Those who know me well certainly know my affinity for music. Not a day goes by where I’m not either listening to tunes in my car, the kitchen, the garage, or singing along to the ever-ongoing songs in my head. As much as I love my albums (most of which are now conveniently housed on my iphone), nothing compares to the experience of live concerts.
I recalled on my concert experiences a year or so ago here: Best Concerts.
In my younger years I took in a decent amount of shows. My concert-going frequency has ground to a massive halt in recent years. Though I’ve seen bands and acts from varying eras and music genres, the Seattle bands of the early ’90’s were and remain important to me. These bands made a significant impression on me during my late high school and college years. I always wanted to see Seattle’s “Big Four” in concert. I saw Alice in Chains at Lalapalooza 3 in the summer of ’93. I saw Soundgarden at the venerable Aragon Ballroom in Chicago in ’94. I had plans to see Nirvana in ’94 as well, but sadly we all know why that never happened.
The one band left remaining was Pearl Jam. Curiously, they eluded me for the better part of two decades. How was this possible? Unlike Chains and Soundgarden who broke up for years, or Nirvana, who were obviously done once Cobain passed, the guys from PJ never disbanded, broke up, shed their mortal coils, or more to the point, stopped touring. In hindsight, I probably had many opportunities to see these guys. I just never made the time.
I’m happy to report this finally changed on August 20, 2018, in Chicago, Illinois. Months prior, my friend Jim told me he just bought tickets for one of their Wrigley Field concerts and encouraged me to join him. My initial thought of course was no. Work. The kids. The expense. Chicago traffic. Monday night show. Etc, etc, etc. No thanks, I’ll get around to seeing them at some more convenient time.
Then another thought crossed my mind. Last year Chris Cornell died. Any thoughts of seeing him in concert again were now gone. Walter Becker, one half of one of my all-time favorite bands, Steely Dan, died as well. Seeing “The Dan” in concert was on my bucket list. Now that’s gone too. What about seeing Tom Petty again? After all, I hadn’t seen him since ’95. No, we lost Tom last year too. With all this heavy on my mind, I reversed course, jumped online, and bought my ticket to the show.
Leading up to the concert, weather became a concern. Reports out of Chi-town called for 100% rain by show time. As you can tell from the photo, we were taking in the show from one of the Wrigley Rooftop locations (1048 Waveland Ave. to be exact). The downside is we could only see the side of the stage.
The upsides however, would turn out to be huge. About an hour prior to the show’s start this happened:
The green sign you can’t read in this photo basically stated that everyone on the field and in the 100 section of the stadium had to evacuate due to incoming inclement weather. So where did they all go you may ask?
This was the view across from our rooftop. The Left Field Gate concourse. Those sorry folks had to spend an hour and a half stuffed in there. All the while we comfortably relaxing across the street, drinking complimentary beverages of our choice, eating steak sandwiches and ice cream. Oh yeah, the restroom was about 10 feet away and there was no line.
Ok, fine, I’m gloating. You know what? 99 out of 100 times I’m the guy on the other side of this equation! Suddenly, the rooftop option seemed pretty sweet!
Eventually the heavy storms gave way to light rain, and much to the joy of 40,000 plus people they announced the show would in fact happen, albeit two hours later than originally scheduled. (9:30 Chicago time)
Sure enough they took the stage. One might think this could be a half-hearted effort, considering the 2-hour weather delay coupled with the fact they already played a 3-hour show two nights prior in the same venue.
Full disclosure….I’m a Pearl Jam fan. I’ve listened to these guys for 27 years. I own every one of their albums and listened to their songs countless times in my life. So if you think what I’m about to say is bias because of my admiration for this band (click here for more evidence of my admiration) From Seattle to the Hall then fair enough. Yet I must tell you with every shred of honesty I have, I’m not being bias here.
Eddie, Stone, Jeff, Mike, & Matt blazed onto the stage and ripped off a 29-song set over two and a half hours without a break. Yes, 29 songs. Yes, two and a half hours. No break for the encore. They concluded the “finale,” and jumped right into the encore set without leaving the stage. They played one hour past local weekday curfew (a $10,000 fine according to the security cops at our rooftop). Eddie did make a point to thank the Ricketts family and Cubs President Theo Epstein for that one. Looks like it didn’t come out of PJ’s purse!
Though we couldn’t directly see the stage from our vantage point, the acoustics were unbelievably fantastic. (that was my greatest concern leading up to the show) This vantage point however, was so unique. Watching a concert where I’m looking at the audience instead of the stage was so different, and yet so interesting. Viewing Chicago’s city skyline in the background the entire evening made the view even more special. At the very top of our venue, above the outer stands, there’s a flat open area with couches and tables. Our rooftop had a capacity of 155, but due to the weather I suppose, there were only about 40 or 50 people in attendance that evening. My friend Dom and I watched most of the show from this platform at the top. We were the only two people up there. We almost felt like the whole city belonged to us on this night. Amazing.
The band’s sound and energy were palpable. These guys are in their 50s now, and they’ve been touring for decades. The fact Eddie can still sing the way he does and this band still brings it the way they do is a true testament to their greatness. They’re as good today as they’ve ever been. Not many bands can say that after so many years.
I don’t know why I waited over 25 years to see one of my favorite bands. There’s a reason for everything I suppose. Whatever my reason was, I’m glad it worked out this way. I can’t imagine a more special place to see them than Wrigley Field. I can’t imagine a more unique night than the one this was. Sure, I’d love to see them again some day, but it won’t be to compare it to this one. This night was one of a kind. A once in a lifetime sort of experience. One I’ll never forget!
(Unfortunately, as my WordPress blog is currently configured, I cannot add video content. I have some tremendous videos from the show. If and when I can include these to the site, I will update this page!)
Thanks for reading,