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So if you're wondering about the lapse, I just got married. So yes, I do maintain a life outside of the internet, believe it or not. Anyways, I just posted this as a comment over at Touring Steve, Steve John's Pearl Jam tour diary. I thought it would be good for historical purposes here.


Spectacle vs. Performance?

The whole concept of ‘performance’ is such a weird thing, especially on such a grand scale as an arena show.

I can understand the draw of club shows; you can see an artist or band, and if you’re lucky, its crowded and sweaty. It’s an amazing thing where the musicians in front of you are creating sound waves on the spot, which are bouncing around the venue until it hits your ears, then dissipates and disappears, forever. It’s a once in a lifetime moment and you’re there to witness it. A recording won’t do it justice (what is a recording anyways? Is it a bar or a recording studio? I could go on with this for hours) and pictures just help record the memories. It’s all about that feeling.

I guess the draw of the arena show is less about the band and more about the people. People like to be into something, to feel a part of the community. And music wise, U2 caters to this, more than anything else. The band has found success tapping into a ‘universal humanity’ that creates a powerful form of pathos in their live show. But on the other side of the coin, that performance could be viewed as pap pandering to the lowest common denominator, hitting listeners into dumbfounded submission with a two-week-old fish.

But this is one of life’s great battles: the lone observer who sees everything as it really is against the great ignorant masses.

Do Pearl Jam fans that follow the band for countless gigs really get it? Are they truth seerers, knowing full of the grunge kings true place in the rock pantheon? Or are they hopelessly delirious, hanging onto some form of mid-90s nostalgia, real or not, much like those nostalgic for the imagined mid-80s indie rock of the pixies or mid-70s country rock of the eagles or mid 60s nostalgia for ‘proper’ rock and roll via the Rolling Stones?

Who am I to say that U2 gave up after the failure of the Popmart tour? And that they fell backwards down the hill to nostalgic insignificance years ago. Who am I to say that Pearl Jam has suffered the same indignity?

What else is there to say but that it truly is better to burn out like an exploding star than to fade into insignificance like the Rolling Stones?

I’ll stop with the questions. I can appreciate Pearl Jam, and I even enjoy a few U2 tracks myself. And while I will always love the intimate club show, I must confess to standing up in the back row of the ACC when Springsteen turned on the houselights and pounded out ‘Born to Run.’

Spectle vs. songs. That’s a tough one.