Pearl Jam

support X
author PP date 10/07/12 venue Forum, Copenhagen, DEN

It's been five years since the previous Pearl Jam appearance on Danish soil, at this same venue to be exact, yet the absence seems to have done no harm to the band's fan base. The show was sold out months in advance, and upon approaching the venue even half an hour after the doors have opened, the queue stretches around at least three blocks if not more. But despite 10,000 eager fans lining up to get inside and be as close as possible towards the stage, the hall fills up relatively quickly thanks to some efficient work at the doors by the security team. One of the reasons for the almost fanatic response to Pearl Jam not just in Denmark but worldwide is the promise of an original show each time, every time. The set list changes every night, and as we witnessed tonight, the band occasionally plays rare songs that have either never been played in Europe before, or haven't been a part of their set list for more than a decade.

X

But lets not get ahead of ourselves. First there is the matter of the support band, X, whose name I wouldn't have known had I not checked it out in advance, because the band don't announce who they are at any point during the set. Not only is their crowd interaction limited to a minimal "There's so many people here, holy shit!" comment twenty minutes into their set, but there's no banner, nothing at all to hint to the people who these rather old-looking people are. Turns out, X have been a band for thirty-five years now and have released seven studio albums (their last one in 1993, though), but yet that wealth of experience does not seem to translate into anything particularly exciting. They have two singers alternating on vocals, one of them female, but the band appears as if they were nailed to the stage floor for the 45 minute duration of their set. They play a brand of feel-good and inoffensive old school punk, with forays into country and roll and of course pure rock'n'roll in the best 80s revivalist manner. It's decent background music to warm up the crowd for Pearl Jam, but there's no way this hasn't been a personal favor from Pearl Jam who could've chosen pretty much anyone to come on tour with them. Because lets face it, virtually zero people tonight came here to see X, and probably not more than a handful (out of 10,000 no less) have ever heard of the band before. Their songs are kinda boring, although by the time "Los Angeles" comes on they improve a little bit because of the song's uptempo rhythm and a few catchy vocal melodies, but aside from members of Pearl Jam featuring as special guests throughout the set, I'm left with a yearning towards the nearest bar because their songs are bland, forgettable, and while the band aren't awful by any means, they're still best characterized by the following: meh

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Pearl Jam

Few bands are lucky to have as dedicated fan base as Pearl Jam. I chatted to members of Ten Club (official PJ fan club) who had travelled here all the way from Canada, Japan, and other countries, all trying to make their way towards the front of the stage to be as close as possible. And based on what I've heard about Ten Club, these aren't just individual exceptions but this kind of fanaticism seems to be the norm, which of course means that the front pits are jam-packed with real Pearl Jam fans who know all the songs.

Tonight's the last day on tour for the band, so it's a special occasion for everyone involved, and the moment that the piano interlude begins and the curtains start slowly revealing a massive logo consisting of layered speakers with a giant letters PJ in the middle, you can sense from the crowd anticipation that tonight's gonna be a good one. The band begins with "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town", which immediately captures the entire ten-thousand strong crowd into a calm (but LOUD) sing along, with melodies being hummed in between the lyrics by the fans all across the concert hall.

Eddie Vedder then pulls out his notepad and reads a couple of sentences in broken, but understandable Danish to the thunderous applause from the crowd: "we have two things to celebrate tonight. One, we are in Denmark, and two, this is the last show on the tour", before he switches into English, saying "but from now on in English because my Danish is shit". It's a small but special token of appreciation for the local crowd and one that goes a long way in making everyone feel special about tonight's show. Of course, it's hard not to feel special because everyone's witnessing that even at 47 years old, Vedder's voice is to die for. It's through his incredible singing talent that the band have obtained such a dedicated following world-wide, and of course through timeless classics like "Even Flow", which marks the first truly echoing sing along across the whole hall. To add to the highlight moment, guitarist McCready plays the entirety of the song's lengthy solo on top of his head and behind his back. Rock'n'roll, anyone?

While most older rock bands tend to win crowds over through their songs rather than an eclectic performance, Pearl Jam do not disappoint in this category either. Despite their age, the band are busy doing jumps and displaying plenty of other movement on the stage, which creates an energetic vibe to their set, perhaps to the surprise of some given that this is the last night on the tour.

"I'd like to take this opportunity to give one ups for Alice in Chains and Soundgarden", Vedder says just before "Glorified G", "and of course to Denmark. I read today that Denmark is the biggest wind energy producer on the planet", before criticising his home town company Boeing for basically being the biggest producer of war machines and bombs in the world. It signals that the band's political activism hasn't ceased during the years.

Tonight is a real fan's concert. Pearl Jam could just as easily come on stage and play for 90 minutes of hit-worthy material, but instead they air numerous rare and less-known songs from their discography. If you're a fan, there's no way you're not thinking of this as a perfect show. For the general Dane, however, who only know the obvious hits, it might be questionable how much they get out of the show tonight, because the real gems are hidden in between the lines, so to say.

That is, until the first encore and especially the second encore, where Pearl Jam unleash their entire songwriting prowess on the crowd. "Let's just keep playing", Vedder says at 1 hour and 45 minutes into the show, before proceeding to play a request from the local Ten Club chapter. From here on, Pearl Jam basically show why they are one of the greatest rock bands still remaining from the golden era of the 90s, and start to justify the 625kr ticket price to the show. It's all a gradual build up to the climax of the show, "Alive", which incites the biggest sing along tonight, after which the venue organizers turn on the lights at the venue as we're quickly approaching midnight. But Pearl Jam aren't done yet: despite the lights on at the venue, the band plays a cover of The Who's "Baba O'Riley" and finish things off with "Yellow Ledbetter" approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes after they entered the stage for the first time. There's no doubt that tonight's show has been special for everyone involved, and there's an argument for a 9 rating from the Pearl Jam die-hard's perspective. But even as someone who hasn't really listened to Pearl Jam much in the last 10 years (aside from the two new albums), it's next to impossible to deny that the band played a great show tonight. Now imagine this on Orange Stage instead.

Setlist:

  • 1. Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
  • 2. Last Exit
  • 3. Do The Evolution
  • 4. Love Boat Captain
  • 5. Corduroy
  • 6. Present Tense
  • 7. Push Me, Pull Me
  • 8. Even Flow
  • 9. Cropduster
  • 10. Wishlist
  • 11. Insignificance
  • 12. Glorified G
  • 13. Why Go
  • 14. State Of Love And Trust
  • 15. Porch
  • --Encore--
  • 16. Footsteps
  • 17. Just Breathe
  • 18. Given To Fly
  • 19. Unthought Known
  • 20. The Fixer
  • 21. Jeremy
  • 22. Rearviewmirror
  • --Encore 2--
  • 23. Smile
  • 24. Habit
  • 25. Better Man
  • 26. Crazy Mary (Victoria Williams cover)
  • 27. Alive
  • 28. Baba O'Riley (The Who cover)
  • 29. Yellow Ledbetter

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