie, Val and Deb). And keeping the flow on, Stone got it on right away, starting up “Do The Evolution”. Woooooooooooooooooooooooo!  Thanks Ed for telling us to do what I do all the time in the list of what to admire…me, my clone, my home, ”admire my fucking Stone.” That’s right muthafuckah. And they are done with Encore 1 at 11.22 p.m. How long is this going to go on?

Back on at 11:25 p.m., I peep lyrics sticking out of the composition book. Stone has a lovely teal Fender, Mike that beat-up-from-wear black Fender…what’s it gonna be?  A traditional, complete with old-school intro – “Garden”! :::dreamy sigh::: None of that newfangled heavy metal reworking tonight. During the solo, Ed stood in front of Matty, eyes closed, swaying in a circle. I love how he loves his band as much as we do.  After songs end, Ed grabs the blue Gibson, and mentions it’s the biggest crowd of the tour yet, and he was so grateful with how everyone has taken care of one another on the lawn, how smoothly the night has gone. As I suspected he might do, Ed mentioned how Roskilde was nearly “ten years ago next month” and our memories of it are “deep in our cores” and we’re extremely grateful for the night.  “Let’s fuck something up” he said as the boys blast into “Whipping”. It’s fast as a motherfucker! Out of control bullet train. How appropriate was the line “don’t need a raincoat I’m already wet”? Rather.  Kept things humming with my boy Stoney riffing the opening of “Alive”.  By the time the solo hit, Mr. Gossard was head banging.  Not that I don’t dig a solo, but my eyes wandered and I noticed Mike’s sleeveless “Cheap Trick On Tour” T-shirt, and Ed’s “Who Live 1982” shirt.  Makes me not feel so bad that I still have my Police tour shirts from 1981.  Ed has that extra-long mic cord so he can roam to the far sides of the stage and sing “is something wrong” and lead the crowd in “yeahs”. Well, the cord wasn’t being tended and got stuck, I saw Jeff’s tech George trying to free it, Ed’s tech Rick came over and monitored it but the cord had a mind of  its own, and Ed finally gave the mic a Roger Daltrey swing and let it fly, it landing with a thud in the center of the stage. Ed led the “yeahs” off mic.

Coupla things about the penultimate song “Baba O’Riley”.  The bad thing first: some arseholes broke the Church of Pearl Jam commandment not to be one when Ed was throwing the always specifically and carefully intended tosses of the tambourines that are fed to him plentifully by Rick. For all the loveliness of the crowd, the people that ended up crowding into the pit and first few rows toward shows end didn’t fucking get it. They didn’t get it when Ed was pointing and tossing. He has good aim, and it nearly always goes where it is supposed to and if the person of intent doesn’t catch it, if you catch it, you give it to them. It’s usually no big deal if it gets nabbed, Ed will just throw another one, but some asshole grabbed one meant for my friend Doris. Another friend who knows the way things usually go down also had her hand on it, and it became so unpleasant that Big Pete the security guy had to come down and get it from the guy. Poor. Very poor. I mean I ain’t the Pearl Jam police, I’m not saying there are rules that must be obeyed. It’s just a courtesy and we take care of one another. Their fans are way better than the behavior of these jerks. Another shaker meant for Ed’s childhood friend Chris was nabbed and it was no big deal or so I thought, he lobbed another and Chris got it. Unfortunately I found out later that the idiot that took Chris’s tambourine knocked my friend Doris to the ground and made the back of her head bleed pretty badly. I didn’t find out until about a half an hour after the show ended when I wondered where my posse was after visiting with some old pals. They were still in first aid, and Doris’s head was still bleeding. Doris is a sweet sweet Great Dane rescuer from Texas, a mature Grandmother in town for the only two shows she gets to see because she can’t leave her furry babies for long, and she gets fucking knocked to the ground thoughtlessly by some lunkheads.  That made me sad. That’s okay, amateurs. Karma will catch up with you. The Pearl Jam gods will smote you, so watch your asses.

But the good news:  Ed can still fucking catch like the most genius baseball player you’ve ever seen. For the love of God, someone PLEASE make a montage from videos over the years of moments when people lob shit from the audience to Ed. He.Never.Misses. Go ahead, refute me if you want to, but it’s shocking the accuracy of his catches. His reflexes are stupefying. A lot of the time he nods to the people to throw whatever it is, and he readies himself to catch. But also common is shit to just come flying. Tonight, there was a T-Shirt (that one took a leap and an arced twist of the body, and it was caught low but he got it) and two baseball caps – one he wore both frontward and backward before tossing it back, the second an Indianapolis Colts hat that he wore front-facing to show off the horseshoe to the local crowd, to much cheering (another of Ed’s skills: working the moment). The man also got a nice thigh-length brown camouflage jacket. If you don’t shop, don’t worry Ed, the goods will just come to you. Someone throw some pants and shoes in Cleveland and Ed will be good to go. Wait, hold the shoes, we all know how that turned out back in the day. Don’t want to piss off our singer.

Bringing it all home to mama, the Ledbetter.  After singing, sorry Mike, but I watched Ed go back, tuck his hair up into a “VLC” trucker hat and visit with Stone and Matt.  It was nice to see them laughing and joking and to see a huge smile on Stone’s face. He’s seemed a bit serious onstage these coupla shows.  OH and I just remembered that during long solo breaks, before submitting to the irresistible pull nicotine seems to have over him, Ed was blowing his nose. He best use the day off to nurse whatever it is he may be getting.  And yes, I fully realize that it’s fucking ridiculous that I just included “Ed blew his nose twice” in the Indianapolis show stats, and it’s probably really lame to some that I noticed it and shared it with all of you. Whatever,  non-believers. And I further recognize that it’s likely over-stepping by using the boy’s names so colloquially…They at times are Stoney and Mikey and Matty to me because they feel more familiar to me than people I’m blood-related to. Oh well. No apologies, just sayin’ that’s all. That’s me. From the ridiculous to the sublime, you get it all. Thanks for reading and being there with me for these 4400 or so words.

Shit, wait! Before I go I better mention that when the show’s over, if you were wondering what song that is that comes on the PA after it’s really done, that song is “Dig Yourself, Lazarus” by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, from the album “Dig Lazarus Dig!” It happens to be a favorite of the guy who was front row center on the rail tonight, my brother-by-choice Bruce, and also the person typing this review and her husband. So if you see some weird lady dancing her ass off after the show, that’s gonna be me. Alright, now I’m done. On to Cleveland.

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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