Pearl Jam, Milwaukee

When I meet new parents, I often ask what they like to do for fun. When they inevitably stare out into space – trying to remember what it was that they used to do when they had the luxury of free time – I reword my question thusly:

“You know, … what survived kids?”

This always brings an immediate response of one (maybe two) things that they still do that’s just for them. “We go bowling,” or “I brew beer in my garage.” Etc. For Andy and I, the answer is concerts & music. We make time to go see our bands live when they come around on tour.

So, last night, Andy and I hired a sitter and ditched the boys in pursuit of mid-week musical goodness. Pearl Jam’s penultimate performance on their Lightning Bolt album tour. This is sort of poetic, because it was in November last year that they hit Dallas, just a couple of weeks after we’d packed our things and vacated the state of Texas. I had to work, so I stayed behind in Wisconsin with the boys while Andy flew to Dallas and met up with his brother, Brian, to watch the show.

Last night was my turn, and it was worth the wait.

Concerts are sort of boring to read about, I think (unless you’re an uber-fan), so I’ll sum up with: Those guys pulled out all the stops. And, no, really. I mean it. They looked a little tour-worn, but you could also tell they wanted to play it out with style.

As for Andy and I, mid-week concerts are getting harder to do. Andy had to work on Monday, and I had to coordinate getting the kids from school and set up with a babysitter in time for us to leave, drive to Milwaukee, find something to eat, get tickets from Will Call, and get into our seats before the show started. They had no opening band, so the pressure was on to get there on time. Stressful.

Andy’s still smiling though!

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Anticipation!

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Selfie before the show started. They were having trouble getting people in the doors efficiently (hence all the empty seats behind us), so the show began a little late.

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We had great seats – thanks, Ten Club!

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They started with a song off their new album (Pendulum) and, a few songs later, played Baba O’Riley with Rick Nielsen. Yep, a usual closer about 4 songs in. That was the first right turn of the night.

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Next up, they played Yield, their 1998 album. I can’t really, fully explain how transcendent this was, but you’re going to have to trust me… every out-of-their-mind Pearl Jam fan was like, “OMG. OMG. They’re *@$%#ing playing YIELD.” This statement from all the concert-goers in the fan club section and commenters from jealous Twitter/Instagram/Facebookers who weren’t in attendance. In reality, they could have been playing any album front to back, but for some reason, we were all convinced that this was the best choice they could have ever made.

I can’t help but laugh in spite of myself. In the moment, we – a bunch of grown adults – were acting like kids who just came home from trick-or-treating only to be told we were now going to open Christmas presents. In the groggy morning after, all I can do is chuckle at how excited we all were.

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At some point, someone from the crowd threw a Packers Cheesehead [hat] on-stage. Eddie, after much debating what to do, said something to the effect of “I’m from Chicago man, I can’t wear this.” A risky move – being in football-crazed Wisconsin, but he made the right call – the crowd erupted in cheers. He made a bet that he had a decent Chicago backing and he was right.

He made amends later, though.

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The show kept going and going and going and going. Andy and I were so amped about this… until it got to be 11:00. Then 11:15. Then 11:30, and they were showing no signs of stopping. Three songs deep into the third encore, they didn’t even seem to be slowing down. Eddie was talking to the crowd, and Andy and I did something completely unprecedented.

We left. :( Snapshot in time to be certain: We were an hour and 20 minutes from home, it was 11:30 and we’d told our sitter we’d be home at midnight. We looked at each other, nodded, and headed for the door with another few couples. Eddie seemed to be leading into something, so the other couples stopped on the stairs to watch. I shook my head at Andy and said, “If I don’t keep going I’ll never leave.”

We hit the lobby of the arena when Yellow Ledbetter started playing. We both froze in our tracks and at least one of us yelled guttural pain sounds at missing it. Andy said, “Do we go back?!” I shook my head, we had to go. Come to find out this morning, they played two more songs after that. We wouldn’t have been leaving until Midnight.

So, yes. Concerts have survived kids to be sure, but even that – for now – doesn’t look the same as it used to. Someday we’ll get back in the swing, but for now, I’m happy to be part of it even if just for a little while.

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