Shadows of man, microphone and guitar tower up a wall on the left side of the stage at the rain-soaked GTE Virginia Beach Amphitheater. The shadow of curly long hair bounces as a voice incites the crowd to join in singing a cover of Dead Moon's "It's OK."
I stand mesmerized staring at this shadow of Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder. Many told me turning the responsibility-bearing age of 21 would be the highlight of my summer. They were wrong.
Nearly two months after 21, the moment has arrived. It's Thursday Aug. 3, 12 songs into the opening show of Pearl Jam's North America tour. This is the highlight of my summer.
Eddie Vedder explains that the last time he asked a crowd to do something it was "nerve-racking." As I'm standing there listening to Vedder recall the Copenhagen tragedy, I see the shadow and start to think back to my past.
When I was 13 it wasn't the first chords of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" that freed me from the clutches of bubble-gum pop and cheesy metal. No, the first few notes of Pearl Jam's "Alive" was my "Purple Haze." "Ten" was the only cassette tape I ever wore out.
To me this shadow of Vedder in Virginia Beach is as powerful as the famed picture of Jimi Hendrix's shadow cast upon his Marshall stacks.
Guitar became my therapy, especially during my teen-age years, and Pearl Jam inspired me to pick up my shrink. The opening riff to "Jeremy" was the first thing I learned to play.
I never had the opportunity to see Pearl Jam when they first came out and after the Ticketmaster debate ended, I was either too busy or too far away to see them.
So I fell into another genre and became a Phishhead. Phish and I just seem to be in town at the same time. Besides when I saw my first Phish show, I thought I had reached musical nirvana. Pearl Jam took a back seat.
My younger brother, Adam, is going nuts next to me. I've never seen him happier. He's hollering, screaming and clapping. Funny, it's a far cry from the solemn, bitter boy who stood in front of me in Ukrop's at 9:30 a.m. to buy tickets for the show in late May. He's 17, and he's been to a couple of really small high-school type things, but this is his first real concert.
I don't think my brother, a drummer, would have been here with me if Matt Cameron, Pearl Jam's drummer, hadn't joined the band. Pearl Jam has had some impact on his musical bearings, but he felt betrayed when the band began juggling drummers. Cameron brought him back.
Drummers haven't been the only changes as they've gotten older. Flannel has been exchanged for wife beaters, T-shirts and khakis, long hair for short, and tonight Vedder would much prefer to drink wine than crowd surf during "Even Flow's" guitar solo. But as I stand here, I realize the music hasn't changed.
Throughout the show, you can still hear and see their influences. The Hendrix in "Even Flow" and "Yellow Ledbetter," the Neil Young in "Off He Goes," and the opening band Sonic Youth, who put on a spectacular show of their own, in every pinch of feedback and electronic noise emitted.
Vedder mimics The Who, jumping in the air with his guitar a la Pete Townshend at the end of a few numbers and swinging his microphone like a whip at the end of "Porch," a mirror of Roger Daltrey.
I realize these are blatant rip-offs, but there's still there's some classic Pearl Jam. Guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard blaze through their guitar solos. Bassist Jeff Ament jumps around. Vedder still carries that marble composition book filled with his poetry on and off the stage, and still squeezes the microphone and stares into the crowd as he sings.
The crowd insists on singing and screaming every note they've learned. It makes it hard to tell whether or not Vedder's vocals are on-key. The crowd couldn't care less. He slurs a few words on his ukulele ballad "Soon Forget," and the crowd laughs along with him
At the beginning of "Yellow Ledbetter," the house lights come up and the shadows disappear. As McCready plays the last few wah-induced notes, I realize I'm due for another session with my
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