5 Unforgettable Moments of Pearl Jam in Phoenix, AZ
John Farrar Highlights Some of the Band’s Top Moments in Los Angeles, CA
As we head “towards the great southwest” (as Ed will no doubt ad lib during Lightning Bolt), fans in Arizona, like many other locales in the US, have had to wait a long time for their PJ fix. There’s only been one show in the area since 2003, on the Lightning Bolt tour in 2013. That was a 35-song epic, with lots of rare treats (Alone! Hard To Imagine! Around the Bend! Bee Girl!), and one special moment that you’ll read about shortly. Here’s 5 Pearl Jam moments from Phoenix.
September 8, 1992 – Desert Sky Pavilion: I Don’t Need Anyone
The day before the MTV Awards, where they would reluctantly play Jeremy instead of this raucous take on the Dead Boys classic (and add in some lyrics from it at the end), they come out blazing with Sonic Reducer to open, making its Pearl Jam live debut (as far as we know…it does sound like Ed says “…we played this song in Dallas…” during the breakdown, in which case fuck off Dallas, get your own top 5 moments). They would record it a few days later for the fan club single, but this one has a raw energy to it. Listen to Dave go nuclear at the end and Ed’s guttural scream, it doesn’t get much better than this.
September 8, 1992 – Desert Sky Pavilion – Side Stage Synergy
Back to Lollapalooza 1992, although for this one we’re not talking about something that happened during Pearl Jam’s set. The early days of Lollapalooza were full of these little cool moments on the side stage in the afternoon or in the parking lot, you had all of these musicians and artists hanging out together and things would happen. According to Five Horizons, during Ice Cube’s set,
…a very loud version of ‘Hunger Strike’ is heard coming from the parking lot. Actually, it is coming from the Lollapalooza side stage, where Ed and Chris Cornell are jamming to a very lucky (but steadily growing) crowd! They play ‘Hunger Strike,’ ‘Seasons,’ ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’ and a new song by Chris Cornell (off the forthcoming Soundgarden LP; possibly ‘Like Suicide’) and a few others. Ed gets mobbed by fans as he walks off the stage towards the side gate without any security. Incredible!
Pearl Jam lore is filled with these moments that we don’t have audio or video of, they live in the memories of the people who were there and in our imaginations. Any time Ed and Chris collaborated after Temple of the Dog it has an added meaning to it now that Chris is gone. This had to have been amazing, right? Not only Hunger Strike, but Seasons? Throw Your Arms Around Me? Like Suicide? Unreal.
September 13, 1995 – Veterans Coliseum: On The Open Road
Near the end of the show, as you would think you’d be getting into “bread and butter” territory, they go into one of the most mysterious songs they’ve ever played. It’s become known as Open Road. Is it an improv, like Out Of My Mind? Was it a new song they were working on and then abandoned, like Falling Down? It’s got a sparse, desert blues feel to it, it’s another Ed lyric about getting out of somewhere you don’t want to be. I used this as a major part of the Patreon episode we did where we created an album in between Vitalogy and No Code, this was the opening track. Will they revive it for this upcoming show? Doubtful. But if Out Of My Mind and Evil Little Goat can return, never say never.
October 21, 2000 – Desert Sky Pavilion: Mike Van McCready
2000 was a rebirth for Mike, he was getting his Crohn’s disease under control, he was clean, and his guitar work (which had never been substandard even in his darkest days, of course) took off into the stratosphere, exploring new sounds on Binaural and coming into his own. At the end of this show, instead of bringing the crowd down gently with a tender Ledbetter outro, he pays an homage to one of his early influences, throwing in a bit of Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” and then, for the first time at a PJ show, finishing off with the “Eruption” solo. How many times had he practiced that in his bedroom in the ‘80’s? We’ll never know. But all that practice paid off, and Eruption would come back in the 2010’s as a dazzling showcase of his skills guaranteed to get the crowd pumped up.
November 19, 2013 – Jobing Arena: A Family Affair
Prior to Better Man, Ed goes on a long spiel (as he’s known to do), he talks about Jeff and Stone and their parents, and then drops this little tidbit: someone named Danny Long, who had been in a band with Ed’s biological father and had some recordings of him singing, is in attendance. He had shared these recordings with Ed, and Ed had gotten to hear his dad sing for the first time. He adds, with an incredulous smile, “…but the nice thing was, dad was pretty good, he was great!” Better Man is dedicated to Danny, as well as anyone who’s got a dad, and that would be perfectly fine if that was the end of the story. But, when Ed’s latest solo album Earthling was released, it was revealed that some of his father’s recorded vocals would be included on the last track, On My Way. In an interview with MOJO magazine, Ed describes how it came to be:
But the crazy thing that did happen was that about 10 years ago, the Chicago Cubs, some of their old timers get together and play baseball for about a week, and I would go down there every other year and hang with these guys, learn about the game more so I can teach my kids more, you know, I coach baseball. One of the ex-players, this erudite badass trumpeter, who used to play third base, his name is Carmen Fanzone,” Vedder continues. “He also became head of the Musicians Union in Los Angeles – an incredibly cool individual. I saw Carmen playing the horn in a little club in Arizona, and this guy playing keyboards with him had been best friends with my dad. Two years later, he brought me some photos of them in little basement studios. Then a couple years after that, he brought me five songs of my dad singing, on a disc. I carried that disc around for two, three months in my suitcase, not ready to hear it. Finally, I got the guts, and after a couple bottles of wine played it one night in Argentina. And he was good. It was incredible – like he left a message for me.
Pearl Jam did play Argentina earlier in 2013, so this does make sense with what he explains here. Knowing what would come out of this story nine years later makes it that much more poignant. If they play Better Man or Release at this show, you’ll know what Ed’s thinking about.