Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pearl Jam Philly Boxset Review

Phinally Philly!!! Just when I was starting to worry, the boxset appeared in my mailbox. Eight months I've waited for these four legendary shows to be released on bootleg. Though I wasn't in attendance, I understand their importance and what they mean to the band. They had the highest honor of closing out one of the most historic concert venues in the country, and by doing so, they once again established themselves as the best rock band in the world today. Actually, make that best live band too. So don't call yourself a Pearl Jam fan unless you own these shows!

The packaging's design is nothing too flashy, which is good enough for me. I like that they put the 'lifespan' of the Philadelphia Spectrum (1967 - 2009) on the front cover. The back contains all the names of the PJ crew members. The disc cases are made outta cardboard, but surprisingly aren't that flimsy. A nice surprise here is the 'mystery gift', which turned out to be baseball-like cards of all the six band members. Very interesting the way the guys are described; kinda like sports heroes in a way. I also found out that Matt Cameron is the oldest member of the band (48), followed by Jeff Ament, who's 47. Seriously, Jeff looks like he's ten years younger!

Now for the setlist :) You can always trust PJ to mix up their shows a lot. But in this case, they took it the highest level, so much so that they ended up playing about 85-90% of their entire catalog over the four nights. That amounts up to over a 100 different songs, really obscure rarities and covers included. Most of these songs were only played once. A handful of them were played twice, mainly in alternation (nights 1&3 and 2&4) and less than a handful were played in every show (I believe it's The Fixer and Just Breathe). After listening through all the shows, which is over 10 hours in total, I thought of compiling a mix of my favorite songs from the four shows. I couldn't do it, simply because it was too overwhelming. Here are some of my personal highlights:

Night 1:
Faithfull (nice intro by Eddie). Immortality (always kick-ass). Rival. Ghost. All Those Yesterdays. Leash. Mankind (Stone Gossard singing!).

Night 2:
All Night. No Way (this is fucking killer). 1/2 Full. Down (featuring Mike Ness on vocals!). Grievance. Push Me, Pull Me (it actually works as a live song). The Real Me.

Night 3:
In My Tree (one of their best songs ever; I prefer this over the 05/06 version). Tremor Christ. Hold On (worth the entire box set just for this song, seriously). In Hiding. Deep. Cropduster. Off He Goes. Present Tense. Parting Ways. Breath (this one has nostalgia written all over it). Whipping. Crazy Mary (sick solos by Mike McCready and Boom Gaspar). Footsteps.

Night 4:
Why Go (great opener). You Are. Pilate. Rats. I Got Id (probably the best version I've heard). Glorified G. Out Of My Mind (one of the many WTF moments). Low Light. Speed Of Sound (much tighter effort than night 2). Jeremy. Whip It (this was a Halloween special, with the band dressing up in Devo outfits -- they nailed the song). Crown Of Thorns (another nostalgia fest). Satan's Bed. Yellow Ledbetter (show closer that ended with Mike shredding on the National Anthem).

The only thing I could've done without is Bugs. I know the crowd went crazy over it, but I think it's still the worst PJ song ever. But I guess it's one of those 'you had to be there' songs. Another one is Sweet Lew, with Jeff singing. I'm not too nuts bout that either. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed the shows. There were numerous fuck-ups -- forgotten lyrics and band members missing their cues and playing the wrong notes. But that's ok, because it's all part of the PJ experience. I actually like that a band makes mistakes once in a while. Eddie's talking to the crowd in between songs was very cool and funny. It's nice that he mentioned Bruce on the first night (the E Street Band played the Spectrum the previous week, four shows also).

Ok, now for the sound mix -- it's not that great, and it's not that bad either. But it's definitely one of the better ones from the 2009 tour, with London still being the top. The crowd noise doesn't get in the way of the music most of the time, unlike those from the 05/06 Gorge shows. Many people were saying the crowds on night 3 were the best, off the charts. I didn't get that feeling at all from listening to that show. What a pity. The instrument mix is more or less consistent throughout the four shows, with some annoying fluctuations in the guitar levels here and there. But I feel the bass is mixed too low (especially in the first show), and doesn't go well with the loud volume of the drums. And they should've turned up the keyboards more. Oh well. Now that this set will keep me company for the rest of the year at least, I guess I won't be getting the 2010 bootlegs. Peace.