Three hours and three encores, what else can a fan ask for from a band? Well, for us Pearl Jam fans, we didn’t need to ask for such a performance as the boys provided a show that bordered on life-altering. I don’t know if it was the abundant electricity that flowed through my veins the minute they stepped on stage, or the scented waves of Mary-Jane that wafted past my face, but Wednesday night the Air Canada Centre in Toronto was the site of one of the best concerts I have ever experienced.
Pearl Jam, as many of us know, has had their ups and downs, especially after the Ten album and the fall of grunge. But 15 years later, and with their abundance of talent, they have had a resurgence lately with the release of their latest self-titled CD. Their fans, many of whom I met on the train ride to the concert, would say that Pearl Jam hasn’t gone anywhere. They would go on further to say that its music, as a whole, that has regrettably spiraled away from the independent core of grunge music to a place that is more commercial and void of defiance. To that end, I cannot argue. What I do know is that Pearl Jam, coming or going, can undoubtedly still bring the goods.
To those of us who have had the pleasure of seeing them live, Pearl Jam is a band that begs to be seen in a large venue. Their music translates its inherent energy to the masses with an abundance in reserve. Eddy’s pipes are as throaty now as they were when I first heard “Alive”, and Stone’s nimble fingers can still announce edgy riffs that shake your insides, charge your soul, and leave a ring in your ears that lasts for days. Believe me; I can still hear “Word Wide Suicide” as if they were playing right next to my computer.
As the second hour passed, I noticed the band did its best to seamlessly integrate their new songs with old favorites, and throw in a cover of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” for good measure. We Canadian fans were much appreciative of the homage, considering the mutually beneficial relationship these two have had over the years. Argue all you want, but I believe Neil’s early work was a precursor of the grunge movement, and I think Eddy would agree. Having only heard the new CD a few times through, I realized how the band had grown musically and how they have never left their core ideals. They are political, emotional, and, at points in the concert, maniacal, all without an ounce of pretension. Yes, the new songs serve us Jam fans well.
Leaving the concert, I had the chance to engage other fans about their reactions to what we just experienced. The overwhelming majority gushed about the venue, the music, and the simple fact that Pearl Jam is as relevant now as they were when they first broke on to the music scene many years ago. I remember one guy, one intoxicated guy, who made it a point to tell me over and over Pearl Jam is, bar none, the best live band there ever was. To that end, I don’t know, but what I do know is regardless of the numerous rumors of their demise, Pearl Jam still defines a type of music that is, at its heart, a righteous declaration of intelligent defection that leaves you pumping your fist and screaming at the top of your lungs. For me, that’s the only way there is to leave a concert.
On a side note — I would like to thank Dani Lovett from Cornerstone for her tireless efforts in getting me in to see this show… thanks Dani!