...it was [B]Pearls[/B] out of their shells at the very least...
It’s a long march from Gen X to Veneration Z, but [a]Pearl Jam[/a] are prepared. The ex-grunge warhorses have brought with them more guitars than the Seattle police have riot shields. On either side of the stage fretboards stretch into the distance. Shaved tech ogres are hiding Vedder‘s secret weapon, but clearly the battle is going to be bloody.
Six albums down the line, the scarred defenders of soul-scraping seriousness in rock trudge on dressed in the motley anti-fashions of the past-caring, 30-something super-rich. Bassist Jeff Ament wears Star Trek pants. Guitarist Stone Gossard‘s in black socks and shorts. Vedder is a walking crumple.
Already we assume nothing so trite as entertainment is going down tonight. In fact, it takes half the set to get a grip on the nature of 21st-century PJ. The band’s army surplus millionaire frontman ritualistically lays down his tome of lyrics, raises one arm God-wards and the murmuring blues ‘Of The Girl’ slinks forth, not so much a song as an opening of the floodgates.
For the next two hours Pearl Jam deploy their surfeit of axes in the summoning up of a vast sea of yearning, malcontented, majestically pissed off and eventually cathartic Ameri-rock. They lash out early on with the punky ‘Breakerfall’, gallop through the blackened, hurtling ‘God’s Dice’ and then lock into mammoth phases of glowering. Oh yes, the years have not diminished their glower, but nowadays the shades are manifold.
Epic and deep they might be, but the grunge lords are no longer as inward-looking as their reputation maintains. In addition to the bizarre Flying V stadium rock antics of Mike McCready (Gossard maintains a professorial distance) there is much that’s pure rock’n’roll pleasure-seeking. ‘Do The Evolution’ hits Stones-like levels of sexuality. Prior to the encores, Vedder mounts the shoulder of a giant security guard to be carried along the front row during the community hymnal ‘Alive’.
It’s a loosened-up, bedraggled wine-swigging raintown poet who returns to sing a cover of The La’s (yes, as in Lee Mavers) ‘Timeless Melody’, and prefaces it with an edge of Hollywood speech about his love for London – home of Keith, Ron, John, Roger, and erm, Paul’n’Ringo.
The un-goateed masses are touched. Landslides of slate-textured soul-rock rumble past enjoyably in the form of ‘Insignificance’ and ‘Go’, with a diversion into the Billy Childish-recommended (apparently) ‘Soldier Of Love’. But it is as a rounded entertainer that we’ll remember Vedder tonight, unveiling his slightly out-of-tune secret ukulele (“a grunge-lele” he jokes) and grinning a little as he plucks away at ‘Soon Forget’, about the loneliness of the super-rich.
In its vintage feel, its masterful usage of the Neil Young, Sonic Youth, N*****a inheritance and its eclipsing of Bush, this is a great show. In its ability to evoke post-Columbine sentiment and its commitment to expressing some sort of truth about alienation in the US, it’s a a great, dignified show. With its Flying Vs and ukuleles, it is a great, balanced show. Good golly! [a]Pearl Jam[/a] in show-band shocker? Well it was Pearls out of their shells at the very least.