Sunday, October 01, 2006

Pearl Jam - Live In Champaign 4/23/03 On iTunes

Once in a while, a band as huge and talented as Pearl Jam graces the stage of U of I's Assembly Hall. For anyone who went, it's one of those nights that you won't soon forget. Case in point, here I am gushing about it over 3 years later. The gang at have a bevy of show reviews and info on Pearl Jam (including the poster and setlists you see above), and here's their take on this gig.

Ed says a quick, "All right ... let's go!" and PJ opens with a slamming 'Do The Evolution' in this smallish venue shaped like a UFO. The sold out Illinois crowd is more than receptive to Pearl Jam, especially with this ferocious opener great Stone solos throughout. The fast pace continues through a welcome 'Deep' with killer Mike solos and Ed's intense lyrical delivery. While changing instruments, Ed greets Champaign and says he feels like a lion in a cage and asks if there are any Christians who want to be eaten tonight. He dedicates 'Elderly Woman' to towns like Gurnee, Rockford and Kankakee. Someone yells out "Cuba!" which amuses him. Big response from the audience, who promptly lights up the place with their lighters and the crowd sings the "hearts and thoughts" section. During 'Even Flow,' a fan tosses a camera to Ed, who takes a photo of Mike soloing and then tosses the camera back. 'Jeremy' is well-received and worth the price of admission simply to watch Stone pogo while yelling out the whole "ooh, ooh, ooh" section with a huge grin on his face in unison with the crowd. This show is having the feel of stepping back in time about 10 years. 'Habit' is dedicated to those high on crystal meth and there is no "speaking as ..." tag. As usual, Ed plays around with the lyrics to 'Untitled' ("Lets get to Chicago, get drunk and talk politics ..."; Assembly Hall is on campus and no alcohol is served) leading to a high energy 'MFC' with Mike running all around the stage. 'Blood' gets an insane response; this is the first time it's been played in the midwest since Soldier Field. Band is animated, Ed is thrusting the mic stand like the old days and the stage is bathed in red lights. 'Porch' follows as the perfect closer after 'Blood.' While it isn't the 12-minute Atlanta 94 version, it has great solos from Mike and Stone, plus Ed leading the crowd in a call/response of noises and phrases during the bridge. Ed goes to Stone's side and he picks up a cable, swinging it as if he would catch it over the rafters and climb (quite amusing). When the band hits the stage again, Ed says, "We don't have class tomorrow ... do you?" The crowd yells, "no!" and Ed says, "Class my ass is what you're saying" and an enthusiastic "Stone" chant gets going. Matt starts the drum beat that would become The Police's 'Driven To Tears,' which has even the die-hard fans in total shock. After 'Crazy Mary,' "OK class ... a bit of history," introduces a searing ' Know Your Rights,' with Ed jumping all over his monitor wedges making hand gestures. The audience is in a state of bewilderment, and it exploded as the band went into 'Fortunate Son,' giving the song an amazing response. A very strange, high energy encore! Ed returns, standing motionless, then looking around shrugging as if "where's the band?" Fans are screaming out songs. Ed responds, "We're proponents of open honest debate ... the ballots are closed ... I am your leader!" He starts talking about 'Soon Forget' and how it was "stolen off a song off Who By Numbers. Some one interrupts yelling "Yellow Ledbetter" and Ed responds, "Hold your horses, shut the fuck up; cause you see we were gonna and now we won't and that's just how we are ... you're not helping matters at all." (And it WAS on the setlist and it WASN'T played ... lesson learned: don't interrupt.) He continues that Pete Townshend is his hero and loves Chicago and plays, 'Blue, Red, Grey' ... another huge surprise. The crowd sings the second verse of 'Black' when Ed points the mic to the crowd. Ed backs up and ends up leaning against Stone. Alive' has the crowd singing note for note, pogoing and chanting the "yeah" section. By the end of the song, the crowd is ready to blow the roof off of the place, and that's exactly what happens when the house lights come up, the band starts 'Baba,' and the whole place just goes completely, clinically insane, the band included. Mike, Jeff and Stone are pogoing and running around like wild animals, doing strange dances, Boom grinning his ass off, flailing his hair around and Matt attacks his drums. Ed goes through at least five tambourines. Pearl Jam at it's best.

This was a very good show, and yet it wasn't released except for about a month after the gig on the band's website. I didn't have the cash at the time to get it, but last night when I was doing a little research on iTunes, I came across the show when I typed in "Champaign" into the search engine. Lo and behold, there it was; 29 songs for only $9.99. It would have been 30 songs if one idiot at the show would've quit hassling Eddie to play "Yellowledbetter" while he was trying to speak before his acoustic set.

Now, you're probably thinking, "Hey idiot, you could have just looked for it under the artist section and saw it with the other 90 Pearl Jam albums for sale." I've looked there several times, and, even now, it's still not listed. In fact, the name of the band usually links back to their artist page when you're looking at a specific album, and in this case, it doesn't. It's almost like the band has hidden this album. It may simply be a case of Apple screwing up the links, but who knows. The show isn't even sequentially named like all the rest of the shows from that tour are. It's just simply "Live In Champaign, Illinois - April, 23 2003."

So, just click on this link and hit "I Have iTunes" (if you have iTunes) and it should open right up.


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