Pearl Jam

Royal Arena, Copenhagen - 2022

Text: Tobias Nilsson Photo: Lunah Lauridsen

Pearl Jam is one of those bands which doesn’t really need an introduction. Whether you actively listen to them or not, like them or not, you will know them, or at the very least have heard about them at one point or the other.
For my part, this was the live debut with them, and I was quite curious as to what they’d bring to the stage. The fact that they’d sold out the Royal Arena spoke a lot to their following, but given the lacklustre response to Idles, the support band, I really had no idea where this would go. Was anyone in the mood for this, or had they just shown up because they’d bought the tickets long ago, and wanted to make good on the spent money?

“Can I see everyone real quick? (yeah!) I’m a little bit speechless right now!”
- Eddie Vedder (vocals/guitar)


I’d like to say that the packed arena was buzzing, but to be honest, the vibe was quite relaxed and uncommitted while waiting for the main act of the evening. Building on that, it was weird to hear the intro song begin to play while the house lights were still fully lit, and there was nothing special on stage to announce the band; no backdrop, no special equipment or anything of the like. I get that grunge was an opposing reaction to glam rock, wanting to pull back on all the extravagant stuff, and just go in for the music and feeling, but still.
Anyway, after a while, the lights finally went down, and with their descent, the atmosphere was finally in ascension. A deafening roar arose, and even most people in the tiered seating areas stood up and greeted the band members as they walked out on stage.
For just about the entire first song, the band continued to baffle me with the lighting, as they were performing fully backlit and nothing else, effectively making them into stark black silhouettes to look at.
Why am I going on about the lights? Well, because in the beginning there really wasn’t anything else to look at, but also because later on, the band (and of course their crew) would show us that lighting was not only the one thing they had to play around with, but that they were also damned good at it! There was a moveable light rig that was raised, lowered, and moved around through the songs to a splendid visual effect.

But let’s pipe down about the lights for now, and see what else Pearl Jam had to offer.
After the nice piano piece they used as an intro, the band went straight back in time to their debut album, playing Release, the first of many from said album. Ten was the single most visited album, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a varied set; in fact, eight out of the eleven album strong discography were represented this night, and the band played for nigh on two and a half hours!
Impressive as that may seem, what was even more impressive was that the musicians weren’t pulling any punches at any point. As soon as they got under way, it was full speed ahead on the energy level. While Idles had centred their performance on a small area in the middle of the stage, effectively making it no bigger than a club show or a small venue, Pearl Jam utilised the big arena stage perfectly, moving all about it.
This being the live debut for me, I hadn’t really thought of Vedder as a guitarist, but was pleasantly surprised to see him don a six-string for many of the songs, not only making the sound even fuller than it was before, but also giving him something more to do during the vocal free parts; not that this was a vanity stunt, he could clearly handle the instrument and was comfortable playing alongside Mike McCready and Stone Gossard.
Talking about surprise instrumentations, I was equally unaware of the presence of Kenneth E. ‘Boom’ Gaspar, who showed up on keyboards, and Josh Klinghoffer, who mainly provided extra percussive back-up, but also came up front with a guitar at one point. Admittedly, I can see that especially Gaspar is not new to the Pearl Jam world, but I wanted to mention their presence and contribution nonetheless.

“I read that Denmark’s been rated the second happiest country in the world. If this is the second, then where the hell is number one?!”
- Vedder (vocals/guitar)


What was astonishing to see, was the complete turn-around the Danish (and more) fans made. Coming from a near complete lack of interest, they were now fire and flames, and weren’t late in showing it.
Of course, the early hits - Jeremy, Even Flow, Alive - got a deafening response, but the praise certainly wasn’t limited to the obvious songs, as every single track had people screaming, singing, and applauding. Already in Animal, second song of the night, the audience took over during the chorus, and it wasn’t the last time this happened.
Admittedly, there were some quieter moments, but they were moments that made sense. When Vedder addressed the Roskilde accident from so many years ago, and the painfully recent Field’s tragedy (which didn’t have anything to do with the band, but had happened just next to the current venue only a couple of days earlier), it was easy to see that these were events that clearly affected him still, and the respectful silence from the audience showed that he wasn’t the only one with feelings on the subject.

The main subject line of the night however, was still music and presence, and both of these points could be most resoundingly checked off, as the night drew to an end.
Vedder ended a long, engaging, and inclusive show by calling out “Vi elsker jer! Mange tak! Tusind tak!” in Danish, and there is little doubt as to him meaning every word.
So, whether you actively listen to them or not, like them or not, I can with full confidence state that if you didn’t like Pearl Jam tonight, you probably never will. This was a concert full of surprises, not in the least the surprise of just how absolutely amazing the band was.

Setlist:

Metamorphosis Two (Philip Glass song)
Release
Animal
Last Exit
Lukin
Corduroy
Retrograde
Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
Garden
Dance Of The Clairvoyants
Even Flow
Daughter
Never Destination
Jeremy
Inside Job
Do The Evolution
Black
Love Boat Captain
Porch
Better Man
Alive
Rockin’ In The Free World (Neil Young cover)

Pearl Jam

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