Forever Faithfull: Memories From The Road featuring Tim Smith

By: Randy Sobel | March 24, 2023

Steve Bennett Retraces Pearl Jam Memories From The Road

Forever Faithfull is a series derived from daily Facebook posts on the Pearl Jam Podcast Community group. These tour stories were shared by Tim Smith. Read below to see how Tim has connected emotionally with his band through his father, his wife and his son, Payton.

7/11/1995 – Release – Soldier Field

My story with seeing Pearl Jam live, or any concert, really, begins in 1995. I was a Junior in High School. Word started spreading that my favorite band, was going to be touring soon. I really wanted to go, but tickets went on sale on a Saturday morning. A morning which I also had ever-important baseball practice. I enlisted my brother to try on the phone to no avail. However, a buddy was also trying and he was able to punch through! He rode his bike up to the ball field to tell me all about it. Little did I know he intended to supply me with his second ticket. I was shocked and elated!

As a sixteen year old, I had never been to a concert, so there were definitely a lot of nerves but also excitement. In the subsequent months, I did attend my first concert, Beastie Boys on their Ill Communication tour. Later that summer, it was PJ. A few weeks later, I saw Foo Fighters on one of their very first tours. Not a bad start in being indoctrinated into the world of live music, eh?

It was a stormy summer for the band. The tour was off temporarily, and I, like so many others, was bummed. I worked at a movie theater and the local alternative rock station had their van in the parking lot one random day. I made my way over there, hoping to get a keychain or bumper sticker or something. In talking with the guy, I found out the show was back on! I was stoked.

On the night of the show, we make our way to the seats. Soldier Field used to be very sprawling. They’ve since built it in a bit, building up instead of out. At that time though, the stadium was very wide and once accommodated 100k plus spectators. We were in the South end zone, two rows from the top. The stage was set up in the North end zone. We were one row from being as far away from the stage as you could possibly be. But who cares! We were there! It was a magical night, and even at that time it felt important. Both in my maturation, and also the band’s maturation.

5/22/2006 – Kick Out The Jams – Auburn Hills, MI

After my initial show in 1995, I was lucky enough to see the band thrice in 1998 and once more in 2003. I had my heart broken in 2003 and was in a bit of a concert/personal funk, until I met my now wife in 2004. On our first date, we had that inevitable conversation, What is your favorite movie? What is your favorite color? ‘Who is your favorite band? She was surprised to hear that I had Pearl Jam at the tippy top of my list. She was a fan before, but like the hoards of others she slowly drifted away after Vitalogy.

2004-2005 were not big concert years for her and I. I was in college part time, and also worked overnights at a steel factory, where I still work today as the boss man. When the 2006 tour was announced, I wanted us to go and also make a short roadie out of it. I got 10C tickets for the 5/22/06 show at the Palace of Auburn Hills. I got off work, we hopped in the car and headed to Rock City.

Ed came out with a Gone pre-opener. Seen by few, but was very cool. My Morning Jacket opened. They are definitely one of my favorite bands currently and I loved them back then too so I was thrilled. This night was really the solidification of reintroducing my girl into the magic that is Pearl Jam. It remains as my absolute favorite of the nineteen shows I’ve been lucky enough to attend. The show was fantastic, and we were treated to a great set. Long Road opened, State Of Love And Trust, Rearviewmirror, several songs from the new Pearl Jam record and Man Of The Hour were all highlights. Then the 2nd encore quite possibly may be the strongest that I can remember. Whipping, Evolution, Comatose, Given To Fly, Why Go, Porch, Indifference, Kick Out The Jams and Yellow Ledbetter. I really wish there was a full video of Kick Out The Jams because it was absolutely killer, and far and away their most awesome performance of this tune. It was so sick!

To date, the wife and I have attended 10 shows in six different states. She gets it. She gets the Jamily. She gets the community love and togetherness. The only thing she really doesn’t get is the merch.

10/20/2014 – All Those Yesterdays – Milwaukee, WI

After the electric 2006 show, I took a few years off from shows. Mostly to get married and try to figure out how to be an adult. With a budget, a mortgage, and car notes. Got back on the horse in ’09 with one of the United Center gigs, then went to Indianapolis in 2010. I was at PJ20 Night 1, but my wife was pregnant, so we could only manage the one show. Then, technically, two consecutive shows in 2013. Wrigley and the Lightning Bolt tour opener in Pittsburgh. Fun fact, I’ve had that Pitt poster now twice and sold her off twice when the going got rough.

2014 brought a whole new set of challenges. A now two-year old who was showing significant developmental delays (more on him momentarily), a move from condo to house, my career, etc. We managed to grab a pair for a seemingly innocent October gig in nearby Milwaukee. You know, that one random gig that had Baba O’Reilly fifth on the setlist? What the hell was that? And the same one where they proceed to rip through Yield front-to-back! So awesome, and a bit of a surprise.

8/20/2016 – I Believe In Miracles – Wrigley Field

After the Yieldwaukee show, I did not do any of the ’15 shows, but in ’16 I did hit Lexington with a buddy, and then both Wrigley shows with my wife. I’m going to lift a passage that I posted as a Facebook status shortly after this show ended:

The back story, as many of you are well aware, having little ones changes EVERYTHING. So, not having been on a vacation in a bit, we were counting PJ weekend as one, even though we live about 12 miles from Wrigley. We have two young boys at home, Payton, who’s 4, and named after Walter, and Cameron, who’s 1, and named after Matt F’n. Payton will be the focus of this story. He is an amazingly cute and sweet boy who I love more than anything. I tell him that daily. Since birth, he’s always been REALLY into music, from PJ to all others. He loves The Fixer, and we’ve used Ukulele Songs as his bed time music since the day he came home from the hospital. About a year ago, I made several mix CDs for the car. His favorite is the one that has Devo, PJ, Macklemore and The Ramones on it. One of his favorites to hear and sing is I Believe In Miracles.

From a young age, it was clear he was a very unique child. He’s always been kind of ‘sing, songy’, often times using songs to communicate. Early on, he had been diagnosed with several developmental delays within his speech, motor skills, etc. These delays were severe enough for us to pursue ongoing early intervention therapy at 1-1/2. Though he is strikingly advanced for his age in some respects, his bundle comes with several debilitating ADHD/autistic type behaviors and symptoms as well. He’s an enigma and each day is different.

His speech, though much improved the last year, was mostly echolalic for a long time, which means he repeats what he hears instead of speaking organically. I think that’s why he digs music so much, because he can identify and replicate the rhythms. The day-to-day ‘unknowns’ with this kid are what weigh heavily on my wife and I. It’s very taxing! We haven’t been able to crack the code yet. But, with continual therapy and an accurate diagnosis, maybe that’ll come down the road.

Anyhow back to the show. As we walked Wrigleyville, we heard the boys soundcheck I Believe In Miracles. I told my wife that Payton would be ‘all fired up’ if he were with us. He LOVES that song and sings or hums it regularly. We eventually settled in at a packed bar for drinks and dinner. As we always do, within a few minutes we were already talking/worrying about the boys at home and eventually pulling our favorite photos from our phones and sharing funny stories about those two goofball kids.

I got a little weepy during Release, but for the most part I was keeping it together and enjoying myself immensely. Wow, what a night!
Then they played the slow rendition of I Believe In Miracles. I put my arm around my wife and we slowly swayed together. The sway became a full-on embrace. The embrace got tighter and tighter and that became a FULL-ON CRY for both of us. I haven’t hugged so tight, or cried so hard, in my life. It was the most physically and emotionally jarring moment of our lives together. It was completely spontaneous and absolutely surreal. And the best part was that the moment was born from LOVE. Our love of music, our love of Pearl Jam, our love of concerts, but most of all our love for our dear son Payton.

In that moment, I felt like we were electric together. We were going to be unconquerable and knowing that no matter what struggles or hurdles HE will face, WE will face them head-on together as a family.

Update to present day, Payton is now 11, and in fact is autistic. So too is Cameron, 7, who got hit with the double whammy of also being non-verbal. Both are incredibly awesome and I treasure each moment with them. They are our ‘Miracles’, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

9/18/2022 – Sad – St. Louis, MO

2018 was my first four-show year where I caught two at Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. After that, I was able to grab a single for the St. Louis date originally scheduled for April 2020.

But, in February 2020, my family had endured the major gut punch loss of my father after a very short, but powerful cancer fight. I really wanted and needed that show at that moment. The anticipation was palpable. Just seven weeks after such a most profound loss, I could just feel the emotion beginning to bubble. What would they play? And what song or moment would cause that burst of emotion to come out? Would it be Release? Long Road? Come Back? Hell, maybe Last Kiss or All the Way? Those were probably the only two songs my Dad was familiar with.

We all know what happened then. Covid. Quarantine. Etc. Pearl Jam was one of the first acts to get out in front of everything to postpone the tour. Like many others, I held my ticket until the tour eventually was rescheduled. I was looking forward to the weekend. The National was in town the night before so I also grabbed a ticket to that. I got my Live On 4 Legs t-shirt and had planned to attend the pre-party/event. I had also donated two pretty boss prizes to the fundraiser event happening at the pre-party. But, alas, it was not meant to be. After two and a half years of the worldwide pandemic, I finally got bit by the Covid bug just before making the trip down. Had to miss the show, seeing my friends, the camaraderie, the emotion, etc.

So I’m breaking the rules a bit and posting up a song from a show I did not attend, but should have! Sad, for my Pops. Through the magic of technology, I was able to watch the whole show via livestreams. It was OK. A bit underwhelming, but I was watching on my phone so not the same experience.

Lucky show #20 will have to wait, I suppose.

Randy Sobel

Concertpedia Managing Editor & LO4L Host

The first time I heard Yield, I didn’t know it at the time but it changed my life. 10 years later, I saw Pearl Jam for the first time at Madison Square Garden and haven’t looked back. I’m still holding out hope that W.M.A. will one day be played as a full song more consistently in setlists rather than just as a tag off of Daughter, and you won’t ever find a bigger homer for the band’s Hartford shows than me. Top 10 Pearl Jam crowd, fight me on it!

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