Colleen has been in the Pearl Jam Ten Club for quite a long time. One of the perks of membership is access to concert tickets that the general public can’t get. When they announced the Lighting Bolt tour, the nearest stop to Minnesota (aside for the Wrigley Park special show) was Oklahoma. Since I hadn’t been back to that state since I was born in the army hospital at Fort Sill, I told her I’d drive her down there if she wanted to go. We entered the ticket lottery and had the chance to purchase two tickets to the show at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Saturday, November 16, 2013.
We hit the road on Friday morning just after the kids left for school (my mom stayed with them at our house) and drove south on I-35. We stopped just across the Minnesota-Iowa border at the Diamond Jo Casino, which is one of my favorite smaller casinos. They sent me a flier with $15 of free play (each way), a half price buffet coupon and $10 of free gas. This was Colleen’s first time there and we had a great time on both visits.
We continued south through Des Moines, drove around Kansas City and stayed overnight at Jason’s new casino, Prairie Band Casino and Resort. We had dinner at his wonderful steakhouse, Three Fires, which included some amazing table-side cocktails prepared by his F&B manager Damian. The room we stayed in was really nice and I wish I could’ve spent more time there. I almost golfed at their top-ranked course, but the winds were howling and we needed to get back on the road.
It took about four hours to get to Oklahoma City (including some quality time on the Kansas Turnpike). We dropped off our bags at the Holiday Inn Express before the concert and also visited the Oklahoma tourist center, which had all kinds of great things (even picked up a brochure for the American Banjo Museum). The person working the counter said we should park in the Bass Pro Shop parking lot and walk to the arena, which turned out to be great advice.
We picked up our will call tickets and hung out in the excellent 70-degree evening temps before the doors opened. Chesapeake is the arena for the NBA’s Thunder, so it’s similar in size and layout to Target Center (although I think it holds a little more). With the fan club tickets, you don’t know what you get until the day of the show, so I wasn’t sure if ours were good or not. It said we were third row on the main floor, but it turned out the immediate area in front of the stage was all standing GA. Even so, our seats were pretty great (see pics below).
Opener Midlake is from neighboring Texas and was only doing a few regional stops on the overall tour. They were very humble and grateful for the opportunity to play. Not sure if an arena that size was the best setting for their music, but I enjoyed listening to them and will probably pick up their album Antiphon at some point.
As for Pearl Jam, they were amazing. Turns out they’ve only come to Oklahoma every ten years, so they added several songs to the original set list and had a lot of extra banter with the crowd based on OKC “stealing” Seattle’s NBA team. Jeff Ament even slipped on an old Supersonics jersey at one point. It was all in good fun, though, and the fans and the band all seemed to have a great time (I think Eddie drinking several bottles of wine during the evening helped too).
Some of the commenters on Instagram said this was the best set list of the tour (see pics). Colleen said she heard every song she wanted to hear long before the night was over and I was thoroughly entertained all night too. The reviews I saw were all positive: see here and here. My favorite song of the night was probably Immortality and it was pretty great to hear that Who cover at the end (which included Eddie’s only real scream of the night).
We got out of the arena shortly after midnight, only to find almost all of the restaurants in the trendy Bricktown area closed. We hadn’t had dinner yet, so we stopped at a Waffle House on MLK, which was one of the more adventurous meals we’ve had in a long time. The waffles and hash browns were excellent and reasonable priced, though, and we headed back to the hotel for a brief sleep before driving straight through to Minnesota on Sunday.
Directions from Oklahoma City to Minneapolis are pretty simple – just follow Interstate 35 the entire way. We did take a brief detour to have lunch with Jason and his family in Lawrence, Kansas (and later, the second stop at Diamond Jo), but we made it home in time to pick up kid one from work at ten.
Fun trip, but I really hope the Pearl Jam tour manager finds his Minnesota rolodex for the next tour…