Things I Learned At Pearl Jam
Two weeks and some days ago, my companions and I ventured to the O2 in Dublin to see Pearl Jam “do” a concert. In the months leading up to this, I had lost most, if not all, of my interest in the band, in precisely the way you don’t want to do after spending €75 on a ticket, plus €20 on the annual fan club membership required to secure that €75 ticket. Because this is what being an unenthusiastic Pearl Jam fan costs. Money-grubbing cads, the lot of them.
The good news, imaginary reader, is that the gig was a splendid thing, and confirmed that they are still a band of wonder in the live arena. And! Educational, too. In that, I learned some things while I was at the gig, both about the band, and about myself. And despite these obviously – and quite rightly – being of no interest to anyone ever, I will now list these things.
THING 1: I have precisely no interest in being a Ten Club member anymore.
This one was hardly surprising: my avid fanaticism that used to border on insanity has died down to an occasional forum-lurk every now and then, and perhaps a bracing dose of Binaural on an afternoon. The part of me that needed an annual vinyl single is dead; and besides, last year’s single has yet to arrive. So that’s hardly an enticing benefit. More worryingly, myself and comrade Coyote Trax found ourselves excruciatingly out of place at the Ten Club love-in preceding the gig – which meant that as people far drunker than us sang along to a grim rendition of “Crazy Mary”, courtesy of a strangled walrus fronting a PJ tribute act, Trax and I were compelled to construct a protective cocoon made of puns and mild insults. Which, while enjoyable, was not worth a €20 annual fee.
THING 2: Pearl Jam are still quite excellent.
No matter how much they try to hide it under punk pretensions and Vedder’s annoying verbosity. I suspect that my waning interest in the band was due to their not making much good music since 2002’s Riot Act, and not making any classic music since 2000’s Binaural. Even in a live setting, songs from Backspacer and their eponymous album floundered uselessly like a dehydrated fish. But the good stuff was still good – hearing “Down” was a wonderful moment, as was witnessing the debut of “Of The Earth” (which, despite being recorded for both Backspacer and Pearl Jam sessions, has yet to make an album. Because Pearl Jam is made exclusively of idiots.) They are still an excellent band, even if they have ceased writing excellent music.
THING 3: I still really love loud music.
I haven’t been to an arena show since Pearl Jam’s last trek to Ireland. So while I’ve seen loud gigs (Drive-By Truckers, Ham Sandwich, Eagles of Death Metal, etc.) they’ve all been in venues where the sound-systems could generously be called “lacklustre”. The O2’s sound-system, presumably upgraded when it ceased to be the Point Theatre a while back, was admirably beastly: the opening drum beats of support act Ben Harper’s set were louder than anything I’ve heard in years. It was a fun reminder of how much I love stupidly loud noises. Except.
THING 4: I can’t listen to loud music.
At least, not without long-lasting regret and dire consequences. My feeble ears rang unceasingly for three days after the show. This is not healthy: I suspect I’ve permanently lost a not-inconsiderable amount of my hearing. For the first time, I noticed that I wasn’t just missing out on volume, but also on frequencies: it wasn’t that Tweetdeck’s little beepy noise was too quiet to hear over the tinnitus, it was that it was too high-pitched. I have prematurely aged my ears. (Luckily, my pretty head seems to functioning normally once more. But perhaps I shall invest in earplugs before the next rock show, eh?)
THING 5: Hot dogs are astonishingly pricy in the O2.
€4.50 for a sausage in a roll? I’d rather have my stomach slowly digest itself over the course of the gig. (Full disclosure: I purchased the hot dog, and it was rather tasty. But not €4.50 tasty.) Um.