Episode 103: Nassau Coliseum – 4/30/2003

About the Episode

Warning: This episode contains sensitive topics of a political nature including the landscape of the world after the 9/11 tragedy. The energy in this episode is more angry and fired up than usual, which is saying a lot. If this seems unsettling to you, please avoid this episode.

So it’s come to this. You knew we couldn’t have a series featuring Pearl Jam’s most political moments without talking about this polarizing show. Nassau Coliseum will forever go down in infamy due to the perceived controversial actions that Ed displayed on stage, but even moreso due to the horrid fan reactions that followed.

Anyone who has seen PJ20 remembers this story: Ed comes out on stage dressed up in his sparkling silver jacket donning facial wear representing then current President George W. Bush. They performed the track called Bu$hleaguer off their touring album Riot Act that so eloquently called out the President’s actions. Ed riled up the crowd by mocking the maligned leader. He put a cigarette in the mask’s mouth and poured a bottle of wine into it. He also displayed affection with the plastic piece of paraphernalia. Whether it was done to incite a riot or not (it was) the crowd retaliated by throwing quarters, garbage, t-shirts or whatever they could find onto the stage that had the band fearing for their lives.

This was only 17 years ago and our average listener is probably in their 40s, so it’s a high probability that you remember the time period, one that this current administration makes look like a favorable memory. While the country struggled to cope after the events from 9/11, the situation was escalated in suburban townships in Nassau and Suffolk County Long Island. Everyone knew someone who was affected. Maybe your neighbor was FDNY, its possible your cousin was a first responder, or even worse, you had a friend or family member in one of those buildings or on a plane. Any way you slice it, the area was in such close proximity to the attack that it was impossible not to feel the lingering effects.

With sadness comes pain and pain can turn into anger. Anger can turn into anything. It didn’t matter to them who it was – Afghanistan, Iraq it didn’t make a difference. They were attacked by people who looked different than them and turned jingoistic acts of racism into justifiable reactions. This was life on Long Island from 2001-2008.

Okay so there was actually a show outside of this mess of a controversy and it turns out, it was pretty damn good! 2003 was the sweet spot. Veteran songs such as Animal, Not For You and Even Flow meshed well with the rookie standouts like Save You, I Am Mine and the now super rare cut of Get Right. It gets lost within the headlines, but had this show gone a different route, people may be calling it the best from this tour.



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