Live Review: Pearl Jam

Live Review: Pearl Jam
Venue: o2 Arena, London
Date: 18/09/09

Bringing their brief run of arena shows in Europe to a majestic close, Eddie Vedder and his ageing cohorts tore through a set that millions of younger bands could barely hold an iPhone lighter app to. With music from their vast back catalogue, some sneak peeks at their incoming tenth studio album Backspacer and an exhaustive conclusion of two encores, Pearl Jam were here with just one purpose: to amaze.

And possibly give Pearl Jam fans a chance to show off their fancy new plaid chequered shirts.

Things get off to a rollicking start. No sooner have they strolled onto the stage and breezed through ‘Release’, the band are throwing themselves around the stage to the angst-ridden throes of ‘Animal’, Vedder’s voice sounding raw and urgent as he lubricates it with red wine. It soon becomes clear that we’re all in for a party here.

The set list is delicately balanced. ‘Fixer’, from the new album is explosive and precedes a rapturous version of ‘Even Flow’, the crowd being pulled and tugged between the high octane material. Things get so exuberant that nice guy Eddie politely requests that the baying fans before him take three steps back to give those at the front a chance to catch their breath again.

But then there are moments of respite; the calm throughout the storm. Touching tributes are paid to old friends, and Vedder himself looks emotionally taken aback at points by the spectacular sight in front of him. As he reminds us, the first time they came to London (astonishingly way back in 1992) was to play at a grotty club called Borderline, a far cry from the marvellous surroundings of the o2.

It says a lot about a band when they can go from selling out the relatively tiny Shepherd’s Bush Empire at the beginning of one week, to filling up the cavernous spectacle that is the O2 Arena just a week later. And yet, despite the gargantuan size of the venue, the band still manage to push the show in an intimate direction. At no point is this clearer than when the band cut out, leaving thousands of fans chanting the haunting melody of ‘Black’. Truly spine tingling stuff.

There are moments here and there were the band seems to be out of sync with each other, but it’s hard to be critical when watching them give so much to this performance. The night concludes with a double encore, the final song of the night ‘Yellow Ledbetter’ performed with the house lights up, as stewards edge around the arena, wondering if overtime pay is on the agenda.

By their own admission it’ll be a while before Pearl Jam return to these shores. As much as a disappointment that will be to many, it’s hard to imagine the group putting on a better performance in the near future. Though some might have written them off in the past as irrelevant and clichéd, tonight Pearl Jam delivered a phenomenal performance, not just answering any critic but straight up delivering a roundhouse kick to their loose, slanderous jaws.

Originally published at The Line Of Best Fit.

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