Boston Uncommon

by Jessica Letkemann on May 18, 2010

Pearl Jam Boston 2010 by Munk One

Pearl Jam Boston 2010 by Munk One

I could really get used to driving up I-95 every other day from New York City to hang out in a room with twenty thousand friends and be transported into that place where time just kinda stops – when the lights go down and we’re just out here kickin with our band.

So, Boston is home to some great Pj shows over the years, but I didn’t expect a Monday night one-off would be one of them. I should have known something special was afoot when Ed dueted on Band of Horses’ last tune and Mr. Stone Gossard and a little girl stood in the fourth row of Section C – yep, Stone’s side – to watch his homeboy trade verses with Ben Bridwell.

House lights down at 8:58 PM – “Release” and mighty Massachusetts lungs started the night-long singalong that continued even through the many many many rarities pulled out of their trick bag. “In My Tree” at song four before the list of local small towns and Ed’s comment that this is the band’s 27th Boston show ever that intros “Elderly Woman”, and
we are simply lungful.

Boston historian Howard Zinn gets special mention, explaining how much they learned from him and how one of those things was how to be hopeful and write hopeful music. Normally “Down” would come next, but instead it’s the rare Zinn-inspired “Undone”. Ed’s peeking at lyrics for “Pilate”, but no one minds. How often do you hear “Pilate”? And there’s a nice nod and grin of acknowledgement shared between Ed, singer, and Jeff, the songwriter.

Soul claps are back for “Hail, Hail” and by this time the Pearl Jam newbie I have brought to share my fan club seats with me is like beyond entertained by all of the diehards waving hands and clapping and yelling and grunting in synchronized ritual. And well, I think I started to slip down the rabbit hole a little bit when they veered off into “Push Me, Pull Me” land. I forgot I was in public and started doing the “watusi” or whatever during that body-moving bass bridge. Just breaking like waves.

Ed’s table now seats four during “Not For You”, which gets the dark sweet “My whole life, like a picture on
a sunny day”" tag. “Red Mosquito”, into “Got Some” with Stone singing backup. Before the first encore break we’re positively hollering along to “Why Go Home”. “Why go?” indeed.

When they’re back, its just Ed and Jeff on stools, all smiles, and Ed says its not often they get a crowd where they can really play anything they want. To prove that point, here comes “Bee Girl”. “Just Breathe”, which based on the shows I’ve seen in the last year, is shaping up to be one of their emotional singalong classics with “Black”
and “Nothingman”. Tonight it’s dedicated to a friend named “T” and his wife.

My voice is pretty much done for after they whip out “Love Reign O’er Me”. A few more, an intense “Rearviewmirror” and we hit another encore break. When they’re back Ed announces the cow has been spotted (in reference to the fan that since time immortal has come to every Boston show in a cow suit.) And I think Ed actually makes Stone blush recounting the story of how the last time they played Massachusetts and the cow fan was invited on stage, Stone Gossard had the udder in his mouth and was gnawing profusely. He said he’d never get the image of Stone with the udder in his mouth out of his mind. And did the fan need like udder cream after that? Ed isn’t totally kidding though, Stone really did suck the cow suit udder at that show awhile back.

We know “Smile” is next because Jeff and Stone have swapped instruments. Ed dedicates it to a fan named Jenn who purchased tickets and was looking forward to the show, but is in a local hospital with health problems. “Better Man” gets a good old “Don’t let me down”-taste of “Save It For Later” tag. A “Glorified G” shirt is tossed to Ed but they only play a riff tease.

The folks in the back get the front of the band and it feels like “Last Kiss” is coming, but its b-side “cha-cha-cha” time and “Soldier of Love”. We surrender! Stone speaks about efforts of Partners in Health down in Haiti and urges all to support them.

Now I know I am in bizarro world when “Crown of Thorns” comes up. It is soulful and wonderful to hear. Ed holds his hands up as if in prayer to the ceiling after singing the late Mother Love Bone singer Andy Wood’s most famous song. And just so fittingly, “Alive” is next.

The curfew is in tatters by now. The lights are up. We get a balls out “Rockin in the Free World” for the coda and I can’t believe the setlist ride we were just taken on on a Monday night. I’m in a car hurtling back down 95 now, just so I can get home by 5 AM. I’ll get three hours of sleep. I’ll go to work in Manhattan tomorrow and then hit the train for Newark and do it all again. I will find a way to bring every ounce of adrenaline and rocking out I have somehow, some way, because I know that no matter how tired I am when I walk to my seat, if Pearl Jam is there to bring it, then I will be there to give all that energy right on back.

Jessica Letkemann ( Twitter: @Letkemann )
TFT co-editor Jessica Letkemann is a New York based digital music journalist & editor. She's currently VP & Editor-In-Chief of Digital at Fuse Media (Fuse.tv) and was previously managing editor of Billboard.com. She has also been on staff at Spin and Premiere magazines. Her first Pearl Jam show was at Lollapalooza on August 2, 1992.

Leave a Comment