Pearl Jam Fan Report From The Road: Los Angeles 2022
I’ll ride the wave where it takes me…
To say that I was looking forward to seeing Pearl Jam (finally) in California and Arizona would perhaps be the largest understatement of my life. Even considering the entirety of the pandemic, I’ve had a bit of a challenging year. From almost losing my mom to COVID at Christmastime to not-insignificant health issues and several things in between, I was ready for some time to relax and reenergize. I had Ten Club seats for Phoenix and San Diego that I had held since 2020, my original plan having been to attend those two shows with my Phoenix-based buddy Ron. We had attended every Pearl Jam and Eddie show in Arizona since 2000; adding San Diego was an easy decision since it was originally just two nights later and an easy drive. However, the rescheduled shows were a week apart, and he couldn’t swing the time off from work. I recruited another Phoenix friend that I had met through Ron for the SD show, but I still needed to figure out what to do for the week until the Phoenix gig.
Naturally, I got tickets for Los Angeles! I struck it lucky for night one with the Ten Club lottery, then again in the Verified Fan lottery for night two. With flights and hotels already booked, I got the frustrating news from my wife that she couldn’t get the time off from work, the short notice simply not enough with multiple people already out of the office in her small department. With my dream of finally taking our daughter to SoCal scuttled, I shifted focus to my mental and physical health – I’d do a lot of walking, hiking, smart eating, journaling, and exploring
After an incredible San Diego show – my friend Chris’ first Pearl Jam show ever! – and a couple great days in that wonderful town, I headed north and visited new friends at Honey Pot Meadery in Anaheim. They’re some of the best mead makers in the country, and a real gem to visit. (If you don’t know, now you know.) I got to my hotel and retired early, knowing that I had a full day ahead of me – I’m a bit of a space nut, so I visited the California Space Center. Myself and about 300 school children first enjoyed an IMAX film narrated by Patrick Stewart, then got up close and personal with the space shuttle Endeavour. I was geeked to the max – I’d love to see every remaining shuttle someday, and this was my first. After a brief lunch at Philippe the Original to try the purported original French Dip, my next destination was Hollywood Forever.
Walking up to the relatively simple marker, I spotted the words well after I spotted the countless flowers and mementos left around it: Chris Cornell, 1964-2017. Just a few yards away, a quiet pond made for a pleasant vista. I spent a few minutes in quiet reflection, taking in both the beautiful sun and the solemn air about the place. I found myself wishing that I could go back to the Soundgarden show at the Vic Theater in 2010. I kicked myself for the hundredth time for missing his solo show a few years later. I lamented all the songs we’d never hear, that he never wrote. More than anything, I thought of Taylor and Chris and their families, knowing that more than anything – they were missed by them far more than by any of us. It was sad, but it was also oddly bringing about a sense of contentment, something I hadn’t been feeling much of lately. I was ready to head out – this time to Inglewood! Showtime…
What. A. Cool. Venue. I’d seen it from a bit of distance a couple times in the past, but up close – there’s no doubt why it’s called the Fabulous Forum. Architecture like nothing else, cutting an interesting silhouette that was enhanced by a very well-done dress up, Gigaton style. Banners, the new Pearl Jam script logo projected near the ‘crown’ of the venue, various lyrics stenciled on columns, and on and on – supremely cool. What San Diego had in simplicity and coziness, this had in big time production. Very LA. Inside, it just kept getting better – the concentric circle pattern of the roof was mesmerizing, and the concourse was carpeted, with low ceiling and dim lighting, reminding me more of a cinema than an arena. I was hooked.
How he makes his getaway…
I had met up with my friend Lori, who was originally from Chicago but is now a California resident. We split the (insanely overpriced) parking and made our way to our respective seats – she had pretty solid Ten Club seats to start with, and I had upgraded mine along the way to more or less side stage Stone side a few rows up. Soon, Eddie came out and treated a small (but much larger than at San Diego) group of us to a bang-on version of I Won’t Back Down. I enjoyed Josh’s set, especially being able to see more of what he was doing instrumentally with my closer vantage point. Meanwhile, there was some talk in the group chat that I was in about what song the band would open tonight. I was on board with Of the Girl. I had been chatting with the fan next to me, who had flown in from Seattle that day. She regaled me with how many shows she had been to, and I shocked her with…my correct opening song prediction! And away we go…
Of the Girl was quickly followed on by Small Town, and I was enamored with this venue. The acoustics were surprisingly good, the lighting was on point, and it felt overall rather cozy for an arena. From the first chords of Superblood Wolfmoon, the guys were on fire – especially Mike! He was running around like a madman from the get-go and his energy was seemingly spreading to every single other person inside that building. The solo was the best I’d heard yet – in fact, all of the Gigaton songs would show very well tonight – and I was really excited for what I suspected would be a good up-tempo run. Ed kept that energy up, quipping before Corduroy: “I was gonna talk and tell you a story real quick, but I’m just gonna wait, I just wanna keep playing…but I’ll just say one thing, I’m not telling any fucking jokes up here tonight, so don’t even think about walking up and here and trying to hit me! Fucking kill ya…”
Uptempo run indeed! Corduroy jammed hard, with a great story afterwards from Ed about coming to the Forum (mentioning all the great athletes and bands that had played here) from San Diego to see Pink Floyd on The Wall tour, telling us how his buddy forgot to bring the tickets, leaving Ed to sit in the parking lot outside for the entire show by himself because the buddy had enough cash to buy himself a ticket to get in. Mike hilariously teases “Wish You Were Here”, with Ed asking him, “Are you just trying to rub it in?” Dance of the Clairvoyants is next, and it sounds nasty. Stone on bass just works for this song, and I adore that funky strumming part Mike has going on, as well as the vocal layering at the end. Quick Escape is ON FIRE. The chugging guitars and multiple vocalists work so well live; definitely a future staple.
Oh, Faithfull, how I adore thee. That simple drum beat and opening riff are singular, even on an album that itself stands out in a magnificent crowd. It’s all too rare to hear this song; I was in heaven. The man upstairs is used to all of this fucking noise…is there any doubt that 1998 was the year Pearl Jam was born again? I personally believe that the reason we’re often called the Faithfull is ultimately because the Yield sessions built the foundation upon which twenty-four-years-and-counting are built. Not for You was, as always, solid – then Buckle Up bored me. I just can’t get into this one, even live. I’d sooner hear (checks notes) literally any other song except Last Kiss.
Now, then, we get the run of Even Flow – Never Destination – Down. Mike was once again the driving force, even more so than usual, on Even Flow. Only ten songs in, and it was already feeling like a full show, such was the energy. Never Destination is supremely cool live; it has this boppy little vibe to it that comes out a lot more in that setting. This may be an odd comparison, but it gives me the same feelings as DTE, in that it just keeps you up and going the whole time. Ed mentions Howard Zinn, and how he became a great friend, mentioning how much he leaned on him in dark times and obviously missing him. He goes on to talk about parenting and how he sees so many incredible kids and how we need to lean on them, and to not lose faith, leading into a bright, spacious version of Down that really delivered on Ed’s message of hope.
Nothingman and Present Tense were both outstanding versions, but the real story here was Who Ever Said being absolutely incredible, leading into a rousing rendition of Porch. Ed is windmilling, Jeff is smiling, Stone is even moving about a bit. Though I keep mentioning Mike (he’s truly on fire tonight) something should be said about Josh, Stone and Ed on guitars. Everybody is playing really, really well. The extra time in San Diego clearly did them good. The songs are tighter than at Ohana, Matt is really anchoring these songs, and Boom and Josh are adding perfect flairs to so much of the set. When they finally walk off after Porch, I’m not even sure if I’ve been breathing. I’d be relaying the setlist, taking photos, looking back and forth between stage and the large screen (and it’s GREAT camera work) and for a moment, I asked myself if I was truly enjoying the moment. Truth be told, it was overwhelmingly great.
To know me is to know that State of Love and Trust is my favorite song, and well – we got this crazy long version because Ed ran off the stage to change shirts. I wasn’t mad. In fact, I was laughing like a crazy person and loving it, as I could see where he ran off to and what he was doing. Wishlist (played to the behind-the-stage folks) and DTE were on point, but Black was ethereal. It’s one of those versions where you close your eyes and forget where you are and there’s only this song, in this moment, and it’s perfect. Ed tells a really cool story about a pair of brothers that made the show despite one of them having a brain tumor removed just a couple months before. Naturally Alive follows, and it’s a great version with the house lights up, making us think it was the final song. The guys even begin to walk off the stage, then there’s an awkward pause, they call each other back and we get Yellow Ledbetter. An exhaustingly great show, and if night one was this good…what the hell is going to happen night two?
I never saw it coming. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First things first – I met up with Lori again, we did some sightseeing and found some food, then headed to the venue for merch, and I wasn’t disappointed – the stickers in particular were really neat for both LA nights. We then headed to the Wishlist party, and I met some really cool folks and chatted some folks up about LO4L. It’s always a good time with PJ fans, even more so at a brewery! I was itching to get to the venue because I did NOT want to miss the Eddie solo song. A few hours earlier, I had managed to upgrade my less-than-great seat to a 10th row, Mike-side seat that was dead even with the GA floor. I was stoked – this was going to be a great view! Ed came out, and surprised ALL OF US by acknowledging the folks at the very front of GA and how long their day is to get up front on the rail – then he handed them a pen and paper and asked them to write down a few requests for the band! I couldn’t think of this ever happening before, and I couldn’t tap the message out to Randy fast enough! Reflecting on all of the comments (‘thanks for waiting 25 months’) that Ed would make across the four shows I attended, it became quite clear to me just how much these guys are grateful for us, the fans. They may be rock stars, but they’re about as thoughtful and humble as they come.
There had been a lot of talk on the various pages about the absence of Release, and the first chords brought great applause. I loved it, but more than that – I loved the following combo of GTF, DTE, and Low Light. My head was swirling. Yield is my favorite album, and Low Light is just incredible live. I didn’t have time to take a breath, and we’re into Quick Escape…this one is a burner, folks. Just absolutely cooks live. It’s on the board with Porch, Corduroy, and the like for me already. Doubly so because of the Mars/space references (did you forget that I’m a space nerd already?) Take the Long Way is really fun live, far exceeds the album version, and I seem to like it more than the average fan. Mike was LOSING HIS MIND on Even Flow, seemingly charged by Eddie’s talking a bit about the homeless man that inspired the lyrics. No sooner does Even Flow wrap up powerfully, we’re back to Gigaton, with Seven O’Clock really getting bigger and better with every play: ‘Much to be done… much to be…’
Now then. As I mentioned before, I never saw it coming. Immortality was a very welcome surprise, then Ed starts talking about what I knew would be coming at some point tonight: Taylor. Mentioning the PJ/RHCP ‘DNA’ he calls out a few musicians that are in attendance, including Chad Smith. Then, he reminds me of something my Dad often says, mentioning Taylor’s family and friends, saying that “It’s never easy when you lose someone…as you get older, you’ll notice it’s something that starts happening more and more, it’s just where you are on the timeline…,” but softens that with “…Taylor truly loved living life on this planet; the one thing that we can be consoled by is that he never wasted a moment…” and honors Taylor’s family, saying “We love ya…tonight, we have Matt Cameron, who was very close with Taylor, who had a tremendous idea to play a Taylor song…while Matt takes over the microphone” and now my mind is racing. I thought Ed would mention something, but I didn’t agree with the various predictions that they’d play a Foo Fighters song – I just didn’t see it happening. Of course, I’d forgotten about “Cold Day in the Sun” and I’d forgotten that Matt sings and writes and…well, apparently, I’d forgotten my brain, because in retrospect – it seems like the most natural, wonderful, incredible way to honor Taylor – and it was. I texted my friend: “This is everything” as Matt sang.
There’s nothing that you couldn’t say
‘Cause you’ve said it all before
I think it’s time you walked this lonely road
All on your own
(Deep breath) Okay. That was powerful. That brought me back to seeing NHC at Ohana. That made me laugh and cry and cheer and jump up and down. I’m better now. Oh, by the way – Matt KILLED IT. He needs to do more singing, IMHO. And Chad Smith was playing in the back corner, with Ed and Josh, banging a tambourine and smiling. I loved that. Daughter was up next, then Ed asked for that request list from the fans up front – which then caused a bit of disappointment and confusion, if I’m being honest – the photo that circulated of the list appeared to include the likes of Brother (!) and Angel and other great, rare choices – and we got Unthought Known. Mind you, a great song – but not at all the moment I was hopeful for. We got a pretty good consolation prize right after that, with Glorified G. It was fun, it was energetic, and it was over all too fast, just like the next song up: Lukin. The thing I kept noticing was that the overall stage lighting scheme was rather bright – we could see the band very well. It seemed like their on-stage communication was really high, and they appeared to be so IN THE MOMENT for nearly every moment of every song.
These shows felt like a massive family reunion. Ed had at various points in the night – and in the nights preceding – commented about Bill Murray, a couple political topics, the pandemic – but he was also very jovial, laughing and telling stories. This probably peaked when he spotted a lady in the crowd, just a couple sections back, wearing a highly shimmery jacket and he asks the crew to fetch *his* sparkly jacket, teasing, “…THAT lady has a sparkly jacket and I’m just not about to be outdone by that bitch!” with a massive roar of laughter from the crowd as he dons his sparkly Neil Diamond jacket. Which – wait. Why does Ed have that jacket!? From there, it felt like the greatest greatest-hits set ever, with Leash tossed in for good measure. I found myself really enjoying Alive – and I’ll admit that I’d been getting “Ten Boredom” during the last couple tours. No more! They’re playing their asses off, and I’m here for it. Garden was crunchy, Porch was huge, and the only thing I could even remotely complain about was that this encore felt like it just needed a Rearviewmirror – but here’s where I’ll just shut the hell up and say this one word: Indifference.
And that was it. Los Angeles, two nights and two shows for the books. All that was left was to walk outside with a huge smile on my face, somehow manage to resist the temptation of those ridiculously amazing smelling hot dogs from the food cart guys in the Forum parking lot, and get some sleep – early flight to Phoenix!