I love going to festivals and other concerts with a lot of artists, because thereâ€™s always a possibility of a once in a lifetime collaboration. Often, the shows arenâ€™t that memorable, partly because of the long breaks between sets. Last night was different; I never thought Iâ€™d see a show to equal Saturday night of Woodstock â€™94, when it wrapped up with Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, and Aerosmith â€“ each at career highs.
The show was announced and tickets went on sale while we were on our honeymoon, and I didnâ€™t get near a computer that week. Still, I was determined to go, and I figured my bad luck scalping for the Prince show was bound to change. Looking on Craigslist in the last week showed me I could get a ticket for less than face value. I tried going for $50 on Craigslist, but I had no takers. I headed out of work at 6PM, figuring I could make the 7PM start since it was Columbus Day. Apparently no one got the memo, as the toll road spur was backed up nearly to 123. I got to East Falls Church just before 7, and got to the MCI Center quickly. I was quickly accosted by two scalpers â€“ they both had tickets in the 200s. I offered $60 and they snapped it up, and I was in my seat by 7:30.
Iâ€™d missed most of John Mellencamp, he was just finishing up, and he left his band so Babyface could take over. I was glad Iâ€™d brought Jillâ€™s binoculars, because even though the seat was only halfway back, everyone on stage was pretty small. The stage rotated in the center and the roadies worked fast, so Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt & Keb’ Mo’ were up soon. First time Iâ€™d seen Jackson Browne or Bonnie Raitt, and they were fine. I was a bit disappointed they didnâ€™t play any of their hits. In a festival type show like this, not everyoneâ€™s there to see the artist whoâ€™s performing, at itâ€™s easy to lose momentum if youâ€™re doing songs most people donâ€™t know. Much to my surprise, R.E.M. didnâ€™t fall into this trap.
After a short set by Jurassic Five, R.E.M. brought it hard (“We’re R.E.M. and we approve of this concert.”). They went right into â€œThe One I Loveâ€ with Michael Stipe flailing around the stage in his crisp white suit, then brought Eddie Vedder up for â€œBegin the Beginâ€. Their one new song, â€œLeaving New Yorkâ€ could have come off â€œOut Of Timeâ€, and the crowd went nuts for â€œLosing My Religionâ€. They managed to top that by bringing up Bruce Springsteen for â€œMan On the Moonâ€. As I overheard in the bathroom afterwards, â€œthat was worth the ticket price right thereâ€.
Pearl Jam, on the other hand, managed to kill the pace. â€œGrievanceâ€ and â€œSave Youâ€ are newer songs that the crowd didnâ€™t know. They brought up Tim Robbins to sing X’s â€œThe New Worldâ€ with Eddie, which was cool (Robbins sang songs in â€œBob Robertsâ€, where Robbins plays a Republican who sings right wing folk songs to get elected, but never released the soundtrack because he didn’t want them used by Republicans) but again the crowd wasnâ€™t familiar with it. â€œBu$hleaguerâ€ fit the theme of the night, but only the lyrics got a response. The redeeming part of the set was â€œMasters Of Warâ€, the Dylan song Eddie and Mike McCready had done for the Dylan tribute back in 1994. I loved their performance then, and was thrilled with hearing it live.
James Taylor was up next, “I hate it when they say, ‘You shouldn’t change horses midstream.’ I hate it ’cause if your horse can’t swim . . .”. He sang â€œSecret O’ Lifeâ€ and â€œNever Die Youngâ€ before bringing up the Dixie Chicks. Natalie sang lead on â€œSweet Baby Jamesâ€, then James was back on â€œShower the Peopleâ€ and â€œSome Days You Gotta Danceâ€ (a Chicks song). James left (although not before he said when people ask him who to vote for, he said â€œlook at the issues and candidates, then vote for the smart oneâ€) and the Chicks took over for â€œTruth No. 2â€ (great Patty Griffin song) and â€œMississippiâ€ (good Dylan song). Funniest line from Natalie: “After the incident, people asked me if I wanted to take back what I said. Well, no, ’cause after that Bush would just call me a flip-flopper.”
I could tell Dave Matthews Band was next (Carterâ€™s set, Leroiâ€™s saxes) and I was pumped. These guys understand the power of a short set, and I wasnâ€˜t disappointed. They started off slow with an extended intro into â€œDon’t Drink the Waterâ€ (appropriate for Columbus Day), then â€œOne Sweet Worldâ€. One new song, â€œJoy Rideâ€ (my favorite new one), then they slowed down, only for my favorite snare crack, and straight into â€œAnts Marchingâ€. I never get tired of hearing it, and was bummed they played it last at Nissan this year, after we left. I had been dancing like crazy, definitely one of my favorite performances of theirs in the last couple years, but the show was running late (supposed to over at 11, and it was after 10:30), so I figured that was it. Nope â€“ â€œSo Much to Sayâ€ into â€œAnyone Seen The Bridge?â€ into â€œToo Muchâ€. Amazing set.
Last was Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Clearly a uniter, not a divider, he strode on stage to a rafter raising cry of â€œBruuuuuuuuuuuuuuceâ€. Wasting no time, he went straight into a fiery solo acoustic take on the â€œStar Spangled Bannerâ€, then the band kicked right into â€œBorn In The U.S.A.â€. With no waiting for applause, they steamrolled right through â€œBadlandsâ€ and â€œNo Surrenderâ€. He let everyone catch their breath by bringing up John Fogerty to sing his new â€œDÃ©jÃ Vuâ€ and CCR classic â€œFortunate Sonâ€. Another guest next: Michael Stipe to duet with Bruce on â€œBecause The Nightâ€ (you may think itâ€™s by 10,000 Maniacs, but Bruce cowrote it with Patti Smith). The only recent song was â€œMary’s Placeâ€. Itâ€™s not my favorite song from â€œThe Risingâ€, but in concert he can preach powerfully in the middle, and tonight was no different: “All this fuss about ‘the swing voter’. I got a question – what is a swing voter? All you who are swinging, swaying, all I wanna say is, it’s October 11, what the hell are you waiting for? You mislead the nation to war, you lose your job. It ain’t rocket science! I want you to take off all your clothes, and put one hand on the television screen, then repeat after me: Halliburton! Halliburton! Halliburton!” I donâ€™t think the words alone can convey the passion and truth he conveyed, though.
He finished up the regular set by bringing up R.E.M.â€™s Mike Mills & Peter Buck to play on a crowd pleasing â€œBorn To Runâ€, then the stagfe went dark. It was after midnight by now, and I decided to break my long standing rule of not staying until the last song to avoid the crowds. Luckily I could see keybardist Roy Bittenâ€™s setlist well enough through the binoculars to see there were two songs left, and I vowed to leave while the last song was fading out. Bruce came to the mic, and told everyone to come up, and out came Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Kebâ€™ Mo’, R.E.M., Eddie Vedder, John Fogerty, Dave Matthews, and the Dixie Chicks to sing Elvis Costelloâ€™s classic â€œ(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, & Understandingâ€. Messy but fun. Finally, John Mellencamp, Babyface, Jurassic Five and James Taylor joined the group on stage for â€œPeople Have The Powerâ€.
As they finished I ducked out and was part of the first big rush hitting the Metro at 12:30. There was already a big crowd on the platform, but I managed to get down to the far side by the time a train came. A Blue line train was at Metro Center, and I just had to wait at Rosslyn for an Orange one. It was nearly 2 by the time I got home. I was bummed because Iâ€™d set the VCR to record the show of Sirius, but Jill had changed the channel, so I had 6 hours of Toon Disney. Iâ€™m sure someoneâ€™s recorded it, and they also broadcast the video on the Sundance Channel, so itâ€™s just a matter of time before I get copies of this amazing show (I have CDs of the Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, and Aerosmith performances from Woodstock â€™94). Iâ€™m dragging today, but it was worth it.