PEARL JAM BUSHWHACKED!

Gig-goers express their displeasure after frontman Eddie Vedder smashes a mask of the US President...

Fans of PEARL JAM
staged a walk-out at the band's show in DENVER earlier this week, protesting against frontman EDDIE VEDDER smashing a mask of President GEORGE BUSH onstage.

Over two dozen people filed out of the Pepsi Center on Tuesday (April 1) following Pearl Jam's 'Bushleaguer' - a song that satirises Bush. Following the track, Vedder used a microphone stand to spear a Bush mask he wore during the song. He then slammed it onto the stage.

"When he was sharing his political views in a fairly benign manner - supporting our troops, opposing policy - that's OK," Keith Zimmerman, told local paper Rocky Mountain News.

"When he takes what looks like the head of George Bush on a stick, then throws it to the stage and stomps on it, that's just unacceptable. I love Pearl Jam, but that was just way over the edge. We literally got up and left."

He added: "It kinda blows away the Dixie Chicks."

Vedder has been using the mask during shows in Australia and Japan. The Denver show was the first in the US since war broke out. During the gig, Vedder, always one of rock's most politically aware stars, also made anti-war remarks which were greeted with catcalls and boos by sections of the 12,000 capacity crowd.

At one point, he told the crowd the tale of a Vietnam vet who expressed severe reservations about war in Iraq to Vedder. Someone in the crowd shouted 'Shut Up'.

"Did someone just say, 'Shut up'?" asked an angry Vedder. "I don't know if you heard about this thing called freedom of speech, man. It's worth thinking about it, because it's going away. In the last year of being able to use it, we're sure as hell going to use it and I'm not gonna apologise."

Later in the show, he added: "Just to clarify... we support the troops. Our problem is certainly not with anybody over there doing something that not too many of us would do right now, not for these reasons.

"So to the families and those people who know those folks and are related to those folks and are married to those folks, we send our support. We're just confused on how wanting to bring them back safely all of a sudden becomes non-support. We love them, we support them. They're not the ones who make the foreign policy... Let's hope for the best and speak our opinions."

While others have been forced to buckle in the face of US public opinion, retracting remarks that show anything except whole-hearted approval of Bush and the war in Iraq, Pearl Jam issued a statement following the gig standing by their actions.

"Dissension is nothing we shy away from," they said. "It should just be reported about more accurately. Ed's talk from the stage centred on the importance of freedom of speech and the importance of supporting our soldiers as well as an expression of sadness over the public being made to feel as though the two sentiments can't occur simultaneously."

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