On January 23, 2013, Pearl Jam announced two North American shows – and two shows only – for July 2013: Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois on Friday July 19th, and July 16th at the Budweiser Gardens in London, Ontario.
Pearl Jam, the early years.
Yep. I’m positive I heard a needle scratch across a vinyl Pearl Jam album as a collective, “Wait, WHAT?” went through the shocked minds of Pearl Jam fans everywhere. Two shows at two very different venues; Wrigley Field with a capacity of approximately 40,000 people and the more intimate Budweiser Gardens with a capacity of just under 10,000. Not only was it a mild shock for many, it was also a huge honour that they selected our city and our venue to be a stop on a very brief tour. Shortly after the shock wore off, a collective “WHOOP!” rose from Pearl Jam fans around the city, echoed to surrounding areas and into the great beyond. This was incredible and we knew it. London, Ontario was to be one of two stops for the much loved band, and our beloved venue was to be one of them. This was a very big deal.
As the public sale date approached, every person anxious to purchase tickets knew they would be tough to acquire. Although it was in our city, sales wouldn’t be limited to Pearl Jam fans in London of course, and it was a given that loyal fans would travel from far and wide to experience this once in a lifetime show. Tickets would sell out and they would sell out fast, and nobody knew how fast the show would sell out better than I did. It was the story of my life for 19 years; the last time I was able to get tickets to see my rock demigod was 1994 at the Masonic Temple in Detroit, Michigan. It wasn’t a lack of trying that had prevented me from seeing Pearl Jam since that time, oh no. It was the love their fans have for them, the number of fans they had amassed in that time, and just plain horrible luck when it came to ticket sale dates.
Pearl Jam, Detroit, MI, 1994
It was an excruciating 19 years, I can tell you that. In the meantime, I bought every album; ate up every television appearance; pined as I listened to the stories of friends, acquaintances and complete strangers as they told me their tales of each Pearl Jam concert that passed without me in attendance; and cried every time a show was discussed that I knew I wouldn’t be at. When Pearl Jam announced they would make a stop at the John Labatt Centre (which is now the
Budweiser Gardens) on September 12th, 2005, I was determined to take my husband who was also a huge fan but had never seen them live. I waited, poised and ready. Tickets would be mine, oh yes! They would! But once again, oh no, they wouldn’t. Well, not tickets – plural – anyway. In fine Pearl Jam form, the concert sold out almost immediately. All was not completely lost however, and I was able to score one ticket.
I’m not going to lie, the next action I took was a bit painful, but it had to be done. I gave that ticket to my husband for his birthday which was the next day on September 13th. I was big and pregnant with our son and I had already seen them 3 times – 1991 at St Andrew’s Hall in Detroit while on tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers; 1992 at Lollapalooza in Toronto; and 1994 at Masonic Temple in Detroit – and he hadn’t seen them once. Yes, the decision was painful, but it was a no brainer. He would see them instead of me and I would catch them next time around. I hoped. Toronto 2006 came and went. Hamilton 2011 saw me eluded by tickets again. London 2013 was not going to do this to me again I swore.
But it did.
Tickets went on sale for the Gardens Pearl Jam show on February 9th and despite my best efforts, once again the cards were not in my favour. I can’t tell you the crushing disappointment I felt. Any die hard Pearl Jam fan that hasn’t been able to secure tickets has felt this blow and knows exactly what I mean. Your face drops, your heart sinks and you wonder which of your friends you can roll for the tickets they were able to get. From February to July, I felt these emotions and more. As the July 16th show approached, I tried to ignore excited comments from friends who were attending and avoided all reminders of the show I wouldn’t be seeing. When you love a band as much as I love Pearl Jam, it truly is a tough blow when you can’t see and support them live.
Then the Budweiser Gardens did it: they put out the call for a fan to review the concert. Kind of like Princess Leia with Obi-Wan Kanobi, I knew this was my only hope. I began my campaign to be the #BGReviewer. I campaigned hard, recruiting the help of friends and family who knew my undying love for the band and asking them to tell the Bud that there was nobody more in love with this band and worthy of the gig than I. And I am so very thankful they listened.
A shot of the entire crowd.
Photo Credit: Chris Campbell, Budweiser Gardens
On July 16th, my 19 year Pearl Jam concert drought ended in the most spectacular, incredible fashion at the Budweiser Gardens. I have seen a lot of concerts and events at the ‘Bud’ and I can say unequivocally, without a doubt, this was the best show the venue has held to date. That is in thanks largely to the band that played, but credit also has to be given to the venue they played at. There is a reason Pearl Jam chose our city and our venue for this intimate tour, and it can only be this: they recognize the Gardens for the world class facility it is, know it has a tremendous staff who will bend over backwards for their clients and patrons, and know that London, Ontario, Canada always hosts THE greatest music fans in the world. If you were in the arena on Tuesday night, you know that’s not a lie.
The energy in the building was palpable and when the big screens above the stage showed a close up of lead singer Eddie Vedder’s face, you could see he was feeling the love and appreciation being sent his way (and boy, we were sending it!) and responded with a big smile revealing those gorgeous Eddie dimples. (Ahem. Sorry – Eddie Vedder fan girl moment.)
The glorious, Eddie Vedder.
Photo credit: Chris Campbell, Budweiser Gardens
Never have I heard so many voices singing collectively at a concert. Never has a sound enveloped me so completely at a venue and felt like a big hug of sound. As they panned across the faces of the rest of the band members – Jeff Ament, Mike McCready, Stone Gossard and Matt Cameron – you could tell they were feeling that sound hug too. What a vibe, and what an incredible Evening with Pearl Jam.
I’m still reeling from the show, two days later. My mind regularly goes back to little things Eddie said on stage when bantering with the crowd: telling stories of his arrival into London and how memories from his previous visit came flooding back; a tale about Stone Gossard going for a run and seeing an angry man at a payphone; and his search for an open WiFi connection that brought up the name, “Dundas Hookers on Crack”. Oh yes, London gave them memories to take on the road with them again this week and I hope the next time they return, a) I will be there, and b) he will share his memories with us once again. And I know they will be back. They like our city, love our venue, and adore us fans just as much as we adore them.
It would be hard to pinpoint an outstanding moment for me. I can’t lie, from the minute I walked in and found my seats to the very last closing note I was my 20 year old self again, excited and emotional. I danced my heart out and sang at the top of my lungs with everyone else in the crowd. The greatest and loudest singing came along with songs such as Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town (probably the longest song title in the Pearl Jam repertoire), Even Flow, Black (which turned out the most beautiful sea of “doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo’s I have ever heard), Better Man, Alive, Rockin’ in the Free World and Indifference, all of which closed out the evening. Even more amazingly – and a first for me at any concert, proving once again that Pearl Jam plays by their rules and their rules alone – the house lights stayed on during the last few closing songs showing the receptive, energetic and adoring crowd singing and dancing along with the band.
The crowd sings along with Pearl Jam.
Photo credit: Chris Campbell, Budweiser Gardens
It amazed me that in the 19 years since I last saw them the band hasn’t lost the energy and vitality that made me fall head over heels in love with them in the first place. While Eddie of 1991-1994 was known to jump off the stage to crowd surf, or climb the scaffolding that surrounded the stage, Eddie of 2013 swung from lanterns that hung above the set, and bounced around with the same energy and je ne sais quoi only Eddie could display.
It’s safe to say, I loved every single moment.
Today, I want to send my heartfelt thanks to the Budweiser Gardens. First, thanks for being such an amazing venue that a band as huge as Pearl Jam would want to book such an intimate evening here and grace us all with their presence. I am still amazed that we were one of two venues booked for this tour, and look forward to their return (hint, hint fellas!) in support of their upcoming release in October 2013, Lightning Bolt. Second, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!! for choosing me to be your reviewer for this show. I will never, ever be able to adequately express to you what a dream this was. I am forever in your debt and filled with gratitude.
Finally, a gigantic thank you to Pearl Jam themselves for performing in our city and drawing fans from all across Canada and the United States (and perhaps internationally!) to our city and venue. The fact that you chose gave us our own Sally Field moment. “You like us. You REALLY like us!” Well, Pearl Jam
, we LOVE you back. Thanks for an amazing evening, an amazing show, and an amazing 23 years of rock and roll. We look forward to your return and you can be sure we’ll welcome you back with open arms.
In the end, this show will go down in Budweiser Gardens history as the most energetic, enthusiastic and interactive show the Budweiser Gardens has ever hosted. And we can’t wait to do it all again. I’m going to rate this show a brilliant and well deserved 10 out of 10. This will be a hard act to follow for years to come. Bravo, boys. You’ve still got it!
Setlist for Pearl Jam at Budweiser Gardens, London, Ontario, Canada – July 16, 2013
Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
Corduroy (with The Clash’s, London Calling intro)
Mind Your Manners (first ever live performance)
Given To Fly
I Got Shit
Not For You
Black (with Sleater-Kinney, Modern Girl intro)
Last Kiss (Wayne Cochran cover)
Man Of The Hour
Do The Evolution
Brain of J.
Rockin’ In The Free World (Neil Young cover)