After my last live experience with the mighty Pearl Jam, I was terrified this would be another disaster. Not so. In fact, this was Arena Rock at its finest. The acoustics and energy were great, which meant that the size of the MEN Arena was an advantage — 20,000 people bouncing up and down singing along to Why Go was an epic spectacle.
Every article about Pearl Jam you read follows the same formula. First, wax nostalgic about 90’s grunge. Second, mention the Pearl Jam/Nirvana (faux) rivalry. Third, talk about the anti-Ticketmaster fight. Fourth, express admiration that Vedder and co. are still playing. Fifth, note how relaxed the band have become in their old age. I suppose it might reflect a failure on Pearl Jam’s part that their story is still so embedded in the grunge Zeitgeist. It’s partly their own fault for burning so hot then stepping back. Maybe it’s because they have never replicated Alive/Even Flow/Jeremy.
This may be a popular view of the band, but for 20,000 Brits in Manchester, songs like Present Tense and Do the Evolution invoked the same roars as anything from Ten. This was a concert showcasing the depth of the Pearl Jam catalog. The first three songs made for a wonderful introduction (Long Road, Last Exit, Why Go); Even Flow (see below; note Ed breaking the law) saw Mike McCready blowing minds with his ridiculous guitar chops; new Backspacer songs such as Got Some (also below) impressed. There was only one misfire, the downer which was Sleight of Hand in an otherwise high energy set.
Definitely the best rock band on the planet. As stadium as U2, but without half the wankery and with better songs.
(Gomez offered strong support.)