#PJTour2016, VS, #PearlJamGVL, and The #PoliticallyCorrect
It’s something to be a fan of a band’s music. It’s also something to be a fan of a band’s lead singer. It’s very much something to be a fan of a band’s individual members. It’s quite something to be a fan of a band’s individual members’ side projects. It’s really something to be a fan of a band’s politics. It’s often here though that many stop allowing a band to be something to them. I have many politically conservative friends who’ve boycotted Pearl Jam shows because they disagreed with Eddie Vedder’s and, by extension, Pearl Jam’s politics.
Incidents like when Vedder “decapitated” Dubya on a mic stand back in the early ‘naughts are often cited as reasons. Now, Eddie is running around in a Trump mask on stage occasionally. I’m sure another “decapitation” is due to be delivered any moment, and with it many more young conservatives will abandon, or worse, never become engaged with, Pearl Jam. With a band like Pearl Jam, you don’t get to separate the music from the politics. Pearl Jam are the ultimate “what you see is what you get” act.
It’s what endears them to so many. It’s what endears them to me. To me, Pearl Jam are more than just a band with great music and agreeable politics. They’re that undefinable “something more than…” They would still be this to me even if I had tickets to their April 20th show in Raleigh, NC instead of April 16 show in Greenville, SC. To many with tickets for the Raleigh show though, the night the band cancelled over HB2, I suppose they might not be something anymore. The show in Greenville, SC was majestic for many reasons, not the least of which was their inimitable cover of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb,” or the fact that audience members were treated to the first ever live performance of their 1993 album VS front to back. Pearl Jam has been doing covers for decades now.
“Rockin’ In The Free World,” “Leaving Here,” “Last Kiss” (which was also performed that night), and “Baba O’Riley” are just a few of the songs they’ve covered over the years, demonstrating that not only are they mega rock stars at this point in their careers, but that they are still mega rock fans at this point in their careers as well.The band has grown and shifted moods over the years though. What once had the borderline violent energy of a raw punk rock show has blossomed into the kind of spiritually ascendent show that we used to only get from Springsteen and U2, and that being decades ago now. Eddie Vedder has gone from shy frontman to angry, near vein bursting thrasher, to grand orchestral conductor of his audiences’ communal, if still somewhat tribal, spiritual revivalist singalong. Contrary to what many believe in America nowadays, progressive change is still a good thing. Pearl Jam have continued to progressively advance their musicianship, their stage show, and their recording processes.
One thing that they haven’t moved forward over the years is their politics. They were always firmly rooted in the ever forward leaning progressive nature of their personal beliefs (at least those that they’ve shared with us) to the chagrin of the casual fan and to the awe of the life-long fan. So while I too would have been disappointed that I would have missed the Raleigh show if I had tickets to it, I wouldn’t dismiss the band as “politically correct,” a term which has been turned into a slur by the racist, intolerant and ignorant amongst us who believe America needs to be made great (read: WHITE) again, as well as rude and crude. I also wouldn’t declare them “over” as some of their more fair weather fans might have. I’d have quietly applauded their actions, put some money aside, and saved up for their next tour. Decisions such as this by the band are what one has to be able to make peace with, if you are a congregant of the church of ideals that are important to the individuals that make up Pearl Jam the movement and not just “Pearl Jam” the band. //embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Some other artists recently went forth with their plans to play shows in North Carolina including Alabama Shakes and Duran Duran, albeit after deriding the law. That is their choice. They looked at the situation differently, but no less critically. It is their right to protest something they disagree with in a way they see fit. What we seem to often forget is that underneath the guitars solos, the vocal crescendos, and the stage performances are people, just like you and I, who have to live with themselves and the choices they make, as well as how they react to ideas they find themselves in conflict with. Ted Nugent surely can sleep at night I’m sure (although I personally don’t know how), so should the members of Pearl Jam.
A fan at the Greenville show had a sign that read “Alive Saved My Life.” Vedder went into the crowd and hugged him during the band’s performance of the song. He also addressed the senselessness of gun violence in reaction to a group that had a sign reflecting upon the Virginia Tech shooting, of which April 16th was the ninth anniversary of. Vedder and Pearl Jam didn’t even need to do those things to demonstrate that they were definitely “something more than…” that night once again. The power of their music has always been akin to the music of the spheres when measuring its sacred heft, with nary more than Vedder’s voice, the band’s music, and the collectivism of their passionate compassion alone to define it. The rest is that “something more” that just sets them even further apart from their peers to the devoted.
MAY 8 Ottawa, CA CTC Arena
MAY 10 Toronto, CA Air Canada Center
JUN 9 Manchester, TN Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival
AUG 5 Boston, MA Fenway Park
AUG 7 Boston, MA Fenway Park
AUG 20 Chicago, IL Wrigley Field
AUG 22 Chicago, IL Wrigley Field