For a song just barely over a minute in length, “Arc” caused its share of controversy in 2003, when it was excised from the officially released bootlegs which would have otherwise featured it. Louder than the disapproval shown by the foregoing of Ed’s occasional pre-opener sets, was the clamor and debate about completism, posterity, etc. But Vedder’s wordless vocal hymn of mourning for the nine human beings who died during the band’s performance at the 2000 Roskilde Festival was carefully played nine times, and out of respect for those individuals, the band chose to leave their performances in the hushed air of the halls and stadiums where thousands of fans gave witness to Vedder’s public/private act of elegy. I was there in Chicago, and watched Ed set up his cadre of equipment, layering his vocals somewhat in the manner he’d been experimenting with and perfecting for years, also echoing his work with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and heard something quite different than the composed version of Riot Act. In the open air, in real time, with thousands of other souls standing, shifting, coughing, talking, breathing, and one individual small in the distance, stooping over a clutch of machines, trying to get it right, “Arc” was less about the song itself, and more about the gesture, the ritual, the act, the inverse of a riot.


~ by Michael on September 10, 2007.

6 Responses to “Arc”

  1. I wish I would have had a chance to hear it live. Just for the experience.

    I wish the album version had been longer. I find it to be one of the most beautiful “songs” to grace a Pearl Jam record and, for me, the highlight of “Riot Act.”

    Is it true that Ed only performed “Arc” nine times and people thought that was meant to honor the nine individuals who died at Roskilde? I feel that I read that somewhere before, but now I can’t remember if I really did. I’m sure someone out there knows.

  2. You are right NoCoder. And I believe that his voice is also looped nine times in the song. I love ARC, too. I didn’t experience it live, I only saw it on video, but it was intense even there.

    At some point, I realized that part of what I loved about Pearl Jam was Eddie’s voice. Yeah, they have a lot of great songs, and I love Mike’s solos, and Stone writes great riffs, but without Eddie, Pearl Jam just wouldn’t have been Pearl Jam for me. And here was that voice that had helped me work through literally hundreds of emotion-filled nights stripped down to its essence.

    It is my favorite moment on Riot Act, only Eddie’s voice. I have no idea whether his version of the qawwali chanting is at all competent, but I don’t care. ARC encapsulates the emotional investment of half a lifetime in one long minute.

    I too wish it were longer.

  3. Susan – “And I believe that his voice is also looped nine times in the song.”

    I’m not sure what you mean by looped or if you’re talking about the studio version, but I think ‘Arc’ made up of 40-50 (or more) different vocal tracks by Ed. This was mentioned in the article before Riot Act’s release. I think the looping technique is just used for the live rendition.

  4. Was his voice looped nine times in the live versions? I didn’t count. I saw that comment somewhere, but I don’t know where or, I guess, what it pertained to. That would make this tribute compulsively symmetrical. I’ve heard that Ed is a very compulsive guy when it comes to the making of music.

  5. can anyone think of another band that makes this kind of music?

  6. I was lucky enough to be front and center for Boston July 11, 2003. Arc was played that evening and it’s one of the most breathtaking performances I’ve ever seen in 12 years of attending Pearl Jam performances.

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