Pearl Jam @ Co-op Live review – Grunge legends triumph over illness

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Featured image and gallery: Gracie Hall

Irish post-punk band The Murder Capital start the evening with a theatrically moody performance. Lead singer, James McGovern, sports a leopard print buzz cut and wields a tambourine much like Manchester’s own Liam Gallagher (who will also grace the same stage this week). They gallop through their set, debuting new music and making a few thousand new friends along the way.

Seattle grunge legends Pearl Jam enter the arena, vocalist Eddie Vedder’s signature trucker hat placed firmly on his head. True, he doesn’t dangle from the rafters anymore, but although Vedder and his bandmates are perilously close to collecting their bus passes, they’re almost – almost – as energetic as ever. 

They peak through the silhouetted lighting of the first two songs, ‘Of the Girl’ and ‘Present Tense’, only spotlighted when Vedder, Stone Gossard and Mike McCready practically shred the strings from their guitars.

Pearl Jam are notorious for mixing up their setlist. Sure, they’ll play some of the hits, with ‘Daughter’, ‘Given to Fly’ and ‘Even Flow’ all aired alongside tour debuts of ‘All Night’ and ‘I Got Id’. They even lob in a cover of Neil Young’s ‘Fuckin Up’ – they were Young’s backing band on his 1995 ‘Mirrorball’ album – but there’s no ‘Jeremy’, no ‘Spin the Black Circle’, no ‘Rearviewmirror’. 

In truth, they don’t need them. Unlike the Smashing Pumpkins, who floundered with their deep cuts when they played here a couple of weeks ago, the back lanes and alleyways of Pearl Jam’s catalogue are as strong as their bankers. Then again, with a dozen albums under their belt, including their new ‘Dark Matter’ release still bedding in, they have ample material to choose from.

Vedder struggles with his voice throughout after picking up a dose of the lurgy, but the crowd help guide him through the curfew-baiting 23-song set. The extended encore features a triple-whammy of ‘Do the Evolution’, ‘Black’ and ‘Alive’, with an added dash of ‘Crown of Thorns’ from Gossard and Ament’s old band, Mother Love Bone – albeit shorn of its ‘Chloe Dancer’ prelude.

A great band on great form.

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Gracie Hall

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