Inside The Quiet (Godfather Records G.R. 589)
(69:58) Last Kiss / Unknown Thought / Santa Cruz / Nothingman / Dancing Barefoot / Better Man / Walk With Me / Just Breathe / Black / Laughter / Down / Driftin’ / Other Side / The End / Lukin / Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town.
In 1993, Eddie Vedder, the former gas attendant, was placed on the cover of Time Magazine with the catch line, “Angry young rockers like Pearl Jam give voice to the passions and fears of a generation.” Vedder became a symbol for the grunge rock movement that captured the hearts of restless youth, disenfranchised and angered by the many symptoms of a conservative government spearheaded by George Bush Sr. Seventeen years later, though presidents have been & gone & times have changed Pearl Jam still fit the same remit they always filled.
Highly reticent to feed any media builds with hyperbole by filming music videos, giving press interviews or sound bites they instead use their music as the vehicle to move their message. The band exploded onto the music scene in 1991 with their debut album Ten, which has sold 13 million copies. in 2009, the bands most recent (and self-released) studio album, Backspacer, debuted at #1 on the Billboard chart and #1 on iTunes, was certified gold in three months, and earned a 2010 Grammy nomination for Best Rock Song (“The Fixer”).
Their appearance at 2010’s Bridge Benefit was not their first either, despite constantly touring with ferociously intense shows they always seem to be able to find a place on stage for the gent who said about the band “It wasn’t that they were good, I could relate to what I would do if I was playing with them. And I could see myself doing it. The music worked. It had this drive. There’s this big machine in there. I like that power.” From their first Bridge Concert appearance in 1992 to the latest Pearl Jam have played nearly every other year for the benefit & on this 20th anniversary of the band it was more or less noted that this would be the closest thing to a commemorative concert.
The Godfather this time have picked out both shows from the Seattle band from the two nights ( October 23rd & 24th ) which fits the presentation of the other releases of recent times. A well recorded audience tape of the show in proper stereo & right in the middle of the crowd.
The recording starts with the emmcee announcing that the band are “The real veterans of the Bridge school – Please welcome Pearl Jam” to a very warm reception. Eddie dedicates the first song “Last Kiss” to ‘the smartest girl we know .. ‘ & the band play a gamely version of the Wayne Cochran original – One of the tragedy songs that were filling the charts in the early 1960’s for the last dances & proms.
A track that Eddie had found at an antiques stall & persuaded the band to cover only for it to be performed a handful of times on tour in 1998 & it would be released as a fan club Christmas record that year. As with Al Jardein’s way of finding traditional songs for the Beach Boys to cover then “Last Kiss” would be picked up rather quickly by a receptive audience & played on national radio on heavy rotation. By mid 1999 demand for the track was so high that the track was re-released with all proceeds going to the refuges of the Kosovo war & would catapult the band to a #2 position in the Billboard charts.
“Unknown Thought” from ‘Backspacer’ is played next. A slow building song that ultimately rises to the podium after a short gestation period. The percussion movement in this track is interesting with Bass & Drums veering together together at times sounding almost like two drummers are picking up the pace but they soon meet & quickly swerve to avoid a collision.
Underneath a crashing pulse summons the ghost of hammered pianos, storms & tidal waves. It’s just as affectionately greeted by the audience as “Last Kiss” with the audience audibly clear over the quiet segments of the song. Vedder’s voice, as if born from concrete & rubble reaches it’s apex by the last verse & roars around the words.
Following this song Eddie coyly notes that this is indeed the groups 20th anniversary but that the band may never have made it past 5 years were it not for the support of ‘Uncle Neil’. He then goes on to acknowledge the support & camaraderie of the boys in his band who make him feel like it might have been 20 years “But It feels like we’re only half way there .. “
“Santa Cruz” begins with a strong Neil Young style – The acoustically strummed intro melding with the harp that could have come straight from any album from “After The Gold Rush” onwards. The Song fixates around Eddie’s love for the city & his long to live there ( He had previously mentioned his love for it in concerts but the chance to bring it alive in song would, it would seem, be too strong a pull to avoid.
The lyrics are not so oblique as to swerve the bands influence & feature Neil by name : “Heading south the compass reads / Look at our speed.. we’re going sixty three / Look out the window as the trees go green / I look at them and they look at me / Got Neil Young on the stereo / He comes along whenever I go”
The band also pull along their cover of a Patti Smith track, “Dancing Barefoot” which premiers tonight. It’s a very good facsimile of the original – Eddie clearly apes the way that Patti phrases the words but obviously injects his own power through his voice. The brilliant guitar solo is expertly played – most acoustic solos seem to lack the punch of their electric counterparts but Mike nails it wonderfully.
“Better Man” is a track that Vedder wrote while he was a teen about ‘abusive relationships’ ( Or later “Dedicated to the bastard that married my Momma”. ) It was very nearly given away as Vedder was unsure of it’s value to the band but ultimately found it’s way on to ‘Vitalogy’ from where it became a runaway hit. Despite it’s being written at such a young age then it’s lyrics are strongly constructed, the undercurrent placid but hopeful. Vedder holds his note towards the end & utilises the coda for his higher octaves to soar.
Wordlessly the band strike up a quiet brooding version of Neil Young’s “Walk With Me” from the recent ‘Le Noise’ album – Hailed as one of the strongest in Neil’s catalogue since “Harvest Moon”. The band hit precisely the right notes for this rendition.
Eddie’s voice is perfect for this song so much so that it’s only a shade away from becoming his own. It would be owned directly but the band are joined onstage by Neil who sings the final quarter himself. It’s one of the big highlights of the set & further stamps Neil’s influence to the Pearl Jam mast.
“Black” rounds off the set for tonight. Taken from the bands inaugural album “Ten” it’s epic sound swirls around while Mike McCready pours out his guitar lines like water. Joined onstage by violinists, the pain & hurt in the track is heightened while Vedder gives his thanks to the Bridge Benefit for allowing them to play – he sounds so emotional by this point that his voice nearly cracks under the weight of it all – and then he vocalises right in to the coda. It’s a powerful ending to set #1
It’s the crowd that are a lot more vocal for the second set – You can hear them singing along to almost every word of “Daughter”. The song is perfect for the event as Eddie has said about it : “The child in that song obviously has a learning difficulty. And it’s only in the last few years that they’ve actually been able to diagnose these learning disabilities that before were looked at as misbehavior, as just outright rebelliousness. But no one knew what it was.
And these kids, because they seemed unable or reluctant to learn, they’d end up getting the shit beaten outta them. The song ends, you know, with this idea of the shades going down-so that the neighbors can’t see what happens next. What hurts about shit like that is that it ends up defining peoples’ lives. They have to live with that abuse for the rest of their lives. Good, creative people are just fucking destroyed.” As an opener it’s a great piece & allows Vedder’s voice to take off & soar above everything else.
“Driftin'” imagines life as a free spirit or a nomad. More care free & disentangled than some of the other lyrics tonight, it’s jaunty & breezy, skip along acoustic strum. It’s introduced by a preamble about how Eddie wrote the lyrics on the back of an airplane ticket after a meeting at Neil’s house for the Bridge Benefit but “It’s not that it didn’t take me long to write it, it’s just that Neil’s got a really long driveway .. ” he quips.
“Other Side” has it’s first ever outing tonight but for the Pearl Jam crowd it’s obviously not a secret b-side has it’s fans. The track itself has a pared down but ominous feeling. The loss of a loved one or friend seems to be the central theme.
“The End” is a pretty Beatlesque tune while again the band are joined by strings. The delicate & down guitar that sits behind the voice that swoops across the air is brilliant. The audience sit rapt throughout until the very end. Eddie then kids the crowd that he’d rather stop now but “If you want us to carry on .. “
We turn a road with the next track & are treated to a hyper speed “Lukin”, possibly the angriest & speediest song in the bands oeuvre. The power that the original has is immense & hammers along like a mutant missile – this acoustic rendition comes along like Motorhead’s “Ace Of Spades” while the lyrics are spat out like busted teeth.
The final track “Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town” has the audience standing, shouting & wishing for more. Typically a Pearl Jam song with lyrics that regard mortality & burnished dreams. Its brief for a closing song but it certainly captures the heart & the set couldn’t be better sealed by it’s appearance.