Return to Bu$hleaguer (thing)
Pearl Jam's concert began drawing to a close on this mild Spring night at Nassau Coliseum. Performing in Uniondale, New York, the band had released their album "Riot Act" five months earlier and they were in the middle of a tour that had already seen them play Japan and Australia. In the US, the administration of George W. Bush continued to ride the political momentum gained after the attacks of 9/11. Just two weeks after the release of "Riot Act," the Homeland Security Act had been signed into law after passing the Congress of the United States with 295 "Yea" votes and the Senate with 90 affirmative votes. Already over a year into the War in Afghanistan, and with the US building a justification to invade Iraq (vis-à-vis President Bush's "yellowcake" claim in January), political tensions between a growing number of war hawks and a minority of dissenters increased day by day.
The night's concert had been energetic. After a rousing performance of "Alive" in which the crowd's roar swelled, the band took a short encore break. What happened next has become a seminal moment in the Pearl Jam canon, becoming notable enough to be captured in the video and on the soundtrack for PJ20, the Cameron Crowe work detailing the 20+ year history of the band.
Out of the relative quietness of the encore break, the edgy, insistent riff and bass line which opens "Bu$hleaguer" pumped out of Stone
Gossard and Jeff Ament's amplifiers. Eddie Vedder stood at the mic stand and began singing,
"I busted out the nice suit for you, yeah?" He quips, referring to the jacket and mask. On the PJ20 soundtrack, the song ends here. But at
the concert, this comment began a conversation between stage and audience. Recorded on unofficial bootlegs, Vedder continues,
Vedder makes several comments about not understanding, and how maybe Bush is being defended because he is a "regular guy" (said with heavy sarcasm). A large group in the crowd begin chanting "USA USA USA" and Vedder responds, "I'm with you" then claims that Bush didn't allow us (referring to Americans) a voice, and many in the audience begin cheering. He continues, "This is good. This is open, honest debate." There is a little more back-and-forth between the audience and Vedder, and he closes with saying "If you don't say anything you don't know what will happen..."
Then the band explodes into a performance of "Know Your Rights" by the Clash.
Pearl Jam played "Bu$hleaguer" a total of 32 times in concert from 2002 until 2007. These performances continued a tradition of the
band speaking out on a variety of issues, from the TicketMaster boycott of the 1990s (which even involved two band members testifying in
Congress against monopolistic practices of the organization) to several Seattle area issues (such as their support of YouthCare). In the
insert material for the PJ20 soundtrack, Jeff Ament, referring to the performance in Uniondale, is quoted,