Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Pearl Jam (+ Gomez) - The O2 Arena - 18th August 2009

I've waited a long time for this, and by the looks of things so have quite a few others in the audience tonight for this, Pearl Jam's first UK headline show since a date at Wembley Arena in June 2007. Pearl Jam were always the odd ones out of the early 90's grunge scene. Nirvana were all punkish teenage angst but Pearl Jam were, and still are, so much more than that. Eddie Vedder's lyrics gave them a more intellectual side while the music was as clearly influenced by classic rock like The Rolling Stones and The Who as it was The Melvins or Pixies. They struck a chord though and arguably became the biggest American rock band of the nineties. It's perhaps unsurprising therefore that the largest proportion of the audience tonight is in their mid thirties, having grown up listening to 'Ten'. Many have come to London for this show from abroad, desparate to see their favourite band who have not come to see them in their respective countries across Europe.

The anticipation for the headliners' set means that Southport quintet Gomez play to a sparsely populated O2 at half seven. They're folk tinged indie earned them a #2 album in 1999 but the majority of the audience tonight who have heard of them probably assumed they'd split up years ago. They are an intriguing live prospect, if a little static and uninvolving. They're merely a diversion though, this isn't a gig that you're persuaded to shell out on based on a support act after all!

It's quarter to nine when Pearl Jam arrive on stage, a simple wave backdrop behind them. This isn't a band that needs to rely on a lightshow or any other arena gimmicky; this is a band that is fully at home in the world of live performance. They start with the rarely played closer from 'Ten', 'Release'. It is a beautiful opener, quiet and methodical, played with the arena in almost total blackness. The band then rips into the punk monster that is 'Animal' and continue, with just a few brief pauses for a further ninety minutes or so. New songs 'The Fixer' and 'Got Some' are amongst the songs played. It's difficult to assess their quality, although recent single 'The Fixer' is better in a live setting than on the radio. Some songs get a better reaction than others, not everyone knows the likes of 'Insignificance' from 'Binaural' or 'Life Wasted' from 2006's self titled album. 'Why Go?' and 'Black' however gets a huge reception, everyone inside the O2 is screaming the words back at the band and every Mike McCready guitar solo is rapturously received. In fact it takes seeing him play in the flesh to appreciate how good a player McCready truly is, if a little unorthodox. The band leave the stage after 'Blood' but they aren't gone for long.

Another new song 'Supersonic' announces their return to the action, incidentally the first time the song has been played live. Keyboardist Boom Gaspar then leads a superb cover of The Who's ultimate classic, 'Love Reign O'er Me'; rather sadly around half the crowd seem not to know the song and need to do some serious brushing up on their rock history! For those who are familiar it is a highlight of the show and when followed by 'Do The Evolution' and the huge singalong that is 'Alive' spirits are raised to a real high. Pearl Jam still are not done however. A further encore arrives, beginning with 'Better Man' and ending with a double whammy of 'Porch' and 'Yellow Ledbetter'. Pearl Jam have graced the O2's stage for nearly two and a half hours by the time they leave, with extended jams thrown in for good measure during several of the later songs they play. The band clearly enjoyed this show more than most, they stayed well past the scheduled eleven o'clock finish time. This is not a band that do things by halves....and thank goodness for that!

Gomez - 6/10
Pearl Jam - 10/10

Pearl Jam played:

Why Go?
Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
The Fixer
Even Flow
I Got Id
Got Some
Light Years
Life Wasted
Blood (Atomic Dog)

Hail, Hail
Love Reign O'er Me
Do The Evolution

Better Man (Save It For Later)
Crazy Mary
Leaving Here
Yellow Ledbetter

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