An Epic Concert

The Pearl Jam concert on Friday night was pretty great. I was my fifth PJ show, but not the best I’ve been to. If I was to rate them, I would say the best was San Diego in ’09, then Vancouver in ’03, then Friday’s show, then Edmonton ’05, and then Portland ’98. That San Diego show a couple of years back was just amazing. And you know what makes a Pearl Jam show so great? It’s not the band at all really, it’s the crowd. When the crowd is into the show, singing along, having fun, and making a lot of noise, the band just feeds off of that and something really amazing happens.

That’s what happened at the San Diego show. During “Black” the crowd wouldn’t let the song end; we all kept on clapping in rhythm and singing (“do-do dee do do-do-do”) well after the band finished playing. After it was over, Eddie says, “thanks very much for that, I think you’re part of the band now.” Of course, that was in San Diego, which is where several of the band members are either from originally or grew up there. Eddie himself lived in San Diego for about 20 years, so it was almost like a home-town show.

When you go to a Vancouver show, it’s almost like you’re in Seattle in a way. Vancouver is only a couple of hours drive from Seattle, so it’s the nearest Canadian city to Pearl Jam’s stomping grounds, which makes the show special in a way. You can tell at a Vancouver show that the band feels like they’re playing to a group of friends rather than an arena with 15,000 people in it. When it comes to Edmonton, though… well, Edmonton is Edmonton. I love Edmonton. It’s a decent, mid-sized, industrial city where the people work hard for their money and, generally, are respectable, law-abiding folk. There are exceptions, of course.

But in Canada you need to understand that we have this thing called the CRTC – Canadian Radio Television Council I think it stands for. I’m not sure of everything the CRTC does, but I know that one thing they do is enforce a rule that 30% of all content must be Canadian on radio and television. So when you listen to the radio, 3 out of every 10 songs have to be “Canadian” songs: the exact definition of a “Canadian” song I’m not sure of – something to do with a Canadian artist or producer or something like that. So when you listen exclusively to Canadian radio, you’re forced to listen to a lot of Tom Cochrane, Our Lady Peace, Rush, Mathew Good, BTO, Tragically Hip, and so on. Now, don’t yell anything at me, I know that there is some good music in there. Neil Young is Canadian, after all, and he’s put out some stellar music. But here’s the thing, if you listen to Canadian radio you’ll hear about 20 Our Lady Peace songs for every one Pearl Jam song, just because non-Canadian music is rationed. So what are the odds on Canadian radio you’ll hear a Pearl Jam song that is a really good song but not a top-40 hit song? Slim. When you do hear Pearl Jam on the radio it’s “Jeremy”, “Even Flow”, “Alive”, “Black”, “Daughter”, or “Better Man”. EXCLUSIVELY. You won’t hear any others played except on unbelievably, exceedingly rare occasions.

If you’re a real Pearl Jam fan, the odds are that you’re probably a little bored of those songs. So on the one hand you’d like to hear something different, and on the other hand you’re sad that people who aren’t fans don’t get a chance to hear something different. I actually put a list together of what my dream Pearl Jam concert would be. Like, if there was a contest and the winner got to create a set list for a Pearl Jam concert, what set list I’d put together. Can you imagine how cool that would be? At any rate, none of the above-mentioned songs made it into the set list.


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