Pearl Jam Live @ Ahoy, Rotterdam
Prior to the release of their first album since their self-titled 2006 release, the legendary ‘90’s rock band Pearl Jam graced Europe with a quick, four concert mini-tour this summer. Despite the fact that the band still has a large enough following to have easily filled a stadium, Pearl Jam chose the more intimate setting of Ahoy Sports Palace and Concert Hall in Rotterdam. Needless to say the concert quickly sold out as fans from all over Europe congregated on Europe’s premier port city. Despite the fact that Ahoy has been used as a concert venue since the ‘70’s, it was designed primarily as an expo and sports hall and as a result, its oblong-shaped main hall has always been notorious for its difficult acoustics; Pearl Jam managed to overcome these problems with a professional, if somewhat sober show.
The band has mellowed since their legendary 1992 Pinkpop festival performance1 and doesn’t rely on pyrotechnics or wild stage antics to put on a solid show. Instead, we got one stage and a band who were so comfortable with their material, they knew exactly when to bring it down a notch, rev it up and to keep the extended solos just the right side of becoming boring. The band looked comfortable and relaxed–none more so than frontman Eddie Vedder, who regaled the audience with anecdotes, sipped on bottles of wine and danced all over the stage. Sometimes during the solos, he was content to leave the spotlight (and rightly so) to guitarist Mike McReady and snuck off to the side of the stage to cop a smoke.
Crowd-pleasers like Even Flow and Black were effortlessly mixed with their harder material and even some covers of The Who and The Beatles. Of course the crowd-pleasers garnered the biggest audience response. Witnessing a packed house sing along to Black word-for-word was one of the best live experiences in my concert-going career. The approximately 4000 fans who were lucky enough to have floor tickets were able to let loose completely, cheering and dancing while the 10,000 fans who had ring-seats had to content with swinging in their very uncomfortable seats as best as they could. They saved the best seemingly for last. When one of the greatest live songs in music, the aptly named Alive, was played for the final song in their encore, it was met with rapturous audience reception.
As unbelievable as it may have seemed, the band apparently still had energy to spare. The audience caught on quickly when the lights didn’t come on after Alive and sure enough, the band came back for a second encore of five more songs, culminating in Yellow Ledbetter. It wasn’t until then, after a set of 2 and a half hours2, that the band finally seemed content to leave the stage with a promise to come back a lot sooner than in another three years’ time. Judging by this concert, they will be more than welcome in Rotterdam.