Making of a Moment – Seattle 12/8/2002
On the podcast every week, Randy and I recap that week’s show by picking our top 3 moments of the night. It can be a particularly noteworthy performance, a speech, or even a run of songs that adds up to something greater. This week, I want to talk a little more about the moments that I selected and how they came together.
My number 3 moment was Black, which was performed very early, in the #2 spot on the setlist.
If this came as a surprise to you, you aren’t the only one, as evidenced by the vocal fan in the video who exclaims “whoa, SHIT, OH SHIT” over the opening chords. Stone’s on the acoustic guitar for this one, and it sounds relaxed and laid-back, he’s keeping time doing his shuffle. After Ed sings the first set of “ohhh”s and “yeah”s, before the verse starts, there’s a spontaneous eruption of applause and appreciation from the crowd, and they’re not excited because of what’s just happened, but because of what’s about to happen, and that’s a different kind of ovation that has to be earned, it’s a combination of “we LOVE this song” and “this is a special and unusual thing that is happening right now and we need to let them know that we think it’s fantastic.” Listen to Mike during the verse, he’s still doing his harmonics and accents that he usually does, but he’s adding in these little carefree melodic fills and runs that remind me a lot of the Rolling Stones’ midtempo ballads (Wild Horses, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Dead Flowers, etc.) That, combined with the contribution on piano from Boom (in one of his first shows with the band!), and Ed’s performance (watch for his throwaway “that’s all..” away from the mic) gives the song a lush, rich feel that it rarely had before. There’s another crowd surge after the “…tattooed everything” line, where the band lets the song fade into silence for just a moment. Ed’s in the moment now, changing the pitch of the line coming back in, and lifting his voice up for the “all I AM” line, before holding out the “be” in the “…all I’ll be” line for a remarkable 15 seconds (go ahead, time it!) We’re almost to the solo, but first, there’s an amazing transition that takes place in Black when Ed’s vocal is coming to a close and Mike is getting ready to unleash the solo, meandering melodically in and around the notes, Ed’s keeping it restrained until he finally lets out a wordless, between-gritted-teeth final note, and steps back out of the spotlight, head down, hands in pockets. Mike’s been gearing up, his eyes closed, body tilted almost 90 degrees to the left, guitar pointed down, and as soon as Ed steps away, the head goes up, the playing becomes more fluid, more focused. He lets a note hang for a few seconds, letting it breathe and linger before moving on. The Black solo doesn’t need to be flashy, it’s not Even Flow or Corduroy or Go, it needs to channel all the volcanic emotion of the performance to that point and give it somewhere to go, let it resolve. He gets quiet here, eliciting another crowd reaction, but he’s not done. He’s going way up the fretboard, to the really high notes, and he’s using the flamenco style that he used frequently during the Bridge School performances to bring the song to a close. Matt washes the cymbals out and that’s it.
My number 2 moment from this show is Blood. We talked on the episode about the speech that Ed gives beforehand, referencing a review of Riot Act in which the reviewer accused the band of dabbling in politics for credibility.
No surprise that they would play Blood, then, with its Spin, Rolling Stone, and Circus magazine references. It’s a throwback performance, Ed is hunched over the microphone right from the beginning like it’s 1994, but here I want to focus on Mike smashing his guitar, and what happened leading up to it. He’s stalking around the stage during the verses, he walks over towards the rest of the band at one point, looking for someone to lock in with, then heads back over and pogos. He synchronizes his jump with Ed’s, limbs thrown forward aggressively. As Ed is whipping his microphone around, you hear Mike’s guitar lead lose its way, devolving into nothing. The decision has been made. In the corner of the screen, the guitar comes off in one motion and is on the ground. The crowd instantly reacts, here’s something that they didn’t expect, it’s a mix of gasps and “fuck yeah!”s. He picks it up by the neck to finish the job, two smashes to the side, one to the back, and one to the front, and it’s done. He grabs it one-handed and swings it over his head, then flings it over the amplifiers, where it comes to rest for the final time. Job complete, he walks off stage calmly before the song is even finished.
My number 1 moment from this show is the performance of I Am Mine. This was only the 7th performance of the song, although it had been debuted more than a year prior.
Ed begins the song on guitar, almost muting the strings, much quieter and more deliberate than he would in later years. The first hint of something special comes after the first chorus; Ed steps away from the microphone and looks over to Stone, giving his guitar a few passionate strums. Mike, perhaps noticing the extra effort, crashes in with one thunderous chord before the song kicks back in. After the “…we’re safe to-night” line, Ed looks over toward Mike’s side, they run through the riff once, and the second time, Ed and Mike both start strumming harder, Ed steps back from the mic, Mike gives a fist pump towards Matt, and we’re in the middle of something special happening. The next riff is punctuated by crashing on each note, like a prize fighter getting pummeled on the ropes. The camera cuts to Boom, who’s having the time of his life, and the band below stays on that instrumental pre-chorus section for longer than they do on the album, each time through the riff building and rising off the last. They’ve hit on something and they’re riding the wave, following it to see where it goes, before careening back into the final choruses. Mike’s solo comes in, and if ever there was a moment to go off-script and just let those inner demons out, like he’s done so many times on Immortality, Nothing As It Seems, Black, and many, many more, it is here. But he doesn’t. It’s barely a 20-second solo, with hints of something greater, but the song demands less. Always leave ‘em wanting more.
Hope you all enjoyed the podcast this week, it felt like these deserved a little extra deep dive. It’s these little moments that keep me coming back, that make listening to a different PJ show every week anything but boring. It’s a tiny bit of magic that the 5 (or 6) of them can create almost at will. It’s about the music and it always has been.