Posted on August 02 2017
Ten Years Ago Today...
1000 hands up raised and open towards the sky
Disclaimer: I am in no way a writer, blogger, or even someone who uses words well, Im an accountant for Christ's sake. So where do I begin? Those around me are all too familiar with the significance of Pearl Jam in my life (if not, you might want to stop reading, I have issues). They may not understand the obsession (why would you go to so many shows and spend all of that time and money to see the SAME band over and over?), but they realize the importance of these guys for me. It can all be traced back to freshman year of high school (1994, woof), when the album Vitalogy came out. It was released early on vinyl, and being one of the few who still had a record player, this new kid was able to make copies for all of my new friends. From there, the obsession only grew.
Fast forward to 2007 (through high school, college, joining the work force, and most importantly 74 Pearl Jam shows attended later) when PJ was announced as the headliner for Lollapalooza in Grant Park in Chicago. This festival appearance was billed as the only show for the band in North America that year, so it become somewhat of a destination for the Pearl Jam hard cores (the "faithfull," "jamily," freaks," whatever version you prefer to call these deadhead/trekkie hybrids). But could they REALLY only do one show after a small European jaunt? They would need to practice or warmup at some point, wouldn't they?
Indeed they did. On July 24th, an email went out to fan club members announcing a "smaller" show at the legendary Vic Theatre on Sheffield and Belmont, capacity of 1400 people. Tickets would go on sale to fan club members only two days later via the band's website. Thus began two sleepless nights, probably a little sleepwalking, waiting for the onsale. Would I really be able to see my all time favorite band that was about to headline a 70,000 person festival in the same place that I had seen Silverchair not once but twice (no offense, Siverchair)?
"Way back" then, there was no ticket lottery, just hammering away at the band's site if you were lucky enough to get through. Locked away in my tiny non-air conditioned office, I tried and tried for tickets. Luckily, after a half hour sweating and a roller coaster of emotions, I was able to get through for a pair of tix. $150 gladly forked over. But what about my buddies making the trip in from Cleveland? They had just gotten through for tickets as well. Now we just had to wait a week for next Thursday to come. As Clevelander Vince put it, "The trip now became a journey with a purpose. It became my very own pilgrimage." We take this stuff very seriously.
Armed with a cooler of non-alcoholic beverages and a big sandwich from Dominicks (RIP Dominicks and your beautiful big sandwich), I arrived at The Vic around 7:30 in the morning that day. Already a sizable line, I set up shop right at the corner as I waited for my brother and out of town friends to join. Truthfully the rest of the day waiting in line is a blur. I remember it being a beautiful day out, and meeting some of the best people around. Security was top notch. Eventually our names were checked on a list and we were given wristbands. No physical tickets, though people made some sizable cash offers for the wristband. I remember being let in and scrambling for a spot on "Mike's side." We were just a couple people back from the tiny stage with the beautiful brown wave backdrop. Now that we were situated, one of us had to try and get the limited edition poster. My brother volunteered, and came back successful. God forbid we miss out on a poster (apologies to my parents for the amount of space these take up in my old room back home. Someday I will clear them out to make room for that billiard parlor).
Word began to spread that Eddie Vedder would be the "opening act" for Pearl Jam. Doing a song or two before the opening band was pretty common back then, so we just assumed that was the case. Instead, when it was finally show time, Eddie came out and did about 20 minutes by himself to warm up the crowd. During his first song (Cat Stevens cover "Trouble") the flashes from the digital cameras were going crazy. Ed paused in the middle of the song: "with all the flashes I feel like I'm at a disco...so if you got some cocaine for me to take then Ill feel right at home at a disco....or maybe we'll just stop with the flashes." I'd be lying if I said we weren't guilty - of taking pictures, not cocaine - see the numerous low lit pics from a crummy pre-2007 era digital camera. Advice heeded, no more flashes. "We got off to a bad start, lets start over," said my buddy Vincent. The set included "Dead Man," the cheeky "I Used to Work in Chicago," and "Picture in a Frame" by Tom Waits. With several Cubs in attendance (including all-around great guy Ryan Dempster), the 5 song set also included the public debut of the Cubs tribute song "All the Way."
After what I am told is a half hour or so after the opener, the full band came out. Since this was essentially a warm up for Lollapalooza, some of us assumed that this would be a hits filled affair. However, those who cheated and listened to soundcheck knew otherwise. "All or None" from Riot Act opened the main set. A relative rarity (and I believe the only time it was used as an opener?), we knew we were all in for a treat. The US debut of Lost Dog "Education" followed (this was the 3rd time it was played, only 9 times total to this day). Another Lost Dog "Sad" followed (how did this song never end up on a proper album?). When it was time for "In Hiding," the crowd was fully warmed up. This is probably one of the finer singalongs I have been a part of in all of my years of concert-going.
Other highlights/nerdy notables for me included:
During the last line of "Parachutes," Ed looking up to the Mrs. in the balcony while singing "And love,.... What a different life Had I not found this love with you" -
"Wishlist" had the lyrics altered to "Just under 1000 hands up raised and open to the sky," referring to number of lucky ones in attendance.
"Undone" was first and only time I would hear this one live. This was just 3rd time played live, still only 5 live versions exist to this day. Following the song, Eddie addresses the crowd: "forgive us, but most of these songs we decided to play at about 4:30 this afternoon." No apologies necessary, sir.
"Hard to Imagine" is one of my all time favorite songs, and it was perfectly fitting for the occasion.
"Rats" included an appearance of the infamous George W. Bush mask.
US debut of tribute to Iraq War veteran Tomas Young "No More."
"Love, Reign O'er Me" was just the 2nd time played live, and the US debut of the recent Who cover to appear on the Reign Over Me movie soundtrack and fan club single.
"Gods' Dice," "Comatose," "Why Go" and "Sonic Reducer" all stood out for me personally, as the rockers for this small rock club.
"Black Diamond" by Kiss was played for the first time ever (after a botched false start), complete with drummer Matt Cameron on vocals. This has only been played one other time since.
"Indifference" with Ben Harper, introduced by Ed as "you'll know him when you see him," closed the night. The next night, Ed would return the favor and appear during Ben's north stage headlining Lollapalooza set for a cover of Dylan's "Masters of War." Ben introduced Eddie with the same "you'll know him when you see him."
We did our usual hanging around/scavenging for goods after the show in hopes of a setlist, drum stick, relic, etc. But we were being greedy, as we had been showered with Mike's guitar pics all night. Finally, we were kindly asked to leave by security, and we made our way out of the venue, amazed at what we had all witnessed. Granted, they could have lip synced to Three Doors Down hits for 10 minutes and we probably still would have loved it, but this show was truly one for the ages.
I realize it is such a cliche that a "superfan" would snobbishly pick a rarities filled show in a 1300 seat venue as his favorite show of all time. If its any consolation, my #2 favorite show is Bonnaroo the very next year, but that's a story for another time. The whole experience surrounding the Vic show was surreal. It is truly amazing the memories that are conjured up just by listening to the bootleg of this show.
Speaking of bootlegs, in case you havnt gathered, I highly recommend giving a listen (does not contain the set by opening act, Edward Vedder):
Official bootleg cd: https://pearljam.com/shop/music/bootlegs/vic-theatre-822007-vault-2-bootleg-cd
Official bootleg download: https://pearljam.com/shop/music/bootlegs/vic-theatre-822007-vault-2-bootleg-digital-download
Maybe some day we'll get this one pressed on vinyl, 10 club?
Show poster by Brad Klausen: http://www.artillerydesign.com/main.php?page=view_item&item_id=56&pg=0
Reviews of the show: