The past weekend my wife and I flew to New York City to see Lake Street Dive at Radio City Music Hall and Pearl Jam at Madison Square Garden. I don't think I've had a better concert weekend in my life!
There's a bit of a backstory to this as well. In 2018 we had tickets to see Pearl Jam in Seattle at Safeco Field. A couple weeks before the show, our three legged, three pound chihuahua broke her only front leg and required several surgeries. Thus, we had to cancel our plans and stay home in 2018.
When Pear Jam announced its Gigaton tour would take place in 2020, we purchased tickets to see them at Madison Square Garden because it's the band's favorite place to play and a trip to NYC would be fun. We all know how touring went in 2020 and 2021. The tour was postponed.
The MSG show was finally rescheduled for Sunday September 11, 2022, and we were all-in. A week before our flight to NYC, I decided to see if there were any other interesting concerts happening on the same weekend, in the city. To my surprise, Lake street Dive, one of my favorite bands, was scheduled to play Radio City on Saturday September 10, 2022. Even more surprising, I was able to purchase tickets in the pit section, row AAA. Yes, the absolute front row!
We started Saturday night with dinner at one of my favorite places, Trattoria Dell'Arte, then walked to the show. Seeing the iconic Radio City marquee with Lake Street Dive on it was really neat. There's always something special about seeing your favorite artists' names in lights as you approach a concert venue. Walking inside Radio City for the first time was a real treat. The Art Deco interior grand staircases, and openness of the grand foyer are like nothing here in Minneapolis.
As we walked to our seats, I stopped to snap a photo of the mixing board. What self respecting audiophile wouldn't want to see this stuff, including what looks like a frequency response graph for the hall.
Arriving at our seats, I was pinching myself. It felt like a dream. I'd never been in the absolute front row. I've second row for a Tracy Chapman show, and second row for a Jewel show, but never row 1, or in this case AAA. It felt strange to have nothing separating us from the stage or performers. A good strange, but strange nonetheless.
As Lake Street Dive took the stage and Rachel Price began singing, I was in awe of their talent and her stage presence. It's hard to describe presence, but it's something that always separates a headliner from an opening act.
Sound quality in the front row was really good. There was a speaker about three feet from me, so I heard the show through this rather than the giant hanging speakers aimed at the entire audience. I wear my Ultimate Ears UE11 Pro in ear monitors as earplugs during concerts. These were my first pair of IEMs, and I still use them as earplugs to this day. They offer 26 dB of noise cancelation and fit better than any customs I've worn, to this day. One thing I notice while wearing good earplugs is that the shows sound much better.
Rachel Price's voice was excellent for a live show, as was Bridget Kearney's bass playing. My head was on a swivel, looking back and forth between Rachel and Bridget. Talented musicians are amazing to watch! The band played almost every song I wanted to hear, and even a great cover of Carole King's So Far Away.
I don't take too many photos or shoot too much video at concerts, as I like to live in the moment. But, knowing that I would write up a little article about my experience this weekend, I shot some for this article. Here are a couple highlights I managed to record.
This is a snippet of the track titled Mistakes from the album Side Pony. Here's a link to it on Qobuz - https://open.qobuz.com/track/28400490
Here is a snippet of Call Off Your Dogs from the same album, Side Pony. Qobuz link - https://open.qobuz.com/track/28400480
Note: I opened a sound meter app on my phone during the show just to see what my ears were missing. Here is a screenshot at 117.4 dB!
After seeing Lake Street Dive from a few feet away, I honestly was a little nervous that I'd be less excited at the Pearl Jam show. However, walking to our seats in section 106, row 10, I saw the iconic Madison Square Garden roof and all the hanging banners, and came to my senses. I'd seen this place on TV since I was a kid, and never imagined I'd be there for a Pearl Jam concert. It felt special even before the band took the stage.
A little after 9PM the lights went out, the crowd stood up and cheered, and the band walked out slowly as they always do. The opening track was Release of Pearl Jam's first album Ten. It's such a great song that most people who aren't diehard fans have never heard Again, wearing my IEM / earplugs, Eddie Vedder's voice sounded great for a concert. The rest of the band also sounded great. I don't think I've ever been at a better sounding rock concert in a large arena. It could've been the position of our seats, the talent of the engineers, the building, or a mix or many things. It certainly helps that the band sounds so great after 30 years of performing. I saw a childhood favorite of mine, Motley Crue, on its first final tour. Hearing Vince Neil sing at that show was a completely opposite experience from this Pearl Jam show.
At one point during the show Eddie mentioned that the band had played in New York over 30 times, Seattle 50 times, but unlike the Seattle shows, he remembers all of the NYC shows. It was an indication of how special NYC is for the band and that were were in for a special show. Later Eddie explained that the band added a fourth Canadian show to this tour, so it could have the funds to pay for violating the Madison Square Garden curfew. True or not, it got the crowd going for sure.
The band played a classic show, with only a few tracks from its latest album Gigaton. This likely pleased all the "pedestrian" fans who are normal people who want to hear the hits. As a diehard fan, I'l take whatever the band gives. I don't have to hear songs I've never heard live before or even the hits. I just love hearing Pearl Jam live and seeing these guys play as if it's their final concert. After every show, I feel like I got my money's worth.
Note: At a couple points during the show, the whole floor shook as the crowd jumped up and down. I'd heard about this happening at MSG and was happy I got to experience it. The crowd was into the show, to say the least!
This concert went by so fast I couldn't believe it was over when the band left the stage. I usually get sore feet sometime after two hours, but not at this show. I didn't even think about anything other than music, and before I knew it the show was over. Live music is great. Pearl Jam was great. I was an evening I'll never forget.
Here are some videos I shot during the show. I'm sure YouTube has many more and better videos, but these are mine from the epic evening. Again, I don't take too many photos or shoot too much video at concerts, as I like to live in the moment. But, knowing that I would write up a little article about my experience this weekend, I shot some for this article.
Here's the opener, Release from Pearl Jam's album Ten. Qobuz link - https://open.qobuz.com/track/4849199
Here is Given to Fly off of Yield. Its one of my favorite tracks to see live because the crow usually goes crazy at a few different points of the song. Qobuz link - https://open.qobuz.com/track/2775259
Another live favorite of mine, Better Man off Vitalogy, because the crowd takes over singing the chorus of the song. Qobuz link - https://open.qobuz.com/track/3426068
Finally the pinnacle of the evening. A cover of Neil Young's Rockin' in the Free World. Toward the end of the track, guitarist Mike McCready walked off stage, grabbed Red Hot Chili Pepper's drummer Chad Smith and dragged him on stage to play with the band. It was epic.
P.S. I shot this image over the weekend. A great combination of quintessential New York City and geek humor.