Thursday, September 4, 2014

Concert Review: Pearl Jam in Oslo June 29, 2014

After Stockholm's show, I was more excited than ever to see Pearl Jam again, this time at the Telenor Arena in Fornebu, Norway, right outside of Oslo.  In stark contrast to Stockholm that was handing out water to everyone and was very consumer friendly, we were not able to bring any liquid at all, even just in the GA waiting line.  It was also not as nearly organized as the queue in Stockholm and I felt if we moved, we would have lost our place in line.  It was chilly and gray but they opened GA on time and we all rushed in to secure our place on the floor.  The arena was another massively huge venue but the GA was more tightly packed in.  It was also much hotter with no steady air flow.  As we sat on the floor waiting, we looked around and were glad to see so many women around us, hoping we would not be among so many tall people.  We were wrong.  As everyone stood, even the women were taller than we were!

The show was scheduled to start at 7pm, 30 minutes earlier than Stockholm, but that didn't matter.  They band finally came on stage at 8:11.  (Again, WHY have a stated start time if you know it is going to be so wrong?)  They started with Pendulum, which is such a great "first song", slow and steady, almost haunting in the beginning, but grows to such a strong melody and like most Pearl Jam songs has great lyrics like "Understand what we don't know, This might pass, this might last, this may grow".  They stayed slow moving onto Hard to Imagine and then Last Kiss.  Let me talk about setlists for a second.  Pearl Jam has an amazing library of songs and each concert's set list is different. Because of this, there are many songs that people will never see performed live.  Before each show I set aside a Top 3 songs I REALLY, REALLY want to see performed.  My top 3 are: Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns, Off He Goes and Let The Records Play. Never, ever, ever, EVER on my list was Last Kiss.  I have always just hated that song and thought myself rather lucky I had made it 3 shows without hearing it.  As soon as they started it, I groaned, while the rest of the arena cheered. There was a girl in front of me that screamed, jumped up and down and had a "Oh my god it's the Beatles in the 60s" reaction.  Blech.   From here they picked up the tempo playing Mind Your Manners and Animal. As was the case in Stockholm, a group of people used the speed to push their way towards the front but we knew to expect it this time, so just stepped aside and let them go by.  It was still way more ragey than the American shows, but not nearly like Stockholm where Mike was literally punching people off me.

The band moved through a variety of songs, playing many I had never seen performed before.  I loved Stockholm because I knew so many of the songs, but Oslo was a concert for the true, devoted fan.  There were a number of songs that have been played less than 8 times in all of the concerts they did. One time Eddie said "we are going to try a complete experiment" and then played for the first time ever, Strangest Tribe. Mike knew the song and was ecstatic and while you could tell not everyone knew it, there was the "Holy crap this is the first time this has EVER been played live" appreciation.   As a casual fan, this show was more subdued and I certainly didn't find myself singing along like I have in past shows, but that was OK. I enjoyed hearing so many songs for the first time and was glad I finally heard Garden and Yellow Ledbetter in person too.   It stayed really hot and three people around us fainted, including a large guy.  They did pass cups of water back, but the germophobe in me didn't dare take a drink after 5 or 6 other people had.  I wasn't THAT dehydrated.

Right before playing Love Boat Captain  Eddie mentioned that the night before in Stockholm, he was "honored and humbled and so grateful" to have two sets of families of two men who died at the Roskilde Festival, in 2000. Nine people died as people rushed the stage, basically getting trampled and then suffocating.  The song Love Boat Captain references this in the line "It's an art to live with pain...mix the light into grey.  Lost 9 friends we yet to know, all those years of pain."    It's things like this that I think most people don't know about the band, but it is one of the reasons why I can say I am a Pearl Jam fan.  And it's funny because two years ago I really had no opinion on Pearl Jam.  I knew Yellow Ledbetter because my next door neighbor in college played it continuously for what seems like an entire year.  I hated Last Kiss and changed channels every time it came on the radio.  I knew who they were but that was about it.  Now I have been to four concerts, each one different in its own way and I am hooked on them.  The energy the band has, how the fans react to the band and other fans, the mutual admiration and respect of the band to the fans,  the lyrics that make me cry and the musical talent that I mostly miss all combine to make them such memorable shows.  Each show has been a solid three hours of pure entertainment and I would absolutely go see them live again, and hopefully hear one of my top three songs this time!  

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Concert Review: David Gray

Years ago I fell in love with this Volkswagon commercial, partly because I had just bought a silver cabrio but mostly because I loved the song Pink Moon by Nick Drake.  I was listening to it one day at work when a coworker (British born Jon Wilson) heard it and said "If you like Nick Drake, you should check out David Gray."  I did and immediately fell in love.  White Ladder had just been released and I soaked it up and binged on everything else he had available.  He became one of my favorite artists, somehow balancing melancholy with a sense of hope.  I was ecstatic when I heard he was coming to Charlotte, though I did wonder if anyone would show up.  Even though he has been around forever, he is not a traditional commercial success and when I said I was excited he was coming, I got a resounding "Who?" from everyone I told.

So I was pleasantly surprised at how many people were at the Uptown Arena for his show.  He just released a new album, Mutineers, so I wasn't that surprised that the first few songs were unfamiliar.  I liked them, especially the opening song Back in the World, but was much happier once he started playing the songs I loved like Sail Away , Kangaroo and The Other Side.  I have seen a lot of live shows but this was one of the only shows where I thought he sounded crisper and clearer than his recordings.  I am especially glad I was able to see the live version of my absolute favorite song of his, This Year's Love.  I am not sure if it is where I am in life, or what I have gone through personally over the past few years, but listening to him sing the beautiful words brought tears to my eyes.  I felt the song in a way I had never experienced just listening on my ipod.  Seeing it live made the song real, something more than just a pretty melody and great words. Somehow I was on stage with him, sitting next to him on his piano stool, singing along..."When you hold me like you do, it feels so right I start to forget how my heart gets torn, when that hurt gets thrown, feeling like you can't go on....cos it takes something more this time than sweet sweet lies....every dream inside my soul.....This year's love had better last.  So whose to worry if our hearts get torn, when that hurt gets thrown, don't you know this life goes on."

I mentioned melancholy hope already, but I think that is how I feel about his music and seeing him perform it live brought out the hope even stronger, while making the melancholy seem deeper, sadder, but recoverable. During My Oh My, I thought, OH MY GOD THAT IS ME as I sang along "What on earth is going on in my head, You know I used to be so sure, You know I used to be so definite, Thought I knew what love was for. I look around these days and I'm not so sure. It takes a lotta love these days to keep your heart from freezing."  But the next song, Please Forgive Me also felt just as accurate saying "there's so much I want to say Want to tell you just how good it feels when you look at me that way."

Not only was his voice clear and beautiful and haunting, his personality was cute and endearing.  The concert was on a Friday in August in Charlotte and it was warm and humid.  He came out wearing a sport coat and a few songs in commented that it was hot.  A few songs later he said something to the effect of "everyone said not to wear a coat.  You'll be too hot they said.  But I couldn't come out under dressed."  He had such a relaxed, fun presence on stage and it made the concert all the better.

I was a fan before the show, but now I am a passionate fan, feeling so much more connected to him as an artist and to the songs and expressions of my feelings. I am impressed and in love with his talent, his voice, his musicality and the way he writes feelings so well.  I know that sounds like a exaggeration, but it really was that good.

Buy his stuff.
See his show.
Support this wonderful artist.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Concert Reviews - PJ Europe 2014 - Stockholm

Friends Arena Photo credit missing.
I was in the middle of all that!
When I started planning my big summer vacation, seeing Pearl Jam in Stockholm was thrown in as an option, but I had little hope it would work out.  I was ecstatic that as destinations were narrowed down, Stockholm remained in the mix.  And when I figured out an easy way for us to also see them play in Oslo, that just made it that much better.  So we planned, booked tickets and finally were on our way.  The show was Saturday, June 28 and after doing a bit of shopping we headed out to Friends Arena in Solna, a bit north of the city.  This arena is massive - I heard 88,000 as max occupancy for concerts.  Half of the arena was closed off (24,000 showed up for the concert) but it was still like nothing I have ever seen. Just amazing. It is basically in the middle of nowhere, with no easy access to public transportation and the locals think it is a waste of money and a bit of a joke, but I was impressed with the size and overall sound and feel.

Waiting for the show to begin.
We had gold circle tickets which allowed us to be in the general admission part in front of the stage.  We got to the arena at 3:30 and found the line.  We put our names on a list and were given numbers, 66 and 67. We were then told we could walk around or stay, up to us.  But when the time came, we would just find out place in line.  How civilized!  I just love that they did this - it makes so much sense!  And the person "in charge" was just another concert-goer.  So great.  I sat down and Mike went to buy merch but not 15 minutes later we were told we were "going down" so I ran to get Mike, we ran back and got in line at our designated spots.  We went down under the arena and proceeded to wait again.  Doors were set to open at 5:30 but it took a bit longer - was closer to 5:45 by the time we went in.  We found a place in front of the stage and then everyone sat down!  I was so thankful since my feet were very sore and it was still a good 2 hours til the show was scheduled to start.  I did wander over to the merch stand to get posters and was surprised to see the free water booths set up all around the arena.  

The show was scheduled to start at 7:30 but apparently Pearl Jam never starts on time (this bothers me - why not have a later time as your start time but actually start then!?)  At 8:07 they walked on stage and started the show with Release, one of their songs that brings tears to my eyes when I hear it live. From that they stayed mellow playing a few slower songs like Elderly Woman Behind the Counter In A Small Town and Black.  Then they stepped it up with Go and the crowd started jumping and moving and I had to jump or be trampled.  There is no doubt that Pearl Jam has some
rage in the music and the lyrics, but at the shows I was at in the states, there seemed to be a general feeling in the crowd of "yep, the music is ragey but we are all old now, so stand there, be respectful of the music and of the other fans."  This was absolutely not the case in Europe.  Mike thinks that it might have been an issue of being in general public vs the Ten Club section but by the time the second "angry" song Animal played, we had been pushed ahead several rows and the energy was negative and very mosh pit-esque.  In the beginning I admit it was fun and it did get us closer to the stage, but it got to be very scary, very quickly.  Mike ended up standing behind me, with both arms outstretched around me into tight fists, basically punching off people so they wouldn't hit me.  The bouncers did call out some of the people but the main offenders were able to talk their way out of leaving and stayed.  We gave them wide berth and they moved along and we were able to enjoy the rest of the show.

Overall the band seemed in a good mood, at one point signing a person's show at the request of the "Sign My Shoe" sign, even taking one person's camera on stage (fast forward to the 1:50 mark ). They do a masterful job of controlling the speed, tempo and flow of the crowd, moving slow to fast to slow to a ramp back up.  As a casual fan, I really enjoyed this show.  While I wasn't lucky to hear any of my "wishlist", the overall playlist was great, playing enough of the popular old hits with the newer stuff that I really like.  I was able to hear Just Breathe, one of my favorites: "I'm a lucky man to count on two hands the ones I love"  I got to hear My Father's Son and U, both concert rarities, only being played 8 and 22 times in the history of the band. (Compare this to the 683 times that Alive and Better Man have been played and you can see why people were excited to hear them, U more so since My Father's Son is off the 2013 album.)  As someone with no musical talent, I was amazed by Mike McCready's flawless solo with guitar totally behind his back.

They played for a solid three hours closing with The Who's Baba O Riley and Indifference. Despite some technical difficulties with the ball lights that swing during some of the songs, the entire concert was entertaining and I was so glad I was able to be there. I did buy a poster as well, my second Pearl Jam merch purchase.
Some notable European concert vs American concert differences:

  • There were free water tables throughout the arena.  If you were thirsty, you just walked over and got a cup of water.  For free.  In the US you would have had to go to the concession area and pay $15 for a bottle.  It was so nice to be able to get some water since it was so hot in the pit area.  
  • If you didn't want to leave the pit, the security in the front row had water bottles and were squirting into peoples' mouths.  There seemed to be an overall "Hey we know it is hot, everyone OK?" attitude in the security and staff.   
  • Port a jons were set up on the lower level of the arena so going to the bathroom was pretty convenient, albeit a port a john.  
  • People in Sweden are tall. We noticed this all over Stockholm but it was apparent in the crowd where we were both very short, when usually are on the average size.
  • The aforementioned gold circle queue system and the fact that everyone got situated and then sat down were both lovely things. 
Next up: Oslo!  

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Over the Hill

I have always LOVED my birthday, more than the average person, with tear away countdown sheets and at least a week of celebrating.  My dear friend Sarah used to say "just wait til you turn 40...then you won't love it"  but I felt like I would always love my birthday no matter what number I was turning.

So yesterday was the day...the big 4-0.  Over the hill.  Old.  And yet I feel pretty great, in fact, this is one of the best birthdays I can remember having.  I feel loved, spoiled, supported, and am a bit overwhelmed at the generosity of my friends in showering kindness on me.  I threw myself a party, with my closest friends and family, where the color scheme matched the theme, from invitation to cupcake plates and napkins.   I had dinners and lunches during a gorgeous weekend.  I bought myself new shoes and they were on sale!  I was spoiled and for the first time, was able to spoil someone who shares my birthday.  I went to sleep last night feeling utterly content and happy.  Not a bad way to start a year.

So yeah, I am 40.  Old.  Over the hill.  And I'm totally OK.  This is not at all where I thought I would be, but I know for sure it is exactly where I am supposed to be.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 - This year is brought to you by the word BALANCE

2014:  A new year:  The year I turn 40: The year where I strive for balance in life.  Balance....that is what I need most right now.

Balance with eating - It is SOOOO easy to eat mac and cheese or pizza for dinner.  It is easy, meat free and relatively cheap.  I need to add in healthier meals that are easy to make.  I just bought a Quick Fix Vegetarian Cook Book.  Everyone says how healthy a vegetarian diet is....I need to get it that way.

Balance with fitness - I am in a work out funk and by far this is the longest I have gone without doing ANYTHING active. I am starting to take ice skating lessons and thanks for my friend Kelly am going to start  riding again. While my weight hasn't changed in the last 6 months, my body has and I am not pleased with it. It has been easy to stay in bed, or sit on the couch, or drink beer and eat pizza.  So I need to figure out how to still do those things while getting in some regular exercise.  I want to turn 40 and feel proud of my fitness level and body. That means getting up off the couch!

Balance with my time - it really seems that I go to work, come home, go to bed and do it all again in the morning. I have regularly scheduled days with Miller but besides that, I have basically all the time I need to do whatever I want. I need to figure out how to work, exercise, spend time with friends, and still do laundry and clean my house. There's gotta be a way to get it all in.

Balance - literally. I went ice skating before the holidays and had a really good time. I decided I'd like to be good at it so asked for lessons and skates for Christmas.  My eight weeks start this Saturday and I am equal parts nervous and excited.

So that's it really.  I am going to do 24 Hours of Booty again this year and am even the team captain. I might do a 5K with Miller but that is all.  I am going to celebrate my 40th birthday. I am going to enjoy my life, enjoy exactly where I am right now in this moment.

I wish you a happy 2014.  I hope that you too can balance all the many pressures we have facing us each day.

2013 Year in Review

I know everyone says this, but WOW did 2013 fly by.  Overall it was a good year, though not anything spectacular really.  Here is what I wanted to do in the beginning and how it ended up.
  • Run the Rear in Gear 5K in March - Miller and I did this and while we ended up just doing the fun run due to a illness that I couldn't shake, it was so great to be a member of Team Irene's Dream.  
  • Ride in 24 Hours of Booty in July -This was SO MUCH FUN!  Mike and MaryBeth came up, I had a tent this time, we celebrated Chris' birthday, my friend Courtney FINALLY joined us after years of begging and even though I ended up with a metric century instead of an actual century, it still reminded me how great this event is. 
  • Run the Detroit Chevy Dealers International Half Marathon with Shelia in October- Well, I have run marathons and been really well prepared. I did virtually no training. My longest run pre race was 3 miles.  really.  But I drove up and ran the race, having one of the fastest miles ever in a race (9:30!!!). The actual race was great - gorgeous course and it was run really well. Crossing over into Canada as the sun rose was amazing. But I would not recommend running 13 miles without training. I could hardly walk for 5 days!  I am glad I went, had fun seeing Shelia, managed to see Sarah in Buffalo and my aunt and uncle in Pittsburgh. It was a good trip. 
  • Read more.  This did not happen.  My TV watching actually went down, but with my nights stayed busy and I just couldn't get into reading. 
  • Continue to pay off my debt.  Well I paid off one card, but mostly just tried to stay afloat. Doing from two incomes to one has been a HUGE adjustment, and I am still trying to figure out how to pay the bills and save.   
  • Sleep more. Check on this. 
  • Eat better. In March I started transitioning to vegetarianism. I went full on no meat in July and I haven't looked back.  It wasn't hard at all to switch and after I made it through Thanksgiving, I knew I could do it forever. I really do like not having to think about what I am eating. Now I just need to work on making healthier vegetarian choices. Pizza, while a great no meat option, is not great to have 5 times a week! 
  • Stop worrying.  I am a worrier. At least this year I tried to approach it as just a useless worry.  I do know I can get through anything, so there is comfort in that. 
  • Think about dating - I did more than think about dating....I started dating.  It is fun, amazing, wonderful, thrilling and fantastic. It's still scary to say out loud, but I am pretty happy.  :)
  • Have a home where my friends feel comfortable coming and hanging out. Check! 
So overall an OK year.  2014 is a big one for me...and I have some lofty goals.  Here's to 2014, to me, to turning 40!