Friday, July 14, 2006

Mister Fanboy Music Concert Review: Pearl Jam/Sonic Youth

Mister Fanboy Music joins us this morning for a brief concert review.

Last night I attended the Pearl Jam/Sonic Youth show at the Santa Barbara Bowl. For those unfamiliar with the venue, it's a few blocks from the downtown core in a little ravine between a few hillsides. The Bowl has impeccable sight lines all the way around and only seats 4500 people, so it's smaller than nearly all of the venues on Pearl Jam's current tour. Although I have not been there, Pearl Jam front-man Eddie Vedder commented that it was like the Gorge outside of Seattle, but more intimate. He called it a mini-Gorge. Because the Bowl is essentially in a residential area, all concerts must end by 10 PM, so this event started somewhat early at 6 PM.

Truth be told I went to this show to see Sonic Youth. I have been a fan of theirs since they released Daydream Nation, I think in 1987, and I have most of their subsequent albums (they've released somewhere around 15). I had never seen Sonic Youth before so I was excited to do so. They did not disappoint! Although their set, which lasted for 45 minutes, focused primarily on songs from their current album, the trademark Sonic Youth feedback-friendly sound was there. They also peppered in a few old favorites. Kim Gordon is a rock goddess! She rocks live very few can. And let's not forget: Sonic Youth bandmembers aren't so youthful these days and are squarely planted in middle-age. Regardless, it made no difference to me. Eddie Vedder, in an attempt to get as many people to the show as possible early and in the audience for Sonic Youth, sang an a capella song on the stage before Sonic Youth appeared. Very stand-up guy that Vedder is and I am sure Sonic Youth appreciated that gesture.

After changing the stage between bands, Pearl Jam began playing their first set. The first set was relatively muted, with most bandmembers sitting on stools while they performed, and Vedder consuming what appeared to be a bottle of red wine. After a short break, Pearl Jam came back out and rocked hard. It was a lot of fun. Throughout, they played as many previous chart-toppers as they did songs from their new album. Let me be honest though, I don't know the names of most Pearl Jam songs. I like them, but much like the Grateful Dead, and for reasons that I can not explain, I am very bad about remembering song titles. Perhaps it was all the weed in the air. All I know is what I like and I liked it all. At one point, the lead-in to a song sounded just like the introduction to "Interstellar Overdrive" from Pink Floyd's Piper at the Gates of Dawn album. Perhaps this was an unspoken tribute to recently deceased founding member of Pink Floyd Syd Barrett, or perhaps I am mistaken altogether. Pearl Jam closed out the show with a rousing rendition of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" for which the crown went insane, including me as I am a HUGE Neil Young fan. You may recall that he and Pearl Jam recorded the Mirror Ball record together in the mid-90s. I find it interesting that Sonic Youth, purveyors of feedback, influenced and were influenced by Neil Young and Crazy Horse, who in turn influenced and was influenced by Pearl Jam. Having all three at the same venue would be a dream show indeed.

In summary, if you can still get tickets of any of these band's upcoming shows, do so! I believe Sonic Youth is only touring with Pearl jam here on the west coast, but they are also in the midst of a solo tour so here's hoping that they come to town near you. This is the second time I have seen Pearl Jam. The first time was just outside of DC on the day that Kurt Cobain of Nirvana's death became known. In retrospect, that show became the "Kurt Cobain Remembrance Show," though at the time it didn't seem out of place. Regardless, I think this show was a much better representation of Pearl Jam's talent, of which they have a lot.

--Mister Fanboy Music


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