Pictures (C) 2014 Pearl Jam
Seen: Wiener Stadthalle, Vienna June 25 2014
This entry is going to seem weird to those of you having read the blog so far and for good reason. I usually only write about theatre because that was the original idea and a completely personal thing. I work with movies and TV shows for a living, so this is not something that I am going to comment on.
I also don’t write about live music for two simple reasons: firstly I worked in the music industry for almost a decade, so I might have a skewered view and secondly, having been to a few hundred gigs before I even finished school, it is really hard to knock my socks off.
In this case, I decided to forego the socks right from the start, knowing they would never be found again anyway. Traditionally, the day after a Pearl Jam show is spent with a stupid smile on my face and no voice and it wasn’t any different this time. This is also the reason I decided to break with the usual topic of the blog. Some things just are too good to not be commented on.
Pearl Jam hadn’t been to Vienna since 2006 when one critic rightly remarked ‘the only one not pulling their weight today was the Stadthalle’. Sadly, even though everyone knows it is practically impossible to get a handle on the sound in this venue as soon as you open up the floor and stands completely, nothing is being done about it which caused Eddie Vedder to mention how much the band were looking forward to this gig only to start soundcheck and realise this was probably the second worst sounding venue they’d ever set foot in.
Nevertheless, the room was on fire as soon as the band came on stage and opened with ‘Long Road’, followed up by ‘Can’t Keep’ and ‘Black’ – which would have been held back by most bands for a big sing-along encore – after which EV deduced ‘this is going to be a great night’. And right he was.
Playing ‘Black’ right at the start like this is one of the things differentiating PJ from other bands. There is no fixed set list for an entire tour. Each one is decided on the day (they even stressed out one lucky fan by letting him do one a few years back) and is sometimes changed when things are already in full swing. Most bands can’t do any song requested at the drop of their hats – I have seen too many telepromters, lyric sheets and sheet music on stage to not appreciate them actually knowing their stuff – and still having fun being up there after all these years, swinging from light bulbs and making fun of each other.
Such a swap happened in Vienna this time: a fan in the front row wanted to hear ‘I Got Shit’, so they swapped it for the originally planned ‘I Am Mine’. I love ‘I Got Shit’, but unfortunately, this was the first time my friend to whom ‘I Am Mine’ means a lot saw the band live, so hearing this song would have been the cherry on top for her.
That’s the problem with a band that has such an extensive catalogue though; they could play for a few weeks straight going through all their albums and cover versions (we got a few of those too, ranging from The Beatles, Neil Young or PIL to The Who), and there would still be one missing that you would have liked to hear. I was quite in the mood for ‘Corduroy’ that night, but on the other hand I would probably have blown my voice completely had they played it. Apparently, I am just not built to sing along to 35 (nope, not a typo) songs in a row anymore ;-). I am really looking forward to re-experiencing this show once the official bootleg is released.
Another great thing about PJ: they respect their fans and listen to them (and are concerned about their safety as directing the crowd to move apart the following night at Wuhlheide in Berlin proves). This was the first time the Ten Club offered seats to those of their members for whom things on the floor have gotten too intense (like me) or are just not able to be down there for health reasons. The selection of ladies merch has also gotten better. We were there to pick up our tickets at 3PM and it was fun to see the vast amount of different shirts from all tours and continents trickling in.
There are always fans travelling to several shows, which definitely helps sweep along the audience in usually more reserved towns *cough*Vienna*cough* and it’s fun when everyone starts to mingle and talk while waiting at the 10C entrance or when the gents loo is declared unisex, because there are more for the gents as for the ladies (really, Stadthalle?!).
If I come off as a card carrying Ten Club member now, that’s because I am. I have been a Pearl Jam fan since ‘Alive’ was released and have yet to be let down by the band or my fellow fans.
I have witnessed forum members on their website pitching in when one of us fell on hard times, needed treatment or in the worst cases for funerals. On a way smaller scale, carpooling abroad or pulling out couches is not unheard of. All without the band’s involvement, just because that’s the kind of people that are attracted by them and what they are doing (part of the ticket sales go to the Vitology foundation btw). As my friend observed, ‘Wow, everyone here really likes each other.’.
If you have never seen Pearl Jam live but like that kind of music: do yourself a favour and try to get tickets. Just remember not to wear socks you are emotionally attached to, they will be knocked off.
In the meantime, have a song from their first Album ‘Ten’ (Black, shot by Blanch222) and the current one ‘Lightning Bolt’ (Sirens, shot by Shanti9) live in Vienna. The full set list is in the picture above.