Concert Hall, QPAC, Brisbane
25th February 2014
Pearl Jam had started as his band but after 12 years together it had become our band. I liked Eddie’s indie side and he liked the rage in the music. The last time we had seen them together my unborn son kicked along in my belly to I Am Mine.
I know I was born
And I know I will die
But in-between is mine
I am mine
My son was our ‘in-between’ but also himself. It felt poetic and complete. Three years later the picture was different. Pearl Jam’s rage appealed to me after he walked out to his mistress and left me a single mum.
As hard as it was to be a single mum it hurt more when my son wasn’t there. I was constantly looking for ways to delay drinking away the pain. I went to Eddie Vedder’s solo show self-indulgent in my grief and as a way to close the black circle for the relationship I had lost.
I nervously entered the concert hall clutching a single ticket. Finding a seat for one when there had always been two made me feel out of place. I looked around the crowd. Two rows in front of me was a lady that had worked at my company. She didn’t really know me. I knew her, well I knew of her. She was in her mid 30s like me and had left work because of a sudden terminal brain tumour. Word like that travels heavily no matter what floor your water cooler is located on.
I watched Rachel talking to her friends. She was animated but I could also see dark circles under her eyes. We no longer looked the same age. She was wearing a brightly coloured scarf and the parts of hair I could see poking out had turned fully grey in just a few weeks.
The hall lights dimmed but she lit up. She was raw, uncut and with nothing to lose. I have never seen a person unleash themselves so fully and oblivious to social norms. In our younger years the whole crowd would have been like that, drunk on a week night, sweating and screaming. It was not that sort of concert or crowd. Now we sat sipping wine in the air conditioning and listening to the unplugged version.
The music washed across the stalls sweeping Rachel and I up in its path. Rachel arched her head back to catch every note. Her scarf slid off and the shaved grey hair underneath could not cover the angry scars running thickly across her skull. As the music stopped she opened her eyes and nervously adjusted her scarf. A moment of true humility crossed her face, then terror before she forced herself back into the high of the concert.
Eddie talked. Rough times, he said. Rough times mean we know how to connect to each other and that is the greatest privilege. As he sang Long Nights it was too much. The real and figurative scarf slipped for both of us and our heads dipped.
Let me feel I am falling.
Long nights allow me to feel.
I am falling. I am falling the lights go out.
I am falling safely to the ground.
I started to cry and she started to cry. I had been watching her so intensely that for a moment I didn’t distinguish a difference between us. We were connected by music and tears. As the chords continued to build and then soften Rachel got up and left the concert. A concerned friend moved quickly after her. After the song finished Rachel came back in brave and stoic. She cheered outrageously. Whooped to every statement Eddie made. She threw her arms around her friends’ shoulders in exaggerated movements. She had the time of her life.
Eddie has so many songs independently and with Pearl Jam that the set list is a lucky dip for favourites. He didn’t play my son’s song that night. The lights came on and Rachel was swept out the door by a crowd buzzing with the high of a shared experience. I left by the same door as Rachel, grateful that we hummed different songs.
Postscript: Things improved since this story and Emma is now the mother to not one but two lovely little boys.