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It’s unlikely gremmie.net will get into the reviews business. twofeetthick.com and several reputable blogs are much more adept at creating consistent, cogent, and alluring write-ups than we could aspire to. What we do, we do well; at least that’s what the guy next to me in the poster line told me yesterday. Writing reviews isn’t on that list. However, for the final show of the 2010 tour at Madison Square Garden in New York, we’re keen to make an exception.
The self-proclaimed “World’s Greatest Arena”, Madison Square Garden, or MSG, opened in February 1968 as a multi-purpose complex in the heart of Manhattan. Situated between midtown and the garment district on 33rd and 8th, MSG’s massive physical space spans down to 31st and across to 7th. For a better look go here. As the third busiest venue in the world by ticket sales (behind the O2 arena and Manchester Evening News Arena, both in England) MSG plays host not only to top tier music acts, but also the LeBron-less New York Knicks, the “hey we almost made the playoffs this year” New York Rangers, and Ringling Brothers Circus when they’re in town. In a part of New York where sky scrapers are as common as the knock-off Irish pubs, MSG looks like a cabin nestled in the mountains. Over 40 years old, the building has seen a modicum of updating yet still has a distinct Eastern-Block feel to it. The concrete unions must have made a fortune. The stairwells stink of stale beer and the hallway ceilings would get on a claustrophobe’s last nerve. The hard plastic seats are colored purple and teal and were probably designed by a man with a huge ass who didn’t stop to think not everyone has the same natural cushioning. The state-of-the start video monitors that display advertisements during concerts, but scores during sporting events are remarkably vivid and sharp. They create a stark old school v. new wave contrast you only see in venues who are stuck trying to install brand-new halogen headlights on a beat-up jalopy.
With all the qualms you’d think I have a grudge against the place. But what is not immediately evident to the naked eye is what makes the Garden so special. MSG is the halls of New York’s habits. It’s the one place in the city where, depending on when you go, you can see an Elephant, an ice rink, or a 20 year old band from Seattle. Sure the place isn’t poised to win a Pritzker, but it’s the confluence of the people who flock to its bazaar that justly anoint the place its storied reputation. It’s not the body, it’s the soul. Jesus, I sound like James Brown.
The concert floorplan holds 20,000 people according to the venue’s website, and last night there wasn’t an empty seat in the house.
Per tradition, goof, the other gentleman who operates gremmie.net, joined me. My tenclub number is embarrassingly high at 198,XXX. I joined some years back when I turned 16, but as youth is prone to do, capriciously decided an important thing was suddenly unimportant. We all make dumb decisions. I shouldn’t complain though, buffalo kevin got shut out like so many other fans. Don’t cry for him though, he gave up after only a half-hour during tenclub pre-sale. goof and I sat here:
Pearl Jam has performed at MSG 8 times.
- May 21, 2010
- May 20, 2010
- Jun 25, 2008
- Jun 24, 2008
- Jul 09, 2003
- Jul 08, 2003
- Sep 11, 1998
- Sep 10, 1998
You’d have a hard time arguing that at least Sep 11, 1998, Jul 08, 2003, and May 21, 2010 do not fall into the top 10 of their best shows. gremmie.net is so sure of this, we’ve included these in our picky “shows” section. Diehards and casuals alike know: Pearl Jam has a good hit rate here. Also, having been to 7 of 8, I can confirm and if you can’t trust a gremmie then what have you got?
goof and I sat next to a fella whose name I cannot recall which is especially shameful because I sat next to him at MSG I the night before. He posts on gremmie.net as “spanky”. A husky, amiable guy with a grasp for Pearl Jam’s lyrics that rivals my own (who knows the words to Sweet Lew anyway?), he and his buddy were the kind of guys you want to sit next to a Pearl Jam concert: singing along to every song, clapping along to the syncopated fits sprung from mysterious parts of the arena, and hollering into the roof like a damn wolf when Ed started in with “Exponentially serving….perpetually un-nerving….” Then there’s the smiles. When two fans go through the same unique “Oh shit!” moment, they look towards one another and grin like 10-year olds who just happen to inhabit 30-year old bodies. It’s the kind of smile kids just give away, but that adults only let out of the barn when their own esoteric happiness can be shared with like-minded mad men. Here’s a list of the “Oh shit!” moments from MSG II:
- Corduroy opens the show.
- Ed telling the audience “This next one is for the collectors….” right before Black Red Yellow
- Hunger Strike with Ben Birdwell from opening act “Band of Horses”
- 20,000 people singing most of Betterman, then drowning Ed out when he tried to join us
- Slow Lukin or as we call it around the watercooler here at gremmie.net, “Slukin”
- Definitely NOT Sweet Lew
- Mike’s solo during Yellow Ledbetter
- Every up-tempo rocker where the floor in the Garden literally shook.
To single out the last bullet where the floor in the Garden literally shook, the same quake happened during the 2003 shows. twofeetthick tells it like this:
“Ed mentions that the staff at the Garden told him that they have only seen the stage rumble that hard in three shows: Grateful Dead, Iron Maiden (at which point Mike plays a quick riff from ‘Number Of The Beast’) and Bruce Springsteen (which elicits a major cheer).”
Having been to that show too I can tell you there’s a perseverate euphoria attached to the feeling of a vibrato groundswell created by 20,000 manic fans bursting like roman candles into the air of MSG.
I could carry-on with a song-by-song breakdown of the set, but that probably won’t do you any good. You’ve heard it before and besides what I feel and what you feel about “Rats” or “The Fixer” or “Black” is probably different because it’s that sort of thing is so intensely personal. And hell, who am I to presume my view that Spin the Black Circle is really an ode to mechanics rotating tires is any better than yours? Nah, we’ll leave it up to you.