I watched Pearl Jam Storytellers on Palladia this afternoon. I watched it live although I have had it sitting on my DVR for a few weeks and I am pretty sure I have it on a VHS tape somewhere.
It reminded me how damn much I love Pearl Jam and how Eddie has really come out of his early 90’s shell. He’s very chatty with the audience, joking and telling interesting backstories about his songwriting. I will forever love how he continues to dress like he shops at Salvation Army (which knowing him, he just might!)
In introducing “Alive” he explained that it is a song about a guy who found out his father was not his real father, and that his real father had passed away a few years before. He said he knew this story was true because “I knew the guy” and admitted he was the guy, but he didn’t know himself then. He called the line I’m still alive “The Curse”: the guy is still alive and his father is dead, and he has to find a way to live with it.
Over the years as they performed the song and he watched “the audience using their bodies to express themselves…belting it out en masse” and singing the song as a celebration, he found that the audience had turned what he had written into something different. That
“when they changed the meaning of those words, they lifted The Curse”
I honestly burst into tears. We often think of the power a song has over us the audience. How we react to it, how it makes us feel, what we associate it with, what it means to us. We don’t often think of how it affects the people who wrote it and perform it. That we as an audience can actually change the song for them. Can make it something better or more or different than what they gave us originally. That is an incredibly powerful and moving concept that I’m not sure had occured to me before I heard that story.
Here’s this kid who discovers this awful truth that rearranges his entire world and one day he writes about how it torments him, and he sings it to us and we – we heal it. We fix it for him. We give him peace with it that he could not find on his own.
That blows my mind. And makes me very proud to be a Pearl Jam fan.