Mountain View Shoreline Amphitheatre

Just because Pearl Jam lost a few battles doesn't make them sell-outs - just another band...

Five years after Pearl Jam bravely fought the concert promotion/distribution monopoly, there’s no doubt who won. It’s a Ticketmaster Halloween and it’s scary as fuck.

The band’s San Francisco stop on their lengthy world tour is a sterile facility 40 miles south of the city, a two-hour grind in rush hour traffic. Shoreline’s powerful owners have a cosy, virtually exclusive deal with Ticketmaster and tonight’s $26 ticket comes with a whopping $14 “convenience” fee. It’s like Oasis playing Old Trafford, or Moby playing McDonalds.

It’s not Supergrass’ fault of course. They look like they are enjoying this American jaunt, energetically going through their moves for a half-full arena. At least half of the punctual half are into it sufficiently to cheer the introduction of ‘Pumping On Your Stereo’.

It’s been on MTV, you know. They were also just on Letterman and Danny is wearing the T-shirt. The lads have their feet under the table, and prove it

by cheerfully covering Kenny Rogers And The First Edition’s ‘Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).’

And what condition are Pearl Jam in, as they approach their 10th anniversary? They have always wanted to be more than just another band, and this tour has the feel of a manifesto with its two and a bit hours of career highlights. What the sprawling, archival set does prove is an impressive consistency. Not many bands can play five tunes off their debut without embarrassment (apart from ‘Jeremy’ that is) and follow up with

stuff like ‘Better Man’, ‘Wish List’, ‘Corduroy’ and ‘Given To Fly’.

Eddie Vedder mumbles a bit more between songs than he used to, and the sound is shockingly tinny, which emphasises the nature of a stadium show – like watching a party to which only the band and a few hundred down the front have been invited.

And even they probably can’t understand what he’s on about. But Vedder has always been happier to let the songs speak for themselves. At the start of the encores, he straps on his trusty ukulele and sings ‘Soon Forget’ ([I]”Sorry

is the fool who trades his soul for a Corvette”[/I]). Millionaires singing anti-capitalist anthems are easy targets, but just because Pearl Jam lost a few battles doesn’t make them sell-outs – just another band.

Andy Wilko