And so it was that, 20 years since first hearing a single called Alive by a band named Pearl Jam, that I sat and listened to the opening chords of Release with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.
We’ve been through a lot, Pearl Jam and I, more than I probably remember. Almost every song has some meaning, some emotional memory attached and I’ll happily that I was probably a little over-excited to finally be seeing them live!
Setlist was interesting, they change it every night* so you never know what to expect but some of the song choices weren’t MY favourite but that didn’t detract from the fact that this is a well-seasoned rock band doing something they obviously enjoy. No gimmicks are needed, especially when you’ve got someone with a voice like Eddie Vedder, and despite my general loathing of overly guitar wank solos, even when Mike McCready was letting rip it seemed to fit, seemed to be ‘right’ for the song choice.
Pearl Jam have always been that little bit different. They don’t seem hell bent on commerical success and whilst they are very much a rock band, they always seem to have been happy treading a slightly different path, lyrically and musically. My love for word play drew me to them as I listened to Ten, their first album, and I’ve been a pretty faithful fan since then.
They don’t tour in the UK all that often, and I baulked at £90 for a ticket in London a few years back, but this time around it was a must. I’ve heard a lot of their live stuff, largely because they record most of their gigs and release them on their website for fans to buy. That said, you don’t half get value for money, two and a half hours worth of songs which continued even though the house lights had come on! Quite a sight to see a sold out Manchester Arena singing along to Rockin in the Free World (yup, Neil Young cover) and refusing to leave!!
The only downside was finding out that someone who spoke to Eddie before the gig requested a track, got it played and… yeah well it wouldn’t have been my choice of song, and from the less than enthusiastic response I don’t think it was a massive favourite all round!
Regardless, it was an excellent gig by one of my favourite bands, and for once it was great to have my expectations both met and overwhelmed!! Memories of Eddie swigging on a bottle of wine, the opening chords of Just Breathe (as part of Encore 1), a soaring Given To Fly, Pilate (not often played), and the closing encore of Better Man, Come Back, Jeremy, Alive and that stonking cover of Rockin in the Free World, will remain with me for a long time. Hopefully I’ll see the band sooner rather than later though, and if that means a trip to the USA, so be it!