I was up and out the door early on Saturday. I decided I wanted to have my trip be as easy as possible, so I just drove to Metro and took the subway to Union Station. There was quite a line for my train, but I still had time to get some breakfast and get an empty seat. I read all the way up, and we were only 10 minutes late. My buddy Chris had done the mirror image of my trip down from Boston, and was waiting for me. We purchased tickets for the light rail trip to Secaucus Junction, then quickly grabbed slices of pizza as we were hungry and we had 10 minutes to kill before the next train. We got on and after a slight delay made it to the station, then ran into the only major delay: the line for buses. It took us about 20 minutes to get on a bus, then it was a quick trip to Giants Stadium. Lots of people tailgating and hanging out, but it was 2:30 and time to start.
We got inside a little late, but in time to see the end of KT Tunstall’s second song, too bad we missed “Black Horse And The Cherry Tree”, although she played “Suddenly I See” third, which I was happy about since it’s my favorite. Taking Back Sunday was up next and I only recognized “MakeDamnSure”, the last song from their set, but they were decent. Organizers had blown up beach balls with Earth designs on them, and we helped bat them around. Neither of us are big Keith Urban fans, but I’d heard he was doing something special. Sure enough, on the first song he brought Alicia Keys out to duet on the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”. Killer version, then we headed outside.
The State Fair was being held at the Meadowlands, and they had wisely both closed access to the public and made it free for concertgoers. Early in the day almost no one knew this, and there were no lines for anything (although it was a little creepy in the rides area). Chris and I got some food, I wanted a hot dog and a corn dog, plus a smoothie. It was nice to have someplace that was free of the noise and crowds inside the stadium, and in that regard it was much like the HFStival – if only they’d had bands outside, instead of pig racing (yes, pig racing – and named after celebrities like Britney Spare-Ribs).
We came back in during AFI as they cranked out a nice Bowie cover, then waited for Fall Out Boy to hit the stage. They wisely stuck to all hits, got the crowd moving a little for “Dance, Dance”, but it was still fairly warm under the sun. We left again as Akon was next for some refreshments, then returned for John Mayer. He was pretty good, I like his new album’s blues focus which came out nicely with his performance of “Gravity”. I figured he’d throw in “Waiting For The World To Change”, and he did – I like that one, too. Melissa Etheridge was up next, and she gave us the musical low point (that I saw since we skipped the rappers) and the political high point as she randomly ranted during her two new songs and “I Need To Wake Up” (from An Inconvenient Truth) about all kinds of things (go to 6:24pm). Alicia Keys kicked an old school medley of “For The Love Of Money”, “Living For The City” and “Mercy Mercy Me” before doing her new “That’s The Thing About Love” and ending with a well received “If I Ain’t Got You” (man, can she sing – we didn’t get the full Alicia at Live 8).
The crowd finally lumbered to its feet as Dave Matthews Band came out, performing a number of their earlier environmentally aware songs: “One Sweet World”, “Don’t Drink The Water” and finishing with the nice jam of “Anyone Seen The Bridge?” into “Too Much”. I was happy to see Kelly Clarkson – she canceled her tour so this will be one of her few performances this year. She had the crowd happy with “Walk Away”, new song “How I Feel” was good, and people were familiar with “Never Again” because it was a single, but you could feel the energy dissipate when she tempted fate to play a third new song, “Sober”. Too slow, but she got it back by playing “Since U Been Gone” (made me buy her album and I never thought I’d buy one by an Idol). She did have a good band, including a nice string section. We took one more break at the fair as Kanye West was up next, I wanted a pretzel and Chris wanted some fries. It was starting to get busy, but we still found a place to sit, but not too long as it was time for the big finale.
Up first, hometown heroes Bon Jovi. Amazingly, the crowd was on their feet even for new song “Lost Highway”,but after that it was a string of hits. After playing “It’s My Life”, Jon asked us to rise for the “national anthem”, “Wanted Dead Or Alive”. Last year’s big crossover song “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” went over well, but not as big as finale “Livin’ On A Prayer” – fun to hear everyone there singing the chorus. Next, the reunited Smashing Pumpkins. I’m a long time Billy Corgan fan – I’ve got everything from him I could find. I saw him in Zwan and his solo tour, but his work with the Pumpkins is the style I like, so I was happy he’d returned to the material. The man’s got some big balls, because he opened with “United States” – the longest song of the new album, and not the single. Still the crowd enjoyed, though not as much as when he broke out “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (nice to hear the whole place screaming the “rat in a cage” lyric). New single “Tarantula” got a good response, but the place erupted for the riff from “Today” – great ending song. Makes me very happy that I did score tix for their 9:30 club show today.
The best was yet to come. Roger Waters hadn’t impressed me as much as David Gilmour last year, but Saturday he brought a tight medley of Dark Side Of The Moon and The Wall tunes that was perfect for the occasion. He came out with his band with no intro (the only ones that day) and played the intro to “In The Flesh” before playing shortened versions of “Money”, “Us And Them”, “Brain Damage”, and “Eclipse”. During that, someone started passing around inflated glow-in-the-dark condoms, and they were interesting to watch, especially since tossing one would almost come back to you. Finally, “The Happiest Days Of Our Lives” led into a children’s chorus coming out to join in on “Another Brick In The Wall Part II”, and the stadium shaking to “we don’t need no thought control” as the pig floated by.
Very impressive, but I was waiting for the reunion of a band that broke up before I started going to shows. I’ve seen Sting a couple times and like his solo stuff, but the Police songs just have the raw power he hasn’t captured since. We got a taste, and I for one can’t wait ’til Jill and I see them in a couple weeks. Good choices, as they opened with “Driven To Tears”, then a big reception to “Roxanne” (better than on the Grammys) and “Can’t Stand Losing You”. They did make a mistake on finale “Message In A Bottle” – John Mayer was fine, but Kanye West was out of place (sample lyric: “Sting, you the only police that’s good in the hood”).
Afterwards we fought our way to the buses, getting to the train station with only minutes to spare before the last train in an hour departed, so we hurried over to catch it. Penn Station was shutting down when we arrived around midnight, but I’d found a 24 hour diner 2 blocks away and I had a tasty reuben that hit the spot. Unfortunately the trains home left at 10PM and 3AM, so we still had some time to kill in the waiting area chatting before departure. I napped fitfully and read on the way back. We got to Union Station a little early and I had to wait for the Metro to open for the first time ever, next to some escalators that sounded like dying dinosaurs. I slept for a couple hours when I got home, then watched some of the Sydney and Tokyo concerts while I read the paper and prepped an eBay auction.
I wore my Woodstock ’94 shirt on the trip, and it made me think of the Saturday night show there, one of the best lineups ever – Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, and Aerosmith. Live Earth was nearly its equal, the final four bands certainly bringing several hours of classic rock in the purest sense. I think the misstep by the Police gives the edge of best performance to Roger Waters, and if I never get to see any of Pink Floyd perform again I’ll be happy with the memory of that. A great show, worthy of the trip (though I hope the HFStival returns next year). Most interesting thing was the section to the left of us starting a wave – I’ve never seen that before.