What If? A Mansfield Experiment For Every Era – Part 2 (2000, 2006)
Joey Goodsir Hypothesizes a Pearl Jam “Experiment” for 2000 and 2006
Previously: The Experiment ’92, ’95, ’98
“Sometimes you live for the moment, and the interesting thing about living for the moment is that there’s a moment right after it and a moment right after – and then you keep living for the moment, and before you know it the sun has come up. So when they say ‘live for the moment,’ live for the moment, but then go to sleep.”
As Pearl Jam picked their instruments back up on July 3rd, 2003 — their second of the three-night Experiment in Mansfield, Massachusetts — the initial jolt of excitement from the previous night’s start of the journey had leveled out, and now they stared into the face of reality: 27 songs down, over 70 more to go.
Of course I am no Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer, and my hypothesized “Experiment” setlists across several of Pearl Jam’s other major touring years will hold no candle to the band’s actual performances across those three nights 20 years ago, but I am certainly having my own version of that feeling.
To make each of these Experiments an imagined reality, my chosen process is relatively simple but tedious. First, I utilize livefootsteps.org’s handy stats page to isolate the year of focus and do a once-over of its pool of songs (transcribe them to my own list in order of commonality, decide if any one-offs are unfeasible to be brought back for the experiment knowing that I’m still required to represent as much as possible). Afterwards, I categorize the songs by setlist archetype (the statistically-consistent openers and closers, new album tracks, meat, showcases, rarities/oddities, covers, potential acoustic preset songs, etc.) to make my setlist-crafting as era-encapsulating as possible. I also pick out any tags to use. Then, I split the songs across the nights to be relatively even (giving the finale not only the acoustic preset, but slight nods on the more cool/memorable stuff from the era), and, lastly, adjust the order to make them coherent and enjoyable shows.
Again, this specific process strives to make the sets feel as feasible/realistic as I can make them. But there are still gaps to fill (the potential for unexpected set choices, song debuts, unique improv/tag choices, etc), and that is where my own subjective lens affects the sharpie on the paper. So, once again, I welcome you to share your own interpretations and debate mine as you see fit — the possibilities with so many uncontrolled variables are endless!
So: 183 songs down, 674 to go.
“We got our work cut out for us tonight, so we’re just gonna keep moving”
As Randy and John cover the real experiment’s second night of 7.3.2003 (where that Eddie Vedder quote came from), I will cover two hypothetical experiments around that year: 2000 and 2006…
The 2000 Experiment
It’s a brand new millennium, Pearl Jam’s sets are coming into their modern format, and they’re even being officially recorded and released — but those would not be the changes that would forever make 2000 the axis of Pearl Jam history’s two halves. After 29 shows (most of which across Europe), the band’s performance at that year’s Roskilde Festival (6.30.2000) was cut short after crowd issues resulted in the tragic death of nine fans. For better and for worse the band has never been the same since, and the 47 shows across the U.S. from August to November were the aftermath at its most vulnerable extreme. With an average show length of 26 songs and 89 unique songs played, Mansfield 2000 attempts to encapsulate the era in three nights — a herculean task, as a tour year doesn’t get more consequential than this.
Long Road and Release make for the emotional opener pairing this tour’s experiment deserves, before the band kicks it into high gear with a no-stops run from Grievance to Evacuation that showcases some of their punk-adjacent hitters of old and new. Mike McCready and his 2000 pedalboard goes wild on a showcasing Even Flow and grooving Dissident, before a (this time Untitled-less) MFC and Whipping pick things back up.
The emotions return as well with a main set-closing run of I Got Shit, Wishlist, In My Tree, Jeremy, and Better Man — the last of which featuring the “Romance” intro that was used 13 of its 14 times ever on this tour. The encore slow burns too, with the first non-acoustic-preset Dead Man and Small Town building into a stunning Corduroy, Garden, and Breath climax. The end-of-show cover-filled party consists of Hunters & Collectors’ Throw Your Arms Around Me, Who deep cut Naked Eye, Dead Boys’ Sonic Reducer, and Who PJ standard Leaving Here. The band comes back onstage to say goodnight with a thunderous Fuckin’ Up and crowd-pleasing Yellow Ledbetter.
A tension-filled Sometimes and exciting Oceans open the middle show on a more unique note, before regulars Last Exit, Animal, and Given to Fly work along with Binaural cuts Gods’ Dice and Thin Air to get us to the meat of the set: mid-90s deeper cuts Pilate, Leatherman, and Habit followed by crowd-stirrers Once and Not For You. Nothing As It Seems ends the main set with quite a bang, the big instrumental showcase of the night. The encore keeps it just as heavy with Present Tense, Faithfull, Off He Goes, and Tremor Christ, before the frenzy that SOLAT and Do The Evolution inevitably creates. This night’s covers include both era-unique cuts in Buddy Holly’s Everyday and the Who’s The Kids Are Alright, as well as standards in Soldier of Love and RITFW. The band gives the crowd one more with an emotional Indifference singalong.
Fans who arrive early for the acoustic preset are rewarded in spades with Wash’s long-awaited Experiment comeback (first time played at one of these hypothetical shows since N1 in 1992), followed by Ed going solo with Cat Stevens’ Don’t Be Shy. The band joins back in for acoustic-friendly cuts from Binaural, Ten, and Vitalogy, then jams around the preset’s instrumental centerpiece of Crazy Mary. Afterwards, an Ed Solo cover pairing of Little Steven Van Zandt’s I Am A Patriot and Cat Stevens’ Trouble, bookended with Soon Forget on his ukelele. The band ends the acoustic performance Last Kiss in honor of its recent new home at the Bridge School. The new record is highlighted with the opening of the main set, as Of The Girl slow-builds into a searing Breakerfall.
After that is followed up with the pairing of mid-90s classics Brain of J and Red Mosquito, Daughter is tagged with pre-Roskilde 2000 standards Androgynous Mind and The Wrong Child before building into an emotional rendition of post-Roskilde favorite It’s Ok. Following Nothingman’s continuation of the transcendence, Rival and Lukin introduce some bite back into the set — if only for a short moment as Light Years brings back the tears. The main set climax hits in the closing dynamic run of Insignificance and Rearviewmirror, separated by an improv. The encores kick off with Go racing the band toward the finish line, not without some partying as Stone sings on Mankind and U gets people dancing. The bulk of the first encore contains a curation of era-encapsulating covers (Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling In Love and The La’s Timeless Melody), continued band-partying (Smile), and emotional bust-outs (Footsteps), before an epic pairing of Porch and Parting Ways take the band off the stage. Curfew gets broken with the emotional return of Mother Love Bone’s Crown of Thorns and a celebratory Baba O’Riley.
The 2006 Experiment
With their ascendance into live-legendary status during the Riot Act era complete (the original Mansfield Experiment playing a big role there), Pearl Jam was ready to find their next artistic statement. It came in the form of its self-titled album and 84 shows — its most recent (likely last) all-out world tour to match. At an average of 25 songs a night but a whopping 145 songs played (nearly double 2000’s amount), a three-nighter is quite a tough squeeze for Mansfield ‘06. Given their schedule and how high they were on its new album, however, I think this would be the last iteration of Pearl Jam that would be crazy enough to try it. As long as fans are willing to get to all three nights early!
The Experiment debut of Interstellar Overdrive into Corduroy clearly tells the crowd “let’s go!” before a run of Avocado cuts Life Wasted and Marker In The Sand alongside past-album rockers Animal and Green Disease get things going at full speed. After a mid-tempo run of Army Reserve through Small Town, album-openers Once and Breakerfall alongside b-side Leatherman continue the energy. Then, a transitional performance of No Code’s I’m Open drives the main set into a moody section of Better Man and Sleight of Hand, before MFC and Rearviewmirror ramp it up to a finish. Embracing the “campfire” model fully popularized in Grand Rapids that year, the first encore slow-burns from Oceans through Wash, before Of The Girl builds into its main section of political statements (Glorified G and Bu$hleaguer), unique mid-90s cuts Tremor Christ and Red Mosquito, and singalongs of opposite emotional extremes in U and Immortality. The second encore picks up there with Light Years and Present Tense, and then Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry kicks off the show’s final leg of covers (I Got You, Last Kiss, Avengers’ American In Me, Last Kiss, Baba O’Riley) and album-closers (Come Back, Indifference).
Avocado rocker Severed Hand makes for another era-encapsulating show opener, leading into a first wave of early-tracklisted cuts from past albums (Go, Hail Hail, Grievance, Brain of J) and more new album tracks (Unemployable, Big Wave). Then, a moody pairing of Riot Act’s I Am Mine and Binaural outtake Education sets up for an upbeat pairing of Vs.’ Dissident and Yield’s Wishlist. The next three songs are instrumental showcases, whether it be Mike McCready’s guitar exploration (Nothing As It Seems), Matt Cameron’s electronic drum loop effect experimentation (You Are), or Eddie Vedder’s self-generated vocal distortion (Do The Evolution). The band wraps up the main set by ripping through a no-stop run from Whipping to Porch.
This night’s “campfire” consists of “serious collector” finds Fatal and Undone, an emotional opener in the comeback of Bob Dylan’s Masters of War, and moody Riot-Act-leadoff-hitter Can’t Keep. Then, ½ Full kicks off a hard-rocking run that culminates in an epic Crazy Mary duel between Boom Gaspar and Mike. The second encore picks up where that leaves the crowd, as Insignificance culminates in a euphoric cover of Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down, an emotionally-extended Black, a nostalgic Breath, and a touching Crown of Thorns/Alive pairing. The “covers party” section of this night covers some of the bands foremost artistic angles, whether it be lyrical message or musical influence, and it all climaxes with fan-chased deep cut Dirty Frank. With Fuckin’ Up as the closer, Frank’s grooving dynamic continues through the end of the show.
Just think: if you were an attendee of just ONE of the first two nights of the 2006 Experiment, you would have seen nearly as much music as the epic finale of the original! With that in mind, this finale is just as record-breaking as you can possibly imagine. Again the preset tries to best encapsulate the acoustic repertoire of the era, but does so in two extensive parts: Ed solo (7 songs!) and full band (10 songs). Highlights include new acoustic-friendly tracks Man of The Hour, Parachutes, and Gone, as well as 2006-y covers Here’s To The State, Picture In A Frame, and Harvest Moon. After Release opens an Experiment finale’s main set for the first time since 1992, the band wastes no time getting the crowd moving in a no-stops run from World Wide Suicide through Save You. Crowd participation continues in Daughter (as Ben Harper’s With My Own Two Hands, Ramones’ Blitzkrieg Bop, and Norman Whitfield-written War tags allow) and In Hiding.
Following an emotional Love Boat Captain, the era encapsulation continues with the heavy metal-esque version of Ten’s Garden performed several times in 2006. The energy rides that high with Why Go through Rats, before showcases In My Tree and Even Flow step in. For a night this long, the party vibes already begin with the end-of-main-set run of SOLAT through Blood, notably including the tags of Sleater-Kinney’s Modern Girl (onto Better Man) and George Clinton’s Atomic Dog (onto Blood). The final “campfire” is short and sweet with Jeff Ament and Ed taking the stage together for Bee Girl, before the band plays The Rolling Stones’ Waiting on a Friend and Long Road, and triumphantly builds back into electric with Hard to Imagine. Ramones’ I Believe In Miracles and Smile keep the celebratory dynamic in the picture, but Inside Job and Parting Ways take the band offstage on a more emotional note. The band returns to Boom ringing out the chords of Wasted Reprise (a callback to Life Wasted’s use early in Night 1’s set), and then an unforgettable run of covers bring the show to a close…but of course, the crowd can’t leave without hearing one simple riff, which is followed by the nod to Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of the national anthem.
Stay tuned next week for Part 3, which will cover three major touring years after the experiment: 2009, 2013, and 2022…