Friday, July 19, 2024

Pearl Jam: the perfect sandwich filling from Co-op Live

August 17th 2009 was my first concert, Pearl Jam at the MEN Arena on the Backspacer tour with Gomez supporting. My love of live music was a delayed reaction but it all started with Pearl Jam back when I was 15 as I spent my nights after school playing Tony Hawk’s Underground with Ten playing in the background. Things are obviously different now but Pearl Jam can still rock the stage at Manchester’s shiny new arena: Co-op Live. 

This article will also act as RAMzine’s introduction to this venue and first impressions are very good. The venue seems very sleek, clean and modern with ticket scanners, accessible transport and low lighting during dark periods being brilliant quality-of-life additions. The sound was also great with the bass and drums being prominent without completely overpowering the mix. 

The Murder Capital took the stage first and this was an odd act. The band had an 80s punk vibe with spoken word sections, but there was an unmistakable shoegaze style bleeding through as the band watched their pedal boards as they were accompanied by bombastic rhythmic drums. Imagine a punk-inspired Russian Circles and you’re in the right ballpark. 

You could tell a large portion of the crowd wasn’t into it but the rest of the audience were transfixed as the Irish band went through their fascinating tracks. It was very much an acquired taste and maybe some of the audience will give it another go in the future but it’s at least worth trying out if you have even the slightest interest in noise rock. 

Pearl Jam took to a fairly underlit stage and played the laid-back ‘Of The Girl’ which set a strange casual atmosphere to start the show, this was a strange way to start but it was interesting. The low lighting made it feel much more intimate and gentle. 

Spacey atmosphere aside, everyone was here for a rock show and Pearl Jam brought out some of their biggest hits from all of their career defining albums. Many people in the audience would have been happy with a set that focused on Ten or Vitalogy but the inclusion of deeper cuts like ‘I Got IDd’ and ‘All Night’

Ten has always been Pearl Jam’s most beloved album and this set was full of classic tracks from the 1991 classic. ‘Why Go‘ is a near-perfect rock song and its inclusion early on in the set was a wise choice considering how easily recognisable the opening drum pattern is. Guitarist Mike McCready gets his chance to show Manchester what he can do and unsurprisingly, the man can still rip. Mike throws in every rock guitar trick he can think of as he channels his guitar hero Jimi Hendrix by playing with his teeth, making brilliant guitar faces and just wailing like an absolute madman. 

Pearl Jam have been unfairly written off as a band that stopped making good music once the ’90s ended, which is completely untrue. Dark Matter contains some of the bands strongest material with tracks like ‘Don’t React,’ ‘Respond’ and ‘Scared Of Fear’ harkening back to that early 90s feeling without coming off dated or desperate to recapture something they’d lost. In a live setting, these songs work brilliantly and you can tell the band really enjoy playing these new songs as frontman Eddie Vedder yarls and dances around the strangely small stage of Co-op Live. 

Absolutely everyone was waiting for the classic iconic riff and vocal performance that made Pearl Jam a household name in rock. The early 90s saw countless impressions by Adam Sandler and airplay on MTV and the 2000s saw its inclusion in Guitar Hero 3, this song has been a cultural staple since it came out and it shows no signs of going away, ‘Even Flow’. Everyone has an impression of Eddie Vedder singing this song and that’s likely why he switched up his delivery. I can imagine he’s become bored performing this song over the past 30 years but he still gives it his all. The flow isn’t quite even but it’s close enough. 

Eddie mentioned he caught something in Dublin and you can tell in places, that the mumbling and incoherent nature of his vocals make it hard to tell anything is wrong but he missed cues and seemed to move away from the mic at the wrong times. These moments were brief and easy to ignore but you could definitely tell he wasn’t well. The band still got through an impressive catalogue of rock classics including the sing-along ‘Daughter,’ the haunting epic ‘Black’ and the greatest guitar solo of the 90s, ‘Alive’.

A personal favourite of the show was ‘Do The Evolution’ which featured the maximalist music video directed by Kevin Altieri of Batman: The Animated Series fame and Todd McFarlane of Spawn. I had never seen this music video somehow and this whole section showed just how much work visuals at a show can put in to make a song feel alive and energised. This may be fairly obvious but Pearl Jam can be made more interesting by including dinosaurs and goth girls, who knew? The show ended with the famously obtuse ‘Yellow Leadbetter,’ a song full of beautiful melodies and Hendrix-inspired guitar work and gorgeous vocals from one of the most unique voices in music. This track was a sweet ending as the lights went up and everyone slowly shifted their way to the exits knowing they’d experienced a real rock show. 

Pearl Jam are a band that honed their skills over the years to craft a grand stage show that doesn’t rely on gimmicks or pyrotechnics or wacky waving arm flailing inflatable tube men. They relied purely on the stage of their chemistry and their back catalogue and it has always paid off for them throughout the years. Pearl Jam was my first concert back and seeing them again while knowing so much more about live music was a rewarding experience and hopefully it won’t take another 15 years to see them. Maybe next time they’ll play ‘Jeremy’ as well. 

It’s also worth noting that Pearl Jam cancelled their appearance at Tottenham Hotspur appearance on June 29th due to illness. 

Lamestream Lydia
Lamestream Lydia
Self-proclaimed journalist, Progressive rock enthusiast and the most American sounding person you're ever likely to meet in the North of England

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