Arts & EventsMotherload! Pearl Jam Hits Career Milestone with Ottawa Concert

Motherload! Pearl Jam Hits Career Milestone with Ottawa Concert

Motherload! Pearl Jam Hits Career Milestone with Ottawa Concert

All photos by Andre Gagne

Like a “Lightning Bolt”, Pearl Jam electrified the supercharged 15,000 plus inside the Canadian Tire Centre from the first notes played at a Mother’s Day performance that would be a career milestone. Fittingly in a building that shares the same number in its address, the Seattle rockers played the 1000th show1 in their storied career inside 1000 Palladium Drive. It was an event some fans didn’t want to miss, even if it meant camping out a day before or traveling over 1,500 miles.

Braving unusually frigid spring weather in an effort to secure spots in the coveted general admission pit, fans, many huddled close together for body warmth with a nights worth of provisions, blankets, sleeping bags, pillows and favourite songs to sing, started lining up as early as 10AM Saturday morning. One of them, retired air traffic controller Sharon Wolf, has been following the band for many years now, journeying this time from the warmer climate of her Fort Lauderdale, Florida home into the May flurries of Ottawa.

“This is my retirement life,” explained Wolf as she waited in line for her 91st time seeing the band. “Some people play golf; some people follow Pearl Jam. I never liked golf.”

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Guitarist, Mike McCready

Wolf, who first saw the band perform at Lollapalooza in 1992, has been all over the US, UK and, now, Canada to see the band and she’s not about to quit any time soon. “It’s part of my life. I understand their music and I can relate to it. I incorporate it into everything I do. But there are people who have seen a lot more shows than me. I’m just one of many.”

Brantford, Ontario resident Don Williamson has some catching up to do if he wants to gain ground on Wolf. This was show number eight for him but, he admits, he has five more to go on this tour. Williamson met Wolf at a Florida show earlier on the tour, striking up a friendship that, he explained, is quite common amongst fans of the band. Sometimes that friendship even turns into love.

“Pearl Jam brought us together,” Williamson says, lovingly gazing into the eyes of girlfriend Kelly Lane as they mist up with tears while he relays their story. The two met on an online Pearl Jam forum discussing their mutual love for the song “Footsteps”, one that has much more meaning for them now as they travel together as a couple to see the band that changed their lives.

“They are not Joe rock and roll band that are going to have a big light show and explosions. They are all about having a different experience each night,” explains Williamson on why he believes the group has survived well beyond the grunge genre they helped found in the early ‘90’s. “To be able to do that and have that skill set as a band and be able to play all those different songs every night is pretty awesome.”

Brendon Makarewicz, traveling from Washington, D.C., had a shocking meeting himself before Pearl Jam’s Québec City show on May 5 when he ran into the bands guitarist Mike McCready. “I just told him I was looking forward to the Ottawa show,” explains Makarewicz still in awe of what happened next. “He then asks my name, shakes my hand and asks me if I could take a picture with him. I’m like, you’re just hanging out on your own time. He says that’s fine. That’s one of the appeals to these guys. They are so humble and down-to-earth.”

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Eddie Vedder wails over the thousands at Canadian Tire Centre Sunday night.

McCready, along with vocalist Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar) and Jeff Ament (bass) formed in 1990 as one of the key bands of the grunge movement. Though they prefer to be referred to as a rock and roll band, along with Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam wrote songs that would define a generation born out of the Pacific Northwest’s isolated music scene and pumped through the veins of a generation of kids, dressed in torn jeans and flannel shirts, looking towards an uncertain future, screaming out “here we are now; entertain us”.

Released only a few weeks before Nirvana’s seminal grunge recording, Nevermind, Pearl Jam’s 1991 album Ten was not an immediate success but would slowly grow in popularity as the grunge movement became more mainstream. The album, with era defining tunes like “Even Flow” and “Jeremy”, would reach number two on the Billboard charts and, in 2013, was certified 13x platinum. While the other bands of the era have folded and faltered, Pearl Jam has maintained their popularity with critically acclaimed releases and a devoted fan base that still fills stadiums 1,000 shows on.

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Some camped out for hours to get this spot.

“I need this from you tonight,” shouted Vedder above the screams of thousands as the band tore into a near three-hour show of 31 career spanning songs.

An hour or so in, Vedder paused to address those displaced by the wildfire in Fort McMurray and offered some words of hope to those in need. “We’ve been watching intently what is going down in Alberta and hopefully some of this weather we just left in Quebec comes to help with the situation.  Thinking of all the people who have had their lives changed…you just never know what’s going to happen when you wake up in the morning.”

As though to lighten the tone, a fan’s appreciative wail of “I love you” bellowed out from the back of the pit causing Vedder to chuckle.

“It’s my long lost Ottawa lover,” he joked. “Is that you Tim? When you told me your last name was Horton I thought you were gone forever. Well, make your way back stage because I haven’t seen my wife in a few days and I’m feeling explosive!”

Vedder’s wife may have not been there but the singer acknowledged his two brothers in the crowd that ventured to Canada for the first time. “Do you know how many wrong notes those guys had to hear me sing growing up?”

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Eddie Vedder soars!

Also in attendance was author John Krakauer, who Vedder says helped profoundly change him with the book Into the Wild. The 1996 none-fiction story about Christopher McCandless harrowing journey to find freedom in the Alaskan wilderness was turned into a film directed by Sean Penn in 2007. Vedder supplied the music for the soundtrack and dedicated the 11th song of the set, “Setting Forth”, to the author.

After an epic performance of “Even Flow” that saw McCready take to the crowd as well as a frenetic drum solo by Matt Cameron, Vedder gave a nod to all the mothers in attendance. “All of us have mothers; maybe some of you do too. Love ‘em if you got ‘em. Happy Mother’s Day, mom!”

After a powerhouse trio of “Why Go”, “Jeremy” and “Porch”, the band slowed things down a little for a more stripped down performance of “Bee Girl” featuring only Vedder and Ament. That pace didn’t last for long, though. What can adequately be described as bug zappers from Mars lowered from the ceiling to be pushed back and forth over the crowd as the band continued to feed the frenzied audience, still on their feet from song one, first pumping, arms waving and singing back the band’s every word.

As the group steamrolled towards a second encore that would culminate in a cover of Canadian icon, and grunge influence, Neil Young, Vedder thanked the crowd and marvelled at the stadium that housed show 1,000.

“I think this is the best sounding venue we’ve had on this tour.  The great energy you’re sending us tonight I’m particularly grateful for.”

The next 1,000 begins in Toronto. As Neil sings, boys, long may you run!

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  1. Lightning Bolt
  2. Mind Your Manners
  3. Do The Evolution
  4. Save You
  5. Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
  6. Love Boat Captain
  7. Deep
  8. Faithfull
  9. I Am Mine
  10. Even Flow
  11. Setting Forth
  12. Corduroy
  13. Immortality
  14. Given To Fly
  15. Big Wave
  16. Why Go
  17. Jeremy
  18. Porch

Encore One

  1. Bee Girl
  2. Speed Of Sound
  3. Parachutes
  4. Sirens
  5. Love, Reign O’re Me (The Who cover)
  6. Better Man
  7. Blood

Encore Two

  1. All I Want Is You (U2 cover)
  2. Wasted Reprise
  3. Life Wasted
  4. Black
  5. Alive
  6. F*ckin’ Up (Neil Young cover)

1 Now before any Pearl Jam fans or mathematicians cry foul, this number really depends on your view of "show". If you factor in TV appearances etc. or Eddie's, some say false, claims that Stockholm, Sweden, 7th of July 2012 was 1,000 then we could be dealing with a whole lot of different milestone claims. However, after the cancellation of the show in Raleigh, North Carolina to protest the state's recently passed, controversial bathroom law, according to Dave over at the popular Pearl Jam stats tracker website Livefootsteps, this is, indeed, show 1,000. He tells Ottawa Life: "What a hotly contested topic. Our numbers and calculations bring the show to be their 1000th. I'm not really sure if anyone knows definitely 1000 per-cent other than the band and they don't seem to be talking about it. There may be some obscure show that comes to light in the future which could throw the numbers off. Already the North Carolina show cancellation changed the count this year. 1000 was supposed to be Québec City but, as of today, we have Ottawa being their 1000th show."

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