Given to Fly

Pearl Jam - Supergrass

Allstate Arena - Rosemont

October 9, 2000

First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2000, Volume 7, #12

Written by John Metzger

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After a prolonged battle with the behemoths of the music industry, Pearl Jam threw in the towel and mounted an arena tour behind their phenomenal 1998 release Yield. Why not? It was the best album of their career, and without industry support, the band would face significant hurdles in taking their music on the road — inflicting undue pain on the fans in the process. After all, their previous attempt at circumventing the music business hardly could be called successful. Further weighing into this decision was the fact that attendance at their concerts and sales of their albums already had been slipping, and if a group falls too far, all their clout and power drift away like dust in the wind. For the politically-minded Pearl Jam — that just wouldn’t do.

However, while the members of Pearl Jam didn’t necessarily win their skirmish, they didn’t lose either. Sure, the industry has continued to consolidate and shrink around a few major players, and most bands’ fans are suffering as a result. Yet, Pearl Jam may have won the war for their own supporters. After all, a single ticket for their October 9 concert at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois was a mere $28 (plus numerous fees) — a bargain in comparison to many of the other artists hitting the largest venues these days — and at least conceding the battle allowed Pearl Jam to refocus on their music.

Consequently, Pearl Jam has matured dramatically. Their social anthems calling for change have been joined by more introspective selections about life and death. Additionally, their musical pallette has also grown and expanded in a myriad of new and interesting directions. This provided a solid body of work upon which to draw, and that they did, giving a performance that covered the gamut of the band’s career.

Surprisingly, Pearl Jam began their October 9 concert with a soft-spoken whisper instead of a raucous bang. One by one, sinewy guitar, slippery bass, a light flourish of percussion, and the soaring voice of lead singer Eddie Vedder merged into the shadowy slipstream of Release. Its ebb and flow ambience washed over the crowd, setting the tone for the evening.

It was a study in contrasts: the softer side being demonstrated by songs like Elderly Woman behind the Counter in a Small Town, and the rampaging turmoil being put on display in God’s Dice. At times, what Pearl Jam delivered was earth-shattering (Do the Evolution). Other times, it was startlingly beautiful (Parting Ways). The band’s push-me-pull-me, see-saw ride sent synapses flaring one minute — releasing a ferocious full-throttle sonic assault on a pairing of Lukin and Not for You — and pondered the meaning of life the next — spiraling outward into a cosmic web of wonderment on Light Years.

The overriding theme for the evening was that of liberation — whether it was escape from responsibility (Insignificance), a bad relationship (Better Man), life (Sleight of Hand), or death and regret (Light Years). Even songs were linked together to form a bond of tension and release. For example, the Beatles-meet-Pink Floyd nuances of Nothing as It Seems built a comfortably numb wall around happy-go-lucky Pepperland, while the rapidly ascending momentum of Given to Fly provided deliverance by tearing it down.

It seemed only fitting then that Vedder and company capped off the evening by aligning their support behind presidential candidate Ralph Nader; chiding the wealthy skybox patrons by serenading them with Soon Forget; and turning The Who’s Baba O’Riley into a call to action. After all, Vedder believes that the only way to liberate ourselves from our current political nightmare is to transcend it, and he just may be right.

Supergrass opened the show with a 45-minute set of vigorously delivered power pop. At its best, the group blurred the line between The Beatles and Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie and between mid-’60s-period Who and the sounds of old T-Rex. At its worst, however, the band delved into overblown Oasis-style rockers with reckless, uninspired abandon. Fortunately, this was the exception rather than the rule, and were it not for the deficiencies in the venue’s sound system, Supergrass' performance might have been more enjoyable.

Binaural is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!

Supergrass' self-titled album is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!

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Copyright © 2000 The Music Box