Dakota Duvall’s 2022 Madison Square Garden Pearl Jam Fan Report
An Emotional Trip To The Mecca
967 days between getting the confirmation that we had tickets to Madison Square Garden and St. Louis to being able to scan that first ticket and walk into the Garden.
A lot changed for my wife Ayla and I in those 967 days. The pandemic, plus we had our first baby, bought our first home, flew out to the Ohana Encore shows, my dad passed away from COVID, saw both Earthlings shows in Chicago, snagged 10C tickets to Nashville, got tickets for Louisville, and saw the band in Paris.
We put in for the MSG tickets with about a 1% chance of believing we’d actually get them. I remember it was a Saturday, the St. Louis confirmation came in while I was at the gym and the MSG one hit right before I got in the shower and I re-read it and just shouted “Holy shit!!” I couldn’t believe it. Shortly after, the world changed.
A part of me felt like these shows were never going to happen. After my dad’s passing in January of this year, him being the one who got me into the band growing up, I needed them to happen. Knowing St. Louis would’ve been his 20th show, and it being our last show on this 2022 run for my wife and I, just made this tour so important for me.
As NYC got closer I was nervous and excited. Having our first set of arena GA tickets, we didn’t know what to expect. I was just wanting to be middle to front of the pit if possible. We made the 15-hour drive on Saturday and got to our place to stay about 10:00 pm.
Drained from the travel day, we made it down to the Garden at roughly 6:45 am, found the GA line and hopped in, thinking we were around 50 people back. A few minutes later a dad and daughter walked up behind us and got in line. We started talking as you would expect, found out they were from Long Island, and told them we were from central Illinois. The dad told us this was his 5th or 6th Garden show, and he’d never gotten a poster or t-shirt at the venue, he would always buy from eBay after the show as he would line up for GA and head straight inside to the floor once the doors open. Once we got up to get our numbered wristbands, my wife and I were 35 and 36, and they explained to come back at 5 and we would line up in number order, we figured screw it, we were going to be in line somewhere so we might as well try to get merch.
We then actually introduced ourselves, Leo and Isabella were their names and he headed around and got in the merch line about 8:00 am. Now we just stand and wait until 1:00 pm for merch to open. What do you do for 5 hours standing in line? You talk.
We shared so many Pearl Jam stories, life stories, Leo showed his pretty sweet poster collection and we talked about shows, songs, everything. We both talked about how we were not recorders at shows. Basically we like to get in, take a picture from our seat, a picture when the band is on stage, and a quick little video of the venue when the lights come on.
Leo asked if there was one song I wanted that night, and I started telling him more about my dad, his fandom, his passing, his bad relationship with his father, and our not too good relationship the past few years. I told him how I had only ever seen my dad cry three times in my life. When his stepdad passed, when the Eagles won the Super Bowl, and Release at Wrigley in 2016. It was his and my favorite song. It was the last song played at his funeral and it was the toughest 5 minutes and 10 seconds I’ve experienced. I told Leo that there was no other song I didn’t want/wanted/needed/or was terrified to hear more than Release. I told him if they opened with it, I could walk out of the arena right after, drive 15 hours home and it was worth the trip.
We ended up getting through the merch line, getting our stuff and taking it back to Leo and Isabella’s car so we didn’t have to carry it around all day. Walked a few blocks down from the Garden, and grabbed some lunch on the bottom floor of Macy’s. Something you don’t have here in Illinois is whole restaurants in a Macy’s, but damn was it good. Leo would not let us pay our part of the bill and he wanted us to be able to go back home and tell people we know that there are nice people in New York.
We headed back to the GA entrance and hung around, talked some more and started lining up. Went into the Garden and lined up again. They let the first 50 of us head in before everyone else and as we walked onto the floor I thought “Holy shit, we’re going to be on the rail.” We walked right up on Stone’s side and snagged rail. It was me, my wife, Isabella and then Leo. I looked over at Isabella, who was shorter than my wife, and told her to switch me. She asked if I was sure and I said absolutely, I can see over her and my wife just fine. Leo thanked me multiple times through the night for letting her get closer.
We watched the Garden fill with fans and Josh’s set came along and it felt so good to hear the music again. He had a killer cover of “Nutshell” that will stick with me for a long time. After his set finished, we had the longest 45-minute wait of our lives.
As the time gets closer and right before the band takes the stage, I always get this rush of emotions. Excitement, relief, butterflies, and a nervous feeling of having to pee. Every. Single. Time.
When Cat Power came on over the speakers, the crowd erupted and the lights dimmed and as the band came out, I knew at that moment that there was only one song that could start this show.
As Stone hit the opening riff of Release, I just took a deep breath, looked up towards the top of the arena, trying to hold back tears. I don’t know why I thought that would help. Tears just started to fill my eyes. I just took it all in. As 20,000+ of my closest friends shouted out these lyrics with me, it was what I’ve needed the most since January 3rd, the date he passed. I held up well, but the third verse took everything I had to be able to sing those words.
“Oh dear dad
Can you see me now?
I am myself
Like you somehow.
I’ll wait up in the dark
For you to speak to me,
I’ll open up
Those words have been on my mind since that day, but listening to Eddie say them, to all of us shouting them together, it was healing that I needed. I felt in those lines, I was speaking directly to my dad. I felt that he was listening and he was there with me.
The song finished up and I just felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. My wife looked at me and gave me a kiss as she knew it was tough for me. Leo leaned over and said “You got it man, you got it.” After it was over, a part of me wished I recorded it. I could have had that video of being on the rail at MSG, hearing the song, but I knew there was no possible chance I would take anything from that moment by holding my phone up.
They kicked into Garden and the crowd lifted up even more. I started to realize that the crowd at MSG is a different beast. The way they sang the first two songs was unlike anything I had been a part of before in my 7 shows prior.
I assumed the tears for me were over that night. I thought that Release got it out of me and I would be good. Then they went into Come Back, another song played during my dad’s visitation. My wife looked at me and I looked at her and just said “I hate this band.” Knowing all too well that by that, I meant I absolutely love this band, but they were tearing me apart by song three.
For years, when Ed says “…it’s okay” and Mike hits that riff, it has always hit me emotionally. Now? That riff suckerpunched me right in the face. Screaming out “I’ll be here, come back, come back…” just took me to a new place.
After Come Back the lights went dark and one beam of light shined directly on Eddie as Present Tense began. It was the brightest light I’ve ever seen as it shined directly into my eyes, and all I could see was Eddie’s outline. It was honestly one of the coolest moments of the night. The crowd took over the song. We were standing right in front of the speaker, but there were a few moments that I couldn’t hear Eddie because the crowd was overpowering the speakers. This is where I realized, MSG crowds are THE crowds for a show. Present Tense also might be the perfect ‘kick the stools away’ song. Once the band started jamming, you could feel the floor and rail bouncing. You almost had to be in the right groove with it bouncing or you would lose your footing for a second. Craziest thing I’ve ever felt at a show. That carried all the way through Porch.
After Porch, they went into one of my favorite songs of all time. A song I would show people growing up that wanted to listen to this band that I loved, as kids my age didn’t know who they were. A song I thought showcased Eddie’s range, the energy, riffs, drums, all of it. I hadn’t heard it yet in my shows, and didn’t know if I would. Dissident. This song is just a powerhouse live. I looked at my wife during the song and just said, “This might be THE show.”
A great version of Given To Fly followed and they went into a blistering Who Ever Said. My wife and I have gotten this 6 out of our 7 Gigaton-era shows and it gets better every time. An absolute rocker that I love hearing live. A face-melting Even Flow, and a song that’s been scratched more than it’s been played in Seven O’ Clock, possibly my favorite to hear live off of the album. Love the lyrics and it’s unlike any song they’ve ever done before.
A great 4 song run of Daughter, Dance, I’m Open, and Better Man propels us into possibly my favorite 4-song run of the entire night.
Chloe/Crown was an amazing surprise. My wife got the duo in St. Louis in 2014 and she loved holding that over me. It sounded phenomenal and the crowd was electric during the song. Then straight into one of my favorite covers the band does, Sonic Reducer. It had that raw energy and aggression like it had in the early 90’s. Following it up with Rearviewmirror. One that had only been played 3 times this entire tour before MSG so I wasn’t optimistic we’d get it. They held the high energy throughout and there’s something when Jeff starts bringing the bass line back in before the last chorus that just sends a jolt of energy through me.
Small Town kicked off the encore and as always it just has the entire arena shouting “Hello” and that brings an energy to the arena that hits you. Following that up was one of my favorite Jeff bass lines in Why Go. As soon as he starts that riff I immediately just think “Fuck yeah, Jeff!” The crowd just takes over the chorus and not much sounds better than all of us shouting “Why go home!” Stone slayed Evolution next with another hardcore floor-bouncing experience.
Ed came out and in the sparkly jacket and my wife looked at me and said “Purple Rain” and they went into it. A song we heard with the Earthlings in Chicago and Andrew Watt killed it. Since then I’ve just wanted to hear Mike play it and he absolutely tore it apart. It was one of those Mike solo’s that gets you emotional because he’s so melodic and while he shreds it, it fits perfectly with the song. Not just some crazy solo where it makes no sense with the song. Josh is always an absolute highlight during the song too. Say what you want about his solo stuff, but the man is talented and can sing and play so well.
An extended Alive, Rockin’, and the Star-Spangled Banner close out an electric night at the Garden. Isabella got a tambourine from Eddie during Rockin’ and all four of us got picks from Mike as well.
We headed out of the arena, still not even comprehending some of what we just experienced. We headed back to Leo’s car to grab our merch bag, and he gave me his number. I thought I saw him get a small recording of Release and asked if he could send it to me. He said absolutely.
The next day he sent it to my email with a note attached that said:
Hope this finds you home safe and sound. This file was too large for email or iMessage so I had to put it here in google drive. It should work fine from here. Just download it and hit play. Not sure why I recorded the entire song but I did and it’s the only full song I’ve recorded. I hope this gives you the peace you were looking for.
I texted him and thanked him so much and he responded:
“Hey man of course. It’s sort of odd how for some reason I recorded the entire song without realizing why but maybe there was a bigger purpose…maybe the purpose wasn’t for me but for you.”
If that doesn’t speak volumes of this wonderful community we have, I don’t know what does. I read that and teared up. I literally met him and his daughter 24 hours prior and he did and said one of the most special things to me.
We’re now just a little over a month removed from this show and I still think I’m running on a high from this one. The next 3 shows were good but man, MSG is on a different level.
What we thought was a once in a lifetime trip, turned into us wanting to go back, meet up with Leo again and now we’re already planning on trying to do as many shows together in the future. This community is one of a kind.
967 days we waited, and it was worth the wait.