Pearl Jam – Live At The Gorge

I want to tell the whole internets that my lovely wife is an incredibly thoughtful person. And she’s hot! I am a lucky, lucky boy. You see, for our anniversary this year she gave me yet another reminder that she is most generous and caring (and patient) – the new 7 CD (!) box set of live Pearl Jam, called Live At The Gorge

Oh man. I should explain.

I really like Pearl Jam. Indeed, I love ‘em. I have all of their albums and singles and EPs and DVDs and collectible things, and even a good chunk of their crazy live-release blitz from a few years back. Yeah, I like this band. A lot.

I even got to see them in concert myself once, in Barrie, ON in 1996. What a great show. We saw 6 bands that day and Pearl Jam, as headliners, totally took everybody else to school. There’s something about a Pearl Jam show that is just so… comforting. It’s an event. There’s a real feeling of connection that stems from a genuine desire to just peacefully make music. Awesome.

So imagine my glee when I first saw this box set as a Ten Club members-only release on their web site. Just knowing it existed was cool for me. I don’t actually belong to the Club, never have. I couldn’t tell you why, really. I mean, I should belong… Anyway, a little while later I was quite surprised to see the set for sale at our shitty Corporate Whore store at the mall, and at the time I talked myself out of buying it because I am an idiot.

So, I let it go for a while and figured I’d pick it up someday. And then my lovely wife surprised me with it as a gift! See how awesome she is? Amazing. And the set itself? It’s a treasure trove. Covering three full shows at the same venue in less than a year, we’re treated to a band that has been at its peak so long that they make other groups look and sound bad.

Beautiful.

So here’s my thoughts show by show, because you can expect no less here at the KMA!

September 1, 2005 (CDs 1-3)

Disc 1 is just like their Benoroya Hall set, hits done acoustic, and they start with a laid-back Ramones cover. Ballsy and auspicious! The version of Black on this disc is hair-raising – a highlight track. It seems Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were staying in some hotel nearby so Eddie had the crowd calling them out all night. Funny.

Over the course of this show we’re treated to so many awesome album tracks, all played with so much energy you’d think they were all written yesterday. We also get added awesome older tracks (Crown Of Thorns from the Mother Love Bone days, and State Of Love And Trust from Singles), as well as some cool covers from The Who and (big surprise, on this night) Tom Petty. Sure Eddie fucked up the words, but who cares? This was a completely brilliant set. These three discs were worth it all by themselves. The sound quality is fantastic, and for a band who sounds best live, this is the ultimate gift for fans. I found it odd that there wasn’t a cover tune at the end of Daughter, as is their usual practice. Instead it’s just some repetitive stuff. Whatever. Forget about it. This set kicked ass.

July 22, 2006 (CDs 4-5)

Almost a full year (and another album) later, the band was back at the Gorge and tearing the roof off the mothersucker. Starting off the gig with an old track (Wash) is great, and peppering the set with some more old gems (Dirty Frank, Footsteps) is totally cool. I love how they can include b-sides and oldies with their hits and it all sounds great. They hit their stride very early on in this gig, and they never once let up or look back.

There’s a really, really, really blistering Even Flow with stunning solos from Mike McCready and Matt Cameron. This is totally a highlight track here. This time around, the end of Daughter finds Eddie talking about the weather (?!) and doing a whole “everything’s gonna be OK” call and response thing with the crowd, all set to the chords of (get this) what sounds suspiciously like Bush’s Glycerine. It was surreal. But by the time they hit Life Wasted it’s all back to a frenzy again. Eddie announces a ‘short’ encore and then they proceed to play 15 more tracks. Haha.

They hit a really slinky Once, whip off a great version of one of my many favourites of theirs, Leash, and let loose a really awesome intro to Porch. Go was absolutely stunning, kicking off maybe the Best Last 5 Songs Of A Show Ever. Each track is killer! There’s a great cover of Neil Young, and Yellow Ledbetter morphing into Little Wing was cool (and a nice nod to the song from which it was ripped off), and then bleeding further into the Star Spangled Banner à la Hendrix too. It was the Mike McCready Show.

All I can say is WOW!

July 23, 2006 (CDs 6-7)

My 32nd birthday, as it turns out (although I was unfortunately nowhere near this gig), and Pearl Jam’s second night in a row at the Gorge for 2006. On this night they got right to it with the rockin’, and they never let up. They get 6 tracks into the show before Eddie even really acknowledges the crowd. A band on a mission. Wahoo! They are unbelievably tight here, yet again. Turns out it was their last show on that tour, so they were firing full guns before the party stopped.

McCready was at it again on Even Flow (that guy’s AMAZING). And I have to say it takes some balls to reprise your own song, on an organ no less, long before you even play the song you are reprising. Cool. It was great to hear Garden, and really, the end of Disc 6 is all older-ish tracks and therefore awesome. I mean, who wouldn’t want to hear Jeremy, even after all this time? This is a band that can play their entire catalogue, any song at any time, and it all fits and it all sounds fucking amazing. They don’t just play the radio hits. These are all hits, baby! Yeah! I love that they play everything, whenever they want.

The Whipping brings things to such an amazing boil (what a cool track!). Eddie brings up Tom Petty again, wondering aloud who recalls 2005… and the crowd starts calling Petty out again, unprompted, thus proving they’d all been there for Discs 1-3 the year before. Awesome!

Big Wave and Marker In The Sand, songs off the new record (as you’re well aware), sound absolutely great live. Following that up with two more from Vitalogy totally made my day. The version of Alive here is a highlight track. Picking up on the Hendrix Little Wing teaser from the night before, they play the whole song this time, which is so brilliant I’m speechless about it. The Neil Young cover here is great, as is their now-classic cover of Victoria Williams’ brilliant tune, and Eddie makes a better job of the Petty cover this time around.

It should be noted that, while playing the Star Spangled Banner at the end of Yellow Ledbetter the first night was fun, doing it again the second night is kinda off. I mean, it’s one thing to highlight Hendrix and prove you love him by emulating him for a while. It’s quite another to just copy his own thing for yourself. Anyway. I hope that doesn’t become a regular display at PJ gigs.

That little bit of bitching aside, this was an out-of-this-world fantastic show, and a marvelous way to end a tour.

Summation: All 7 CDs

Fuckin’ amazing.

Now sure, you may notice that some of the tracks repeat. I just got done saying they can play their whole catalogue, and more often than not they do, but sure they played some of the same songs at each show because there are definitely songs people come out to hear. Same as with any other band. What I love about Pearl Jam, though, is their ability to mix it up around those points. The possible combinations really are endless.

The sound quality here is superb, and there is no question that this is a high class set by a band at the top of their game.

If you care even remotely about this band, this is a must-own box. It’s a highlight reel from first track to last track. Kudos to the band for this momentous release.

And my immense thanks to my lovely wife for gifting this treasure to me.

I LOVED it.


Track Listing:

Show #1: September 1, 2005

CD1
01 I Believe In Miracles
02 Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
03 Off He Goes
04 Low Light
05 Man Of The Hour
06 I Am Mine
07 Crazy Mary
08 Black
09 Hard To Imagine

CD2
01 Given To Fly
02 Last Exit
03 Save You
04 Do The Evolution
05 Alone
06 Sad
07 Even Flow
08 Not For You
09 Corduroy
10 Dissident
11 MFC
12 Undone
13 Daughter
14 In My Tree
15 State Of Love And Trust
16 Alive
17 Porch

CD 3
01 encore break
02 Love Boat Captain
03 Insignificance
04 Better Man
05 Rearviewmirror
06 I Won’t Back Down
07 Last Kiss
08 Crown Of Thorns
09 Blood
10 Yellow Ledbetter
11 Baba O’Riley

Show #2: July 22, 2006

CD 4
01 Wash
02 Corduroy
03 Hail Hail
04 World Wide Suicide
05 Severed Hand
06 Given To Fly
07 Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
08 Even Flow
09 Down
10 I Am Mine
11 Unemployable
12 Daughter
13 Gone
14 Black
15 Insignificance
16 Life Wasted
17 Blood

CD 5
01 encore break
02 Footsteps
03 Once
04 Alive
05 State Of Love And Trust
06 Crown Of Thorns
07 Leash
08 Porch
09 Last Kiss
10 Inside Job
11 Go
12 Baba O’Riley
13 Dirty Frank
14 Rockin’ In The Free World
15 Yellow Ledbetter

Show #3: July 23, 2006

CD 6
01 Severed Hand
02 Corduroy
03 World Wide Suicide
04 God’s Dice
05 Animal
06 Do The Evolution
07 In Hiding
08 Green Disease
09 Even Flow
10 Marker In The Sand
11 Wasted Reprise
12 Better Man
13 Army Reserve
14 Garden
15 Rats
16 Whipping
17 Jeremy
18 Why Go

CD 7
01 encore break
02 I Won’t Back Down
03 Life Wasted
04 Big Wave
05 Satan’s Bed
06 Spin The Black Circle
07 Alive
08 Given to Fly
09 Little Wing
10 Crazy Mary
11 Comatose
12 Fuckin’ Up
13 Yellow Ledbetter

See what I mean? Oh man, this box set was amazing.

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