The Seattle rockers show why they stand as the last men of grunge at the finale of their Lightning Bolt tour.
I'm looking at T-shirts late afternoon in the middle of Milton Keynes National Bowl. Pearl Jam aren't due on for another three hours and there's a punk band called Off! about to perform. I'm looking at T-shirts late afternoon in the middle of Milton Keynes National Bowl. Pearl Jam aren't due on for another three hours and there's a punk band called Off! about to perform. Heavy punk isn't really my thing so I figure I've got lots of time. I hear an acoustic guitar kick in and don't think too much of it until the instantly recognisable voice of Eddie Vedder breaks into Porch. It's still early and easy to get to the front of the stage to see the main man himself kick off the show, catching everyone by surprise. It musn't be easy making a 65,000 person venue an intimate experience but that's what this early appearance manages to achieve. No one expects Vedder to act as compere for the show, especially with such a long way to go but he finishes Porch, introduces Off! and then joins the rest of Pearl Jam at the side of the stage to watch them perform. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club follow with a complete hour and a half set. Already the £65 ticket price is justified and Pearl Jam haven't even started playing yet. Guitarist Mike McCready joins BRMC during Conscience Killer and it's obvious it's for his benefit as much as ours as he's already told us what a huge fan he is before they take the stage.
At about 8pm Pearl Jam are up. I've watched a few videos of Eddie Vedder live, sounding a little out of tune and rough during some songs but I can honestly say that it wasn't the case here. Throughout the show his deep baritone voice echoes around the outdoor stadium and in some cases, sounds better than on the albums due to its raw energy. As a band, Pearl Jam are tight, accurate and Vedder is obviously such an old hand at this now that engaging a huge crowd while remaining relaxed and appreciative comes second nature.
There are very few stadium bands left these days, especially bands that have been releasing albums for 22 years. Members of Pearl Jam may have hit their late 40s but they put younger bands to shame with a three hour set that boasts an incredible back catalogue. Songs such as Jeremy and Rearviewmirror from the albums Ten and Vs still sound fresh and it was a pleasure to hear them honour songs from even further back with Footsteps and Mother Love Bone's Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns. It's good to be reminded of how it all began so long ago. It seemed fitting that a stunning supermoon rose after a fabulous sunset behind the stadium coincidentally providing the perfect backdrop for Yellow Moon. It was getting close to midnight when Eddie Vedder warned the crowd that they may be cut off. They were running way over time and at risk of the stadium killing the power. This is a band that loves to play and would probably have played longer given the chance. "Fuck it, we've paid the rent!", proclaims Eddie Vedder before the band are joined by friends, family and crew to end their European tour with an explosive cover of Neil Young's Rockin' In The Free World. After this performance, the sun won't be setting on Pearl Jam any time soon.