I woke up Saturday morning and processed what I saw the night before. “Will this beat Philly ’09 and MSG ’10 as the best back to back shows we’ve seen,” I asked my buddy, Sherm? For me, those are the two best back to back shows from Pearl Jam, and I still talk about them regularly. If they brought it like they did the night before, there was a chance this weekend would become best all time.
Saturday was kind of a relaxing day. I don’t get many of those being a stay at home dad to a 4-year-old, so I took full advantage.
We were able to pick up our TenClub tickets a day early, so we set off to buy Pearl Jam merchandise. I walked away with a hat, t-shirt, poster and stickers for my personal collection, along with a wrist band and shirt for my wife.
Up next, we hit Wahlburgers for lunch since it’s a block away. We wanted to visit this place when we were in Boston last year for the Foo Fighters, but didn’t get the chance.
One of the best things about road trips for concerts is being able to enjoy some local food. The Wahlbergs, Mark and Donnie… both Boston natives, opened a chain of burger joints with their brother, who is a chef. In fact, the TV show about their restaurant is on A&E. I tried the BBQ Bacon burger, which is really good. I am also a fan of any place that serves tots. Who doesn’t love tots?
After lunch, we went back to the hotel to take a nap, then met our friends Chris and Christina for dinner. I want to give a special shout out to this amazing couple. They are road warriors when it comes to concerts. They actually met at a Dave Matthews show. Her favorite band is Dave Matthews Band, and his is Pearl Jam. Reverse that and you have their second favorites. In other words, a perfect match. They travel all over the country to see both bands, even with twin girls at home. Impressive!
We ate at Antico Forno in the North End. The North End is known for blocks of great Italian food, and this place delivers. The rice ball appetizer is delicious, along with my main course, Chicken Saltimbocca. After dinner, we grabbed a few drinks at the bar and spoke about the show last night and what tomorrow would bring. Our night ended with the best Cannoli’s in Boston at Mike’s Pastry. The peanut butter and the Oreo Cannoli are amazing. If you’re ever in the Boston area, it’s a must try.
Sunday morning came, and while Mike slept in, I was so pumped that it made sleep impossible, so I went to see the film, Suicide Squad. The movie is so much fun, and Margot Robbie and Jared Leto do an excellent job as Harley Quinn and the Joker, respectively.
After the movie, I went back to the hotel for a swim and a dip in the hot tub. Now I was ready for the night to begin.
We met up with Chris and Christina, as well as my friends Mike and Lori, who were in town for night 2. Mike and Lori were both at my first ever Pearl Jam show back in ’96, so it was cool thing to have them back for this special night. Plus, they won the TenClub lottery for seats and wound up with 2nd row tickets. To be 10 feet from a band like that is a dream that I have yet to experience.
The 6 of us grabbed a quick bite and some drinks at Tony C’s. Side note, it’s a block from Fenway, and a great place to pre-game.
From there, we all walked over to Fenway and went inside, said our goodbyes and split up to go to our seats. I am so happy I had these 5 other friends with me tonight, despite sitting in different areas of the stadium.
We found our seats (not as close as the first night, but decent), and once again, the crowd buzzed about the show. At about 7:30, the band hit the stage and began things with Pendulum. Like Friday night, they started slow with a great mix of songs. Off He Goes followed, which is a semi rarity, and then the band played another rarity, especially for the past 15 years, with Nothing as it Seems. I was lucky to see it performed live 16 years ago, so it was like hearing it for the first time again.
Great versions of Nothingman and Wishlist followed, and brought the slow start to a close. A quick instrumental of Pink Floyd’s Interstellar Overdrive let the crowd know that the band was here to rock, and that was made clearer as the opening chords of Corduroy hit. Just like Friday night, the crowd jumped and sang every word.
While there are songs like Corduroy that I’ve heard multiple times in recent years, there are some that I was hoping to hear. I got that, with the back to back punch of Animal and Hail Hail. Hearing some of these songs was like seeing an old friend. This night was already giving Night 1 a run for its money. Little did I know, as the night continued, I would hear even more old friends.
I really wanted to hear In Hiding. Sure enough, the notes hit and I went nuts. I looked over at Sherm, and we did that nod, like let’s do this! In Hiding is one of those songs where the crowd gives it a whole new meaning. When the chorus hits and 35,000 people sing back to the band, it feels like you are one big family sitting around a large campfire. I was in tears.
After the usual Evenflow/bathroom break, it was time to let loose, so to speak. Tom Hamilton from Aerosmith came out to play Draw the Line. Someone must have told him that Pearl Jam played it on night 1, and he didn’t want to miss out on the fun.
All of a sudden, Eddie said that he needs a uke, which is a reference to Lukin, a huge crowd favorite from the No Code album. Next up, Not for You and Immortality, both from Vitology. At this point, tonight surpassed Night 1, and we were still on the main set.
Deep came next, and then the crowd roared in approval when Jeremy began. This song is so amazing that it never gets old. The chills you feel when you hear “Try to forget this.. Try to erase this… From the blackboard,” and everyone sings it back, is incredible.
Unthought Known came after, with my second round of tears. Unthought Known is a newer song, but it’s one of Pearl Jam’s best. I saw Eddie Vedder solo before this song was on an album, and he told a story of how he wrote it the night before and wanted to try it out. He played it, and wow… I knew that night that it was something special, and the song became a source of inspiration for me, similar to Release and Breath.
A roaring Rearviewmirror, or as I call it, the best driving song ever, closed out the main set. Twenty-one songs! I was spent, but so much more to come.
The encore started with a tribute to the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombings, in the form of Yellow Moon. Then the band gave us something ultra-special. Angel made a rare appearance, and it floored me. My friend Lori said it best after the show. “When we heard this song on a bootleg over 20 years ago, we never knew there would be a night where we would hear this song live.” Simply amazing.
A haunting version of Footsteps followed. Then, Eddie shared a story of how when he met Joey Ramone, one of the things they bonded over was baseball. This segued to the Ramones’ classic, I Believe in Miracles. Then, the set closed out with Better Man. Eddie doesn’t even have to sing one word to the beginning of this song because the crowd does it for him. Chills yet again.
Encore 2 began with Smile. A shout out to my friend Christina, who loves this song and heard it tonight after missing it a few times in the past.
Boom Gaspar was introduced on the keyboard, as the opening keys to the legendary Who song, Love Reign O’er Me, boomed over the speakers. I looked at Sherm and told him that I didn’t want this night to end. The only thing left for me would be if they played Breath.
Then they played Breath! I literally hugged Sherm and screamed with excitement, complete with tears streaming down my face I sang every word. The words that mean so much to me in this song “If I knew where it was, I would take you there. But there’s much more than this. Woah.. See the world.” If lines in any song talk to me, it is these words. It inspired me to travel as much as I can. It inspired me to live life and to always search for more, because what’s in front of you is nothing compared to what’s around this big world of ours.
The show could have ended right there and I would have been fine… but there was still more. The stadium lights came on and a great cover of Rockin in the Free World followed, along with Eddie playing catch with a fan in the crowd. He promised Night 1 he was going to play ball while he was there, and he did.
The band said their goodbyes, and I looked over at Sherm and couldn’t speak. Then I said it. “These were the best back to back shows ever!” Emotional roller coaster may be the best way to describe it. Night 2 was the perfect show. When we met up outside with everyone, we all hugged and started talking about the experience. Mike and Lori, for example, looked like they went through a rebirth from being in the second row.
Over the course of two shows, they played 67 songs with only 6 of these songs played on both nights. We had a bunch of super rare songs, hits and everything in between. You can’t top that.
The next day, we went back to our normal lives, but nothing will ever take away that bond. I don’t mean me and my five friends, but rather every single person in the crowd that night.
Pearl Jam brings people together from every walk of life. We’re one big family, and you don’t get that with every band. Sure, there are bands with more fans, longer legacies, more albums sold, etc., but no band connects to their fans the way Pearl Jam does. It’s our special place. Our happy place. A chance to forget about all of life’s hardships for a few hours. That’s the power of their music.
Thank you to Ed, Stone, Mike, Jeff, Matt and Boom. Thank you for giving me and so many others something special to carry with us for the last 25 years. Sometimes, I don’t know what I would do without your music, and I know I’m not alone when I say that I’m glad I never have to.
“Feel the air up above... A pool of blue sky...
Fill the air up with love,... Oh Black w/starlight,...
Feel the sky blanket you,... With gems & rhinestones,...
See the path cut by the moon,... For you to walk on,...
For you to walk on,...”
Night 2 was incredible, but don't miss out on night 1 of Pearl Jam at Fenway Park!