Dani T’s 2022 Quebec City and Ottawa Pearl Jam Fan Report
Dani’s Trek To See Pearl Jam Throughout Canada
10 years, 11 months, 9 days.
That’s how long I had been waiting to see my favorite band. 3996 days prior I found myself in Edmonton, Alberta, a 7-hour drive from my home in Northeast Saskatchewan, with tickets I had bought on a whim after seeing them in Saskatoon 4 nights previous. Little did I know at that time that it would be almost 11 years before I would see them again. Life happened, as it does for us 30-somethings. Marriage, mortgage, kids. Add that to the sheer fact that I live smack dab in the middle of nowhere in a town of 300. Not exactly Pearl Jam central.
I had no intention of seeing them in 2020. It just wasn’t doable at that time in my life. And then COVID happened, and the days passed. I know I speak for all of us when I say how thankful I am to have found this podcast community. It really is a great escape from the day-to-day. Then, March 2022. Tour announcement. Canadian dates! I told my husband (a casual PJ fan) that we were going: “let’s fucking do this!” I scored some great seats, booked the flights and hotels, there was no going back, no backing out. I felt fairly safe about picking Quebec City and Ottawa, the first 2 shows of the third leg.
Full disclosure: 4 days before the QC show, I found myself at a Backstreet Boys concert (yes, I was a 12 year old girl at one time, 2 years before PJ entered my life). Well as my luck would have it, I left that concert with much more than I had agreed upon – strep throat! I spent 2 days in bed on antibiotics and steroids, trying to recuperate as much as possible before flying across the country.
After 2 days of delayed flights, missed connections, missing luggage, and strep throat, we finally made it to Quebec City, and wow – instantly, all the negative vibes dissipated. If you have never been to Quebec City, it’s a must. 18th century buildings and cobblestone streets situated on the bank of the St. Lawrence.
Just a beautiful city with even more beautiful people. Old Quebec feels very small (a comforting feeling to this prairie girl), and there were fellow Pearl Jammers at every corner. Everyone proudly had their shirts on display. “There’s a fan, there’s another one, and there’s a couple over there!” My husband and I were just like giddy school kids. Before the show, we ate at an Irish pub downtown with Pearl Jam blasting on the speakers. It could not have been a better atmosphere for getting amped up. We chose to forego the merch line. If I was feeling better, I would have entertained the thought. Besides, why spend $40 on a show shirt when you could pay $200 for it the next day on eBay? Ha!
We made our way to the Videotron Centre (a state of the art stadium with a capacity of 18,000) around 5pm and had a drink at the SNO Microbrasserie Nordik, where the Wishlist pre-party was being held. About 6 pm we headed inside. The venue had hired a performer to play in the lobby. Equipped with just his guitar, the artist played a mix of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, AIC, etc. Concert goers were singing, dancing, hugging and cheering. My husband could not believe his eyes. He had never experienced this type of camaraderie before at a concert. I kept saying “just wait!!”
We grabbed a couple of tour shirts and made our way to our seats because we weren’t sure if Ed was going to do a preset or not, and we wanted to support Josh. I knew I had good seats, having upgraded at the last minute, but I didn’t realize how good they were. Second row, side stage, Mike’s side. I hadn’t told my husband where we were sitting because I wanted to surprise him.
“Are you fucking kidding me right now!? These are our seats!?”
The guys behind us were from Maine, a family beside us came from Queens, another couple from Boston. The guy beside me was from Edmonton. All of us in one spot, brought together by the band. After Pluralone, we noticed right away that the stools were set out. This was new! We hadn’t seen this before yet.
Time for Pearl Jam, the moment I had been waiting over a decade for. The anticipation was almost unbearable. We were all guessing as to what they’d open with. None of us predicted Daughter, but I thought it worked! That warm, familiar acoustic sound was so inviting and it gave us a singalong right off the bat. Next up: Footsteps – fuck! Wow, ok, this is happening, and why are there tears streaming down my face? Solid performance of Buckle Up followed. We had heard rumblings throughout the day that Other Side was soundchecked and lo and behold, #4. That was something special, having been only the fourth performance. The acoustic set ended with Off He Goes. I love this song and it was definitely one of my top 3 performances of the night.
Dance of the Clairvoyants kicked off the main set and it is such a powerhouse of a live song. It may have not been my favorite song off of Gigaton at first, but it is a party starter. It should absolutely be played every night. Other highlights for me were I Got Shit (played for Uncle Neil), Black (with an improv tag), and Present Tense. The show ended with Indifference which always elevates a setlist.
After the show, my husband looked at me and said, “wow, I cannot call myself a real fan but damn do I WANT IN!” He had been bitten by the PJ bug. We were riding the high of the show all the way back to the hotel. We caught a quick 4-hour sleep before getting on the early train to Ottawa for the show on the 3rd. I tried to catch a few zzz’s while my husband tried to intake as much PJ as possible before the next show.
We made it to our nation’s capital mid-afternoon, checked into our downtown hotel, crawled into bed, and slept 14 hours, (still dealing with the repercussions of the strep throat – damn you Backstreet Boys!). Thankfully, I felt a lot better the next day. We took in the sights of the Parliament Buildings and ate a nice breakfast in Byward Market. I had a slight fantasy that just maybe we would run into one of the band members on the street, however I would never be so lucky. (Another lucky fan did manage to get a picture with Mike out and about!).
Canadian Tire Centre is in Kanata, about a 20-minute cab ride west of Ottawa. I would have liked to grab merch, especially the show shirt with the hockey skate (being Canadian, I’ve played hockey since I was three years old). However, it was 30 degrees Celsius and I wasn’t crazy about being stuck at the stadium with no transportation and nowhere to go. So we opted to go for a nice early supper and then headed to the stadium about 5:30. We quickly realized we were incredibly spoiled in Quebec. The merch table was set up in the lobby right when you walked in. And that was the only merch table inside the stadium, which was situated outside of security. Once you went to your seats, you had no opportunity to buy merch! Thankfully we bought our tour shirts in Quebec. We found our seats, side stage, Mike’s side, about 8 rows up.
No preset once again, and Josh did his thing. Stools were set out again, so okay – this is what we’re going to be getting every night, right on! It sure adds an element of mystique, they could bust out anything! I had a sense that this was more of a casual fan’s show but boy was I wrong. From the Of the Girl opener, this crowd was on fire and singing every note. Acoustic Garden was fire. Alright is such an emotional song, so powerful. Nothing As It Seems, enough said. Low Light rounded out the top 5. The boys lost the stools and here we go, Given to Fly into Evolution. The GA pit was crazy and the whole crowd was bouncing! It was giving me MSG ’03 vibes! Throw Your Hatred Down was dedicated to Uncle Neil. Rounding out the main set were Corduroy, Immortality, Black (a more emotional version compared to a celebratory Quebec version), Jeremy, and Porch. Heavy hitter after heavy hitter. I think we were all glad to see a 5 min encore break after that to collect ourselves!
Better Man kicked off the encore, which is my husband’s favorite song, so I was happy he got a chance to sing along to it. Small Town was played to the back. Boom had his moment in Crazy Mary, and lyrics were changed to “…up in Canada, we found quite a crowd…” After Alive had its big moment, we were treated to another Neil song, Fuckin’ Up! This tour debut had not made an appearance since July 3, 2018, a definite crime. It was the perfect song for this party crowd, and Yellow Ledbetter closed out the set.
We hopped on a bus and made the hour long trek back to our hotel. My husband, armed with his newly beloved website www.livefootsteps.org, was relaying me all the stats from the night’s show. In the midst of talking about different songs and the difference in setlists, we had a moment between us. He said, “wow, I feel like I understand you so much better now.” And I just had to say “yep, this is me and this is what you’ve been missing all along.” Before these shows, my husband always knew I was a hardcore PJ freak, but I never quite let him in all the way. I have been all in with this band for a couple decades now, but had never really had the experience of traveling to see them. It definitely solidified what I love about this community, we really are the best fans in the world. And you can be damn sure that it won’t be 10 years before my next show – I’ll see you all next tour!