Catching Up With Pearl Jam

On Friday night in New York City, I'm going to see a Pearl Jam concert for the first time in 10 years. When I last saw the band, I liked them well enough but was hardly a true believer. Two good friends of mine, both of whom had driven with me to Cleveland to see the Who earlier that year and both with whom I've since fallen out of touch, were fanatics, and convinced me to shell out for a ticket to the band's Toronto show. They told me that Pearl Jam live was a different beast than on record. They were right.

The Seattle quintet delivered one of the best shows I've ever seen. On then new tracks (from the 2000 album Binaural) like the bluesy "Insignificance," spacey "Nothing As It Seems," and smoky, enigmatic "Sleight Of Hand," the band played with majestic intensity. PJ classics "Better Man," "Black," "Once," and "Indifference" had the crowd roaring with an intensity that I'm not sure I've felt matched by any other audience I've been a part of. It was wonderful to witness.

But what really won me over was the band's rendition of "Wishlist." I'd never heard the song before--now it's one of my favorites. It's a bittersweet ballad, originally found on the 1998's Yield, that's based around a lightly chugging chord pattern and a few gently humming guitar fills. Each line of the lyrics starts with singer Eddie Vedder declaring a wish. "I wish I was a sailor / with someone who waited for me"; "I wish I was a messenger / and all the news was good"; and so on. It's simple stuff, but the sentiments are lovely and Eddie sang it like a lullaby, even ad-libbing a reference to local heroes Rush. As the band played, a disco ball reflected sparkles of light into the dark arena air. It may not sound like much, but that moment, with that song, and the feeling it caused to sweep across the crowd, turned me into a fan.

I hope something similar happens at Friday night's show. I bet it does.

Can any of you recall your Pearl Jam eureka moment? Or have you had your fan lightbulb go off with another band? Share your story in the comments section.

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