Pearl Jam is sacred for me. Since the lead-up to last year’s GIGATON, I’ve been slowly working my way through their discography, which has been really rewarding. For me, the weekend’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of their fourth album, NO CODE, and the 30th of their debut TEN was capped off with a late-night viewing of the October 17th, 2014 Moline, IL show where the band played NO CODE live from start to finish—really well, I might add.
Right from the jump, it's clear Eddie Vedder was in excellent voice! When he hit “sometimes I speak of nothing at all” with such surprising gusto, it gave me goosebumps like when Paul McCartney sings “smiles await you when you rise” in “Golden Slumbers!” The opening notes of “Habit’ were heavy as f*ck, and I thought Mike McCready might burst into flames during his outro solo.
The songs all felt fresh, energized, and deepened with age like when Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band played the DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN album in the empty Paramount Theater in 2009.
You can see from these screen-grabs of the free NugsTV stream on YouTube the smiles on all the guys’ faces. I found the whole thing so moving. Even Ed’s little guitar prelude to “Lukin” made me well up, and by the time they got to “Present Tense” I was a blubbery mess.
It was great seeing Stone and Jeff trade instruments for “Smile” and getting to hear Boom Gaspar on songs like “Red Mosquito” and “Around The Bend.”
Though some of the songs have been fixtures in their set since NO CODE was released, there were some cool rarities. That’s the first time I remember hearing Stone sing “Mankind” live since the Key Arena bootleg from 1996, and I’ve never heard a live rendition of “I’m Open.” Having discovered the SINGLE PODCAST THEORY show over the weekend as well, I thought of "the Brads" when that one came up in the sequence. And though I really dug the short interlude-type approach they did play, I was craving a more fully realized reimagining.
My one other critique would be wanting to hear more of the harmonies in the new Josh Evans mix. I’m sure he had his reasons, though, and ultimatley the show sounds great! Can’t wait for the new Vault bootleg version.
The rest of the show was a lot of fun as well. Ed gave the impression that there was not really a planned set-list, and they seemed to take not only requests from the front rows but also lyric reminders. Looking at this picture of the set list from the band's Twitter page, it does look like they veered way off course from what was planned.
Some of my favorite post-NO-CODE performance moments were Mike’s great, delay-soaked lead In “Garden,” an especially kick-ass rendition of EV's solo guitar-opening to “Porch,” some really crazy Stone faces-pulling in "Brain of J," and Jeff blessing himself and Mike during the "Hallelujahs" of "Do The Evolution."
In the encore, Ed reveals he’s tripping on mushrooms! “Holy shit there’s people back THERE?!” Nonetheless, he plays a short solo acoustic set, starting with a song written that day for the show and finishing with his cover of “Imagine.” Not a dry eye in the house during that number! Even though he's trippin' balls, Vedder still has the presence of mind to apologize to a young lady named Ali when he inserts a quick f-bomb into an inspired performance of “In Hiding.”
Just a few minutes before that, Jeff and Ed honor a request Ali's mom made for "Bee Girl" to mark her daughter's first concert-going experience.
Speaking of firsts, NO CODE was the first PJ album I bought the day it came out. I got the CD midnight on the 27th at a Best Buy and the vinyl at a place called Quonset Hut in Akron, Ohio. I still have those artifacts, as well as the complete poloriod sets I put together from buying multiple copies on various formats. Such a pisser that songs like "In My Tree," "Present Tense," and "I'm Open" didn’t have anything printed on the back but the writing credit (no lyrics). It was such a special time in my forming a personal connection with the band beyond the first three records, which were all available to me at once when I first got into them in 1995.
In addition to the Moline show, there are loads of retrospective articles to dive into, there are the two new DEEP live-compilations of NO CODE and TEN now streaming (which I’m psyched to listen to), and even a shout-out on the 8/27 episode of TED LASSO! As I mentioned, I sought out and listened to the pertinent episodes of the Single Podcast Theory. And then there’s the two episodes of Rob Bleetstein’s “Faithful Forum” on Sirius/XM’s Pearl Jam Radio—both a regular call-in show, and a “super-fan-brain-trust” edition. Finally, the duo of track-by-track commentaries with Stone and Mike talking to Cameron Crowe about TEN and Jeff talking to David Fricke about NO CODE were both excellent. Catch those on demand via the Sirius/XM while you still can.
It's a consistently rewarding thing to be a Pearl Jam fan, but this weekend was a real treat. Thanks to all those in the extensive Pearl Jam community for making these milestone album anniversaries so memorable.