Be still my heart. A night with Pearl Jam.

If you know a little bit about me (and this blog) then you know that I’ve been a huge Pearl Jam fan since the early 90s and that this blog was, fittingly, named after one of their songs.

Despite my strong desire to see them more often, I had not seen them in concert in over 20 years. Why, you ask? Opportunity and money. If you look at their “tour history”, it looks like they’ve been touring almost every single year since 1990. 

In the early years, they didn’t play very many shows in Europe and I was young. It was hard to afford tickets and travel. I still saw them three times in the late 90s. 

Hamburg 1996
Rock am Ring 2000
Berlin 2000

Then after I moved to the US in 2001, there weren’t too many opportunities either that didn’t involve significant travel. They played shows every year but were selective with venues and often only played “short” tours with few tour dates. I think they played in the Bay Area a handful of times over the next two decades, but that is still a decent drive from here and for one reason or another, I just couldn’t swing it. On a side note, I always wanted to know how the people who go to multiple – or all – tour concerts and basically travel with the band could afford it. Even though I feel that Pearl Jam has always tried to keep ticket prices reasonable (remember the feud with Ticketmaster in the 90s?) tickets have gotten expensive, even for the cheap seats.

But I digress. Let’s fast forward.

Imagine my excitement, when I finally scored tickets for the Gigaton Tour in 2020, which was then – you guessed it – canceled because of the pandemic. What a huge bummer! 

It was rescheduled for 2021, then rescheduled again for 2022. We originally had tickets for Oakland (a 2+ hour drive from here) but were able to exchange them for tickets in Sacramento. We were thrilled and the tour in 2022 actually went ahead but our show in Sacramento (and the next one in Las Vegas) was then canceled at the last minute – literally a few hours before the concert was supposed to start – because their drummer and bassist got Covid. To say that I was bummed is a huge understatement, but I didn’t doubt for one second that they made the right call. 

At this point, Ticketmaster refunded the ticket price and we were back to the waiting game for a new opportunity. 

Earlier this year, I got an email that Pearl Jam was releasing another album – Dark Matter – in April and was going on tour in May. I was thrilled to see they were planning to come to Sacramento again. I had a presale access code and was able to score two tickets, which was not an easy feat. If you’ve been to any concerts lately you might have experienced yourself a) how hard it is to actually get tickets (all I am going to say is “presale codes, specific times when access is granted, waiting cues, and tickets disappearing before your eyes while you’re trying to book them) and b) how expensive it has become to go to a concert with all the added fees and whatnot.

I was willing to pay a pretty penny, but man, it puts a bit of a damper on the whole thing. Still, I am very thankful that I scored two tickets and was able to afford them. I was now able to focus on the anticipatory joy of counting down the days to May, 13.

 It was a Monday and I finished up work a little early, so we could get going. I was giddy when we arrived at the arena downtown. There was a true buzz in the air. I kept thinking that it had been 20+ years since I saw the band (which seems crazy). At the last concert, I wore cargo pants and Doc Martens. Guess what I wore this time? Cargo pants and Doc Martens. It just felt right. We saw a lot of flannel shirts in the audience, too.

The atmosphere in the arena was electric, the anticipatory joy was overwhelming! The audience was such a great mix of people – young and old, and every age in between; a testament to the longevity of this band and their music. I think I had a big smile on my face the whole time.

The opening act, Deep Sea Diver, a rock duo from Seattle, was good, really good (take a listen on Spotify) but I really wanted them to finish up, so the concert would start. 

courtesy of @pearljam

Finally, around 9 pm, Pearl Jam entered the stage. They opened with “Pendulum” (from the album Lightning Bolt, 2013), a slow, melodic song, and the crowd went wild. The rest of the playlist was amazing. They played a lot of songs from the new album – obviously, but also a lot of old classics (many from their first album, “Ten”). They’re also releasing bootlegs of all the concerts on this tour, which I think is so cool. They have done that in the past, in fact, I own the bootleg CD from the concert I saw in Berlin in 2000. It’s so special to have the playlist of the concert that you attended on CD. (Yes, it was still the era of CDs back then. Now you can buy music in all kinds of digital formats but they also still offer CDS and even vinyl!).

It’s hard to pick a favorite song of the night, but I think I loved “Black” (Ten, 1992), “Dance of the Clairvoyants” (Gigaton, 2020), and “Better Man” (Vitalogy, 1994) the most. I was hoping for them to play the song that gave this blog its name (“I am a mine”, Riot Act, 2002), but they didn’t. I haven’t had a chance to hear it live. Maybe someday. You don’t always get your wish. The guy behind us was screaming for “Yellow Ledbetter” as an encore. He didn’t get his wish either. But believe me, it was still the best show!

I did not take a lot of pictures and only recorded a handful of videos. Besides the fact that I wanted to be present and enjoy every second of this magical night, our seats were too high up and too far away from the stage to really see anything up close. The show was still really cool, because of the stunning video art visuals by Rob Sheridan (click through for a few impressions. And you can see one in the first image above). If you know Pearl Jam, then you probably know about its unique and artful CD covers and booklets, tour posters, and stage visuals.

I listened to an interesting interview a while ago (I think it was on NPR) on separating the art from the artist. If you google it, there are quite a few articles about it. This is an interesting topic to explore (maybe another time) but I am really glad I don’t have to worry about this when it comes to Pearl Jam/Eddie Vedder. I don’t just love their music, but everything else they stand for. Eddie ended up making quite a few political statements during the show (I don’t think I have to spell out where he stands on the political spectrum, it’s well-known) and I also know that he’s a dedicated husband, father, and all around decent human being, which all makes me hold him in extra high regard.

For me, Eddie Vedder also has arguably one of the most beautiful, most distinctive singing voices. I can usually pick his voice out of a crowd without fail. I prefer it when he sings slower, more melodic songs, even though you probably know that Pearl Jam has some pretty upbeat solid rock songs as well (but I have to be in the mood for those). I was in the mood and I had an absolute blast. I was singing and dancing and reminiscing and got goosebumps more than once throughout the evening!

This was a very special night. A night I had been looking forward to for a very long time. I am so glad Jon and I were able to go and experience it together. Memories were made. But I really hope I’ll get to see Pearl Jam again sometime.

18 Comments

  1. So cool for you. They come to Montana alot as one of the members is from here. They have done a ton of like grassroot fundraising for our area here too.

    1. Oh yes, Jeff is from Montana. I forgot. It’s awesome they’re doing so much charity work.

  2. Oh wow, how fun! I like Pearl Jam a lot.
    I think about “separating the art from the artist” a lot, and it always leaves me feeling so mixed and complicated.

    1. I am really so happy I don’t have to separate Pearl Jam’s art from the artist. They’re the real deal :)

  3. Live music is so special. I have a friend that is especially enamoured of Pearl Jam also – drives from here to Toronto to see them twice. I agree Vedder’s voice is distinctive and really cool.
    So glad you got to have this amazing experience, especially after a couple of false starts.
    I feel weird about having to separate the art from the artist, and I prefer not to. It’s much nicer when it’s not an issue.

    1. Thank you Allison. It was a truly magical experience, and yes, I am so glad I don’t have to separate the art from the artist in this case. It would leave me very conflicted.

  4. This looks like such an amazing night, San. And all that waiting and delayed anticipation must have made it all the sweeter. I’m so, so happy this all worked out.

    Would you believe I couldn’t name a single Pearl Jam song? Eeks. I’m sure I’d recognize plenty from just hearing them around…but it has never been a band I’ve followed so I’m inspired to get listening to them on Spotify :) That will be my playlist for the morning.

    1. Aww, thank you, Elisabeth. It was a truly special night. And I am sure you know PLENTY of PJ songs when you hear them :)

  5. Who wouldn´t want to see PJ live in concert? I´m so excited you finally got to see them again!!

    1. Thank you my friend. It was so special :)

  6. As someone who was in high school in the 90s, I feel like Pearl Jam are one of those cultural milestones for me; their songs feel like high school to me in such a deep way. It is so cool you finally got to see them again and I’m so glad it was an amazing experience!

    1. Oh yes, PJ does feel VERY 90s to me… even though they’ve had a thriving career over the last 25 years, too, but it takes me right back to my teenage grunge days <3

  7. I’m so glad you got to go to one of their concerts. I just this morning heard a song of the radio that I think is from their new album. ‘Wreckage’ – I think that was the name of it. I really liked it. Love the photos. You are clearly a super fan. I didn’t know you named your blog after one of their songs. Learn something new everyday.

    1. Thank you so much, Ernie! Oh, and they played Wreckage on the radio… that makes me smile :) I love that song.

  8. What an awesome experience – especially after having to wait to long! I’m so glad everything worked out this time and you were able to see them and that the show was great. Hooray!

  9. Gah a bunch of posts from you showed up yesterday again so I guess the Feedly issue is not fixed. Boo.

    I remember that string of cancellations so I am glad you finally saw them in person! It is so expensive to attend concerts but also so so fun! I loathe ticket master. They are the most garbage company ever with all of their ridiculous fees. I am always glad when someone performs in one of our smaller theaters here in Minneapolis where I can physically go to the ticket box and avoid all the BS fees.

    OMG, though, coming on stage at 9pm! I would be yawning/struggling to stay awake at that time of night!

  10. You can feel your joy and happiness reading this recap. Yo happy you got to experience. Unbelievable you had to wait 20 years.
    I have to admit that right now I have no musical cue in my head on how Pearl Jam sounds. I think I need to have a listen. I am sure I have heard their songs.

  11. So glad you got to do this, my friend. <3 I can only imagine the smile on your face the whole night.

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