So it’s not like I light a candle or get a tear in my eye, but I do always smile when I write the date on November 4th because the dork in my brain will always remember that as the first time I saw Pearl Jam live in concert.
Nov 4th 1995 was the rescheduled make-up Bay Area date for the aborted Golden Gate Park show five months earlier where Vedder bailed after seven songs due to food poisoning and the remaining members played a scorching set with Neil Young, dubbed “Neil Jam.” As you can see above, this was their alternate ticketing tour using non-Ticketmaster venues. This translated into really cool [Ames Bros] ticket art.
It was my junior year of high school and I had been waiting for almost two years to see Pearl Jam live. The show was held at San Jose State’s Spartan Stadium, an outdoor amphitheater. I remember joining the front end of a snaking line around the venue with my friends early in the day for the 2pm show, after purchasing a Mr. Point t-shirt (that I still wear on rare occasion).
In the late morning, the garbled but powerful melody of a soundcheck chorus and thundering drums rose through the autumn air. Hence I’ll always remember that the first song I ever heard Pearl Jam do live was “I Got Id” during the soundcheck.
We had arrived early enough to wedge ourselves right up in the front section, and settled in for some hours of waiting. Ed came on for the pre-show before The Fastbacks and Ben Harper, playing a hushed acoustic version of the then-unreleased song “Dead Man.” He wore a fedora and smiled at all of us wryly, remarking, “So these are the faces I would have seen if I could have lifted my head up in San Francisco.”
As for the show itself, I hung on for as long as I could in the roiling masses of circa-1995 PJ fans — as it turned out, my capacity was about six songs. Once “Not For You” kicked in, I thought I was going to die and had to get pulled out in favor of a spot a bit further back.
SELECTED TUNES, SAN JOSE 11/4/95
Release (live 11/4/95) – Pearl Jam
unexpectedly languid opening song for the main set, but hearing this even tonight I get little tingles and can feel the electric excitement in the air and the whole sea of people ebbing and churning against me
Corduroy (live 11/4/95) – Pearl Jam
I remember facing the cooling dusk air and singing along with my full lung capacity, especially for the opening lines, “The waiting drove me mad . . .”
I Got Id/Shit (live 11/4/95) – Pearl Jam
After hearing it a few hours before at soundcheck, I got the full treatment of this almost eerie, soaring song with some of those great visceral screams
Leaving Here (live 11/4/95) – Pearl Jam
still one of my favorite covers they do, a feisty feministic anthem with kick and (dare I say) sass. A Holland-Dozier-Holland tune from 1963, the PJ studio version was released two months after this performance, on the Home Alive benefit album
Porch (live 11/4/95) – Pearl Jam
memorable because this is an excoriating version, and Ed returned to 1992 form and climbed an enormous tower of scaffolding, hanging in a way to make me hold my breath a bit. There’s also a “Three Little Birds” tag thrown in here as well – every little things gonna be alright indeed
Indifference (live 11/4/95) – Pearl Jam
from the opening tambourine shakes and the near-mystic melody, this was the perfect final song in an exhilarating concert. My first of many PJ-induced exhausted/euphoric-bliss moments. When everyone chorused “I’ll swallow poison until I grow immune, I will scream my lungs out ’til it fills this room. . .” I was right there in the thick of that. As I walked out, I remember feeling urgently within my 16-year-old self that everything was going to be okay if that kind of connection existed in the world.
Looks like the whole show is available here
[and thanks jake for loaning me the CD!]
In other Pearl Jam news –
A new hardcover book was announced last week on the fantastic topic of Pearl Jam artwork: Pearl Jam vs. Ames Bros. PJ’s been blessed as a band to have longstanding partnerships with artists Ames Brothers (Jeff’s brother Barry Ament, and Coby Schultz — they actually designed the Mr. Point shirt & ticket stub above) and since 1999 with Denver-bred artist Brad Klausen. Collectively these guys have produced some of the most unique and energetic original posters of any other band I know.
The new book is 264 pages, and features commentary on individual posters from all five members of Pearl Jam and from the poster designers — offering insight into the inspiration, concepts and process of poster creation. There was a little excerpt of the new book in the most recent PJ magazine Deep, and it was fascinating even to me (a very-very-non-artist) to see the way that the poster concept develops and emerges, and reflects something of the music and the mood of the city. Your coffee table will be 86% cooler.
PEARL JAM VS. AMES BROS