Pearl Jam / Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

Pearl Jam / Ted Leo and the Pharmacists: live in New York [first night]live in New York [first night] (2008)
Sony Music

Reviewer Rating: 4

Contributed by: InaGreendaseBrian
(others by this writer | submit your own)

'Twas my first time seeing Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, somehow. Maybe it was because by the time I'd gotten into them (probably some time in 2006 when I picked up a used copy of Shake the Sheets), Ted Leo and the boys started doing support tours for pretty huge acts and playing equally huge festiva.

'Twas my first time seeing Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, somehow. Maybe it was because by the time I'd gotten into them (probably some time in 2006 when I picked up a used copy of Shake the Sheets), Ted Leo and the boys started doing support tours for pretty huge acts and playing equally huge festivals (Death Cab for Cutie, Coachella, Pitchfork). Here they were opening for alterna-rock behemoths Pearl Jam, a bill that seemed to promise a pretty good time. Maybe not a $77 good time, but had I been actually following PJ and their albums much closer the last decade, maybe so.

Teddy and co., playing as a four-piece, busted out a pretty rousing half-hour set that was occasionally sloppy and sometimes awkward in a huge and legendary venue (Madison Square Garden) that was nowhere near filled to its sold-out capacity yet. Crowd members sparsely flecked the seats, and thus many missed out on being treated to the punky-Costello-pop that otherwise sounded invigorating and energetic, Leo's voice echoing through the cavernous vault. They opened with "The Sons of Cain," then moved right into "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?," going back a few albums to Hearts of Oak. They also played two new songs, back to back. The first sounded good, like a more streamlined version of the songs on Living with the Living -- maybe somewhere in between that and Shake the Sheets, actually. The second was pretty fantastic; it was a bit frenetic, like "Bomb. Repeat. Bomb.," with skittering drums and some jagged riffs; think Buzzcocks covering the Lawrence Arms' "The March of the Elephants." Speaking of "Bomb. Repeat. Bomb.," I was definitely looking forward to hearing it; it probably confused some of the crowd members, and it was a little rushed at first, but once the members settled in, it was a sweet, discordant jam-out. The band wrapped up with three more, and while the sweet and salty reggae jam "The Unwanted Things" is a feel-good gibe, they definitely could have picked a better closer. Oh well. Definitely a solid set otherwise.

Set list (7:30-7:59):

  1. The Sons of Cain
  2. Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?
  3. new song
  4. new song
  5. Bomb. Repeat. Bomb.
  6. Counting Down the Hours
  7. Little Dawn
  8. The Unwanted Things
I won't lobby too much for the "punk relevancy" of Pearl Jam. Their songs really have little to no musical connection, though they're known to cover the Clash live and possibly a few other classic punk acts -- they also had C.J. Ramone guest for some guitar work for a cover of the Ramones' "I Believe in Miracles" at this particular show. All right, so maybe there's a little bit of relevancy there. But rather, their acute social and political awareness and activism is enough to warrant a bit of coverage; they've shunned MTV, spoken out numerous times against the Bush administration, condemned BP Amoco for their effluent dumping in Lake Michigan, hold voter registration stations at their tours and members participate in various pro-choice organizations, yadda yadda yadda. That's probably more than you can say for most (or all) of the awful bands they've influenced. Okay, so I lobbied a little more than promised.

Anyway, the band came on about 45 minutes later to a packed house. All the indicators of a veteran rock act who writes good songs and stays active were there; they sounded great, had fans raising their arms and singing along to practically every word, and did three encores. Seriously. Three encores. That added up to a two hour and 41 minute set. Christ. Come to think of it, their "encores" totaled longer than the initial set.

Pearl Jam tended to bunch together a few songs in a row and then take a short break, which enabled them to play quite a few songs in that timespan. The breaks were usually spent by a grateful frontman in Eddie Vedder, who would warm up to the already heated crowd a bit, speak about his beliefs or causes or talk about past experiences on tour. Vedder said at one point, "We don't even have a new album to support. We just wanted to come play some songs for you guys" ("And make a shitload of money," scoffed my buddy).

They seemed to alternate among their more balladic and energetic material, and that worked really well; when "Corduroy" was laid down, it was an early firecracker that seemed to really pick up the crowd.

The band's monstrous singles ruled too, obviously. "Even Flow" had probably about a five-minute solo from guitarist Mike McCready, as he did at the band's 2003 show at the Garden which was made into a DVD. Vedder actually traded beers with an audience member near the stage during said bridge, which was partially amusing. In fact, his crowd interaction with those few front rows was generally funny, even if he was gently pouring beer into someone's mouth. It seemed less of a brosky moment and more a way of just trying to interact with a portion of a crowd of, oh, 20,000 or so.

Paying tribute to some predecessors, several covers were busted out as the band has been known to do. Though they couldn't nearly match Townshend's anguish in the original, "Love, Reign O'er Me" might've been the highlight, sounding big, anthemic and damaged, the legendary chorus howled back by the entire audience.

Though I really would've loved to hear "Jeremy" and "Better Man" (I guess the band doesn't play the former too much these days for whatever reason -- they've only played it once on this tour so far), I can't really complain about a set list that nearly hit three hours, played proficiently by a bunch of dudes who have seemingly shed rock star excess and pomp -- I might've been up a few sections, but it seemed like Vedder was rocking an open flannel (over a peace sign Tee) just like he would have at grunge's peak 15+ years ago.

Set list (8:43-10:01):
  1. Hard to Imagine
  2. Save You
  3. Why Go
  4. All Night
  5. Corduroy
  6. Faithfull
  7. Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
  8. Down
  9. Unemployable
  10. Given to Fly
  11. You Are
  12. Whipping
  13. 1/2 Full
  14. Even Flow
  15. Present Tense
  16. Daughter
  17. Do the Evolution
    First Encore (10:06-10:38):
  18. Love, Reign O'er Me (Pete Townshend cover)
  19. W.M.A.
  20. Leash
  21. Spin the Black Circle
  22. Wasted Reprise
  23. Porch
    Second Encore (10:41-11:11):
  24. No More
  25. Crazy Mary (Victoria Williams cover)
  26. Comatose
  27. I Believe in Miracles (Ramones cover)
  28. Alive
    Third Encore (11:13-11:24):
  29. All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan cover)
  30. Indifference


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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
gritty (June 30, 2008)

I'm not a huge PJ fan, but always heard they were amazing live. I saw them Saturday in Mansfield, and I agree, they are amazing live.

termsofuse (June 29, 2008)

Is there really a need for 3 encores?

MN_punkmaster-skaman (June 28, 2008)

"Love Reign O'er Me" is a cover from the Who, not just Pete Townshend

notfeelingcreative (June 28, 2008)

The absence of 'black' would upset me, but the inclusion of 'crazy mary' would almost make up for it.

Jackisch (June 27, 2008)

I've been following Pearl Jam for a long time, and they're fucking amazing. Love them.

branden (June 27, 2008)

i saw ted the other night in richmond too. it was the shit.

Problematiclogic (June 27, 2008)

I love how Pearl Jam mixes up their setlists and acknowledges their whole back catalogue when they play live. You never know what songs you're going to hear when you see them live.

More than can be said for some stadium rock bands who play the exact same setlist for entire tours.

nameless (June 27, 2008)

Aw shit. I misread the first post...


bwisott (June 27, 2008)

You didnt even mention all the guests that Pearl Jam had play with them during this set

inagreendase (June 27, 2008)

Dude, do you think Ted had anything to do with the ticket prices?? Pearl Jam's the one headlining--not him and the Pharmacists. I doubt he had much say in the matter.

No shit, Sherlock.

nameless (June 27, 2008)

Dude, do you think Ted had anything to do with the ticket prices?? Pearl Jam's the one headlining--not him and the Pharmacists. I doubt he had much say in the matter.

And yes, to the person who asked: "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town" is one long title.

That said, score is for both bands: I love Ted Leo, and I've always liked Pearl Jam. If I was anywhere near the area, and had the extra cash, I would have been there.

lostandclowned (June 27, 2008)

"spin the black circle" is a good song.

theyounginfluential (June 27, 2008)

lulz, $77??!??!?!! i saw ted leo two nights before this in richmond at the gallery five with the max levine ensemble:

gallery 5>madison sqaure garden
max levine ensemble>pearl jam
an hour and a half long set>8 songs

bxbomber (June 27, 2008)

No Jeremy

Torgo (June 27, 2008)

Score is for the free Ted Leo and the Pharmacists show in Battery Park in a few weeks.

inagreendase (June 27, 2008)

You'd be correct. Fixed, and tank ya.

onegirlarmy (June 27, 2008)

Isn't "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter In A Small Town" all one song/song title?

fattony (June 27, 2008)

Sweet jesus, Pearl Jam's main set lasted as long as their triple encore. Something's not right about that.

red_eye_inc (June 27, 2008)

Three encores is pretty intense. I think that's maybe something I (and most of the people here) miss by going to smaller shows. You know, you show up late, watch the band for 45 minutes to an hour and then it's over. Those shows are good for different reasons. Everytime I've seen one of these older acts play, they go for hours and it's totally awesome.

mikexdude (June 27, 2008)

I love Pearl Jam.

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