Friday, August 22, 2008

Eddie Vedder II: Coherent Edition ...

So then, where was I?

I tried for tickets for Eddie's shows when they first went on sale. There I was, at my computer, hitting "refresh" on my browser as the clock ticked up toward the top of the hour. And then I was in. And then I drew nothing. For either day. Shut out, seconds into the sale.

Which made me sad, because I love Eddie, and I really love "Into the Wild," but I put the shows out of my mind, vowing to check for tickets as the shows drew more near.

But I succeeded in putting the idea so far out of my mind that I forgot about it, until yesterday morning when I received an e-mail from Jam Productions, letting me know about upcoming shows and reminding me that Eddie's were sold out.

Or were they? In the past, I've scored some pretty amazing seats at the last minute, so I headed over to Ticketbastard and went fishing for Thursday night. And I drew a seat.

And do you know what I did next? I let it go. And went fishing for Friday's show. Tonight's show. And I got bupkus.

UH OH.

So I went back to Thursday and dipped again (and was frustrated by the words you have to enter to complete the search process; I understand why they're necessary, but hey, Ticketbastard, howsabout makin' 'em, oh, I dunno, decipherable?!) and phew, I drew the same seat.

Click, clickety-click. PRINT.

Ta-da! One ticket for Eddie Vedder in my hot little hands.

After suffering through Bears traffic on my way to where I thought I wanted to park last night, I changed my mind and parked in River North. I needed to go to Whole Foods anyway to procure lip balm. (Seriously, it's the best lip balm ever. It also costs a king's ransom. Five tubes – shut up, my lips are really soft – and three protein bars set me back exactly $40. And the protein bars were on sale for $1 each.)

From there, I walked to the Auditorium Theater (which, for those of you unfamiliar with Chicago, is probably a couple of miles away; I have a thing about walking to concerts), and as I walked under the stone loggia (for lack of a better word), I thought about the last time I was there for a concert. And the best my memory would offer was Howard Jones, when I was 15. That seems both impossible and entirely probable.

I walked up to a security person who proceeded to root around my purse with a flashlight. I don't typically take purses to concerts. I grab money and ID and a car key and an insurance card and whatever else I think I'll need, so long as it fits in my pockets, and call it a day. But this time, I had my purse.

Ms. Power-Trippy Flashlight-Wielder spied my protein bars. "You can't take those in there."

"I'm not going to eat them. I just stopped at the store on my way here."

"But I can't let you take them in there."

Seriously, people. Like I don't have to go through enough crap to get through security at the airport? But I put up with that intrusion because I'd prefer it for the airlines to catch someone booked on my flight before they got on board in their boom-boom shoes. But really? My protein bars pose a threat to national security?

Of course, I get that I'm supposed to buy overpriced concessions there, but I'm pretty sure the Auditorium Theater isn't concerned about my need for protein. And while we're on the subject of concessions, could someone please cut off the liquor sales in the 7th inning of the show, as it were?

Happily, Mr. Not-Power-Trippy Flashlight-Wielder at the next door stepped over to see what was going on. "She has protein bars," said Ms. P-T F-W. He scoffed. "Do you have a camera?" he asked.

"No."

"Go ahead."

Of course, my phone has a camera. Everyone's phone has a camera these days. And people smuggled in real cameras, too, because flashes were flashing all night long.

I made my way to my seat, which was reasonably good, and a baseball cap-bedecked dude struck up a conversation with me, telling me about the time he was in the front row at a Pearl Jam show and he called out a song and Eddie brought him up on stage to sing it with the band. Supposedly, bootlegs of this event exist. He said he gave them out as Christmas gifts one year.

He took to asking everyone in our area when they bought their tickets after I offered that I'd just bought mine that morning. Most of the people around us were last-minute buyers like me.

The lights went down and Liam Finn took the stage. My friend Mike is a big fan of Liam's dad (and fellow Crowded House front man) Neil Finn – likes to perform his music – but Liam was new to me.

Holy mother of God! Liam Finn rocks! Liam Finn (and his duo partner, E.J.) make a lot of sound between the two of them through the use of looping pedals. And Liam, while a fantastic guitarist, is also an exceptional drummer. His set was entirely trippy, almost performance-arty. Loved it. Usually, opening acts are something to be suffered through, but every so often – Brandi Carlile opening for Shawn Colvin, Liam opening for Eddie – you discover someone entirely worth following.

Part way through Liam's set, I spied a guy with a drink in his hand looking around for his seat.

"I have no idea where I'm going," he said.

"I'm GG, 108," I said.

"I'm 107," he said, so I stood up (I was, miraculously, on an aisle) so he could get to his perch.

When Liam had left the stage, I said, "OK, so when did you buy your ticket?"

"This morning."

He introduced himself: Chris. From Dallas. In town on business, tried for a ticket Wednesday night, came up empty-handed, called a friend on his way to LaGuardia Thursday morning, and asked him to check, and voila! My seatmate. He asked what I do for a living. "Well," I said, "I edit for an IT consulting company and I sing." (I'm trying to be more concrete about the fact that I'm a singer. Telling people I sing seems like a good place to start.) Turns out, he's in IT, too. (We IT geeks must emit some sort of specific frequency that allows us to find each other in crowds.) But he was more interested in the singing, as he's been known to belt out a few karaoke tunes from time to time and was wondering if voice coaches can really teach you to sing or just enhance whatever ability you have. I gave him the copy of my CD. If I'm gonna tell people I'm a singer, I figure I should be able to back it up.

Eddie eventually took the stage amid massive cheers and a standing ovation. You know you're beloved when people stand up for you just for walking onto the stage.

His set was simple, with the feeling of a living room, almost. Reminiscent of Springsteen's pared-down set-up for the Devils & Dust tour.

I was too happy to see him to pay great attention to the set list. But he touched on some Pearl Jam tunes, of course, and lots of tracks from "Into the Wild," in addition to some songs I hadn't heard before, like the Cubs tune I mentioned in my last post, the refrain of which is, "Someday we'll go all the way. Hey! Someday we'll go all the way."

He told us the story of going to his first-ever concert, how his seat was in the last row of the uppermost balcony there at the Auditorium, and how he vowed that some day he'd sit closer to the stage. And then he gestured to himself sitting on the stage, and thanked us for putting him there.

His first show, by the way, was Mr. Bruce Springsteen. (Eddie performed "My Hometown" during the Chicago date of Bruce's "The Rising" tour. Talk about coming full circle. How many of us end up on stage with the first artist we ever saw in concert?)

He introduced Tomas Young, with whom he worked on the documentary "Body of War," and I was proud that the entire audience rose and gave Tomas an extended standing ovation. I felt like I should salute, like applause could never adequately convey my gratitude for all that he and his fellow soldiers have sacrificed.

If anything marred the evening, it was the collective profusion of idiots in the crowd who insisted on yelling out to Eddie ... while he was speaking. Now, I get that Eddie's fans are an enthusiastic bunch of concert-goers and beer-drinkers and sometimes-pot-smokers, but dudes (and chicks): Eddie is not your best friend. When he is on stage telling a story, he is not hoping that one of his long-lost pals will start screaming at him from the audience. At one point, given that I was in a venue that boasts some of the best acoustics in the country, I wanted to yell, "If you're not Eddie, shut the fuck up!"

But I didn't. I figured, if they were idiots enough to rudely interrupt Eddie, a scolding from me would probably not have a great effect on their behavior.

Still, Concert Etiquette 101, people: If you must scream at the artist on stage, do it when it's quiet, not when he's talking. Duh.

Regardless, though, Eddie blew my mind. Like I said, I love, love, love, love, love his voice. I marvel at how much sound he can produce from one guitar. And I adore his liberal use of profanity.

(A few years ago, when my friend Dave turned 50, Eddie taped a tribute from Hawaii. Dave, you need to know for this story, does not swear. Ever. Well, OK, he swears sometimes, but he has to be really mad, unlike most of us who sprinkle expletives like so much pepper and salt. During the video, Eddie looked into the camera and said to Dave's daughter, "Natty, when you need to learn how to swear, you call your Uncle Eddie." That might not be the direct quote, but that's the spirit of it. I now have first-hand knowledge that the man is indeed a pro.)

Eddie played for a long time, including two encores. Or was it three? E.J. did a song with him. Liam did a song with him. Eddie said they'd play it a little slower to make it last longer. (Chicago is the end of the line for this tour.) And then they did a final song all together. Here's a photo (gasp!) from my phone. Sadly, my phone does not come equipped with a telephoto lens. Eddie is the figure in the middle of the stage, with Liam on drums and E.J. at the mic. In case you're wondering, they're wearing white lab coats. They didn't wear them for the whole show, just this tune. Eddie is not morphing into Thomas Dolby. With this backdrop, the whole thing comes off looking a bit Messianic, but Eddie is sporting a bit of a Jesus look these days anyway, so it all works.














But, easily the most amazing moment of the night – for me, anyway – was Eddie's performance of "The Wolf" from "Into the Wild." It's less of a song and more of a chant. Well, no, actually, it's less of a chant and more of a wail. However you describe it, it's extraordinary. The album cut is only 1:32, but live, Eddie looped each line and created a vocal symphony that left my jaw on the floor.

An astonishing talent, that man.

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