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.