Pearl Jam a hit +review

22:47, Nov 29 2009
pearl jam christchurch
CROWD PLEASER: Eddie Vedder performs in Pearl Jam's concert at AMI Stadium, in Christchurch, last night.

One of the most influential bands of the '90s, Seattle grunge stars Pearl Jam, had 30,000 South Island fans singing along at last night's concert at AMI Stadium, the final gig of their Australasian tour.

Having sold over 60 million albums worldwide and poised to celebrate their 20th anniversary, the group possess an enviable back catalogue of hits. But, it has to be said, it takes class to rock through 25 plus songs over more than two hours at a gig and have each set be superb and have new things to offer each time.

Last night they passionately ebbed and flowed their way through classics from early albums including the decade-defining Ten, classic covers and new favourites from their latest album, Backspacer.

The group also saved a few spectacular surprises for their last Kiwi show.

Earlier in the evening Liam Finn and guests (including Eddie Vedder) amply proved that history does repeat, offering up songs from Finn's debut I'll Be Lightning and their shared EP Champagne in Seashells. Ben Harper and Relentless7 warmed the crowd with their mellow yet lively set which saw fans swaying happily and singing along.

Many Kiwi fans had made a long journey.

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Thomas "Animal" White, 36, was thrilled Pearl Jam had included a South Island date.

"I've been working on Stewart Island for a few days and I had to get special time off to make it here and I only just got here in time," White said. "But I've been waiting for this since I was an unhappy 16-year-old boy doing air guitar in my bedroom."

West Coaster Bethany Smart, 26, said she was only familiar with a couple of Pearl Jam albums. She claimed to be very much in love with Eddie Vedder. "I love that he is so passionate about life and music, there's something animalistic and raw about him and his songs."

Pearl Jam, Ben Harper and Relentless7, Liam Finn and EJ Barnes at AMI Stadium, Sunday, November 29. Reviewed by Vicki Anderson.

A random list of things I hate: Queues. Rain. Vomit-inducing public toilets. Door bitches... A one-beer-per-person limit. Drunks. Drunks who throw shoes.

I'm not going to insult your intelligence - you know who Pearl Jam is and what they stand for. They're consummate musicians of note which is, of course, why 30,000 of us were eager to see them play.

Little Red Riding Hood and I arrived early and took our place in the queue with seemingly everyone else on the planet.

We only queued for around 45 minutes but it was long enough for me to fantasise that by the time I reached the front of the line, man would have already colonized Mars.

I amused myself by getting quotes from unusual looking punters which I then sent via text into the Press.
Then LRRH was distracted by the merch stand. A t-shirt for $50? We queued.

Well, LRRH queued and I stood beside her people-watching. The flannel-shirted, the sensible ones in those puffy Kathmandu jackets that make you look like you've eaten a snuggly polar bear, and others who were slipping their newly acquired t-shirt purchases over their heads for additional warmth.

Almost at the front of the queue, LRRH realised the one she'd liked the look of was actually dark blue up close, not black, so we left the merch stand.

Then we queued to get into Gate 27.

A recorded speech told us that Pearl Jam wanted us to have a great time and asked that we please refrain from crowd surfing.

Door bitch number one scowled at me while prodding my tiny bag as if it had just come back from a fortnight in Colombia while two teens with Zulu-like ear piercings openly walked through carrying hipflasks.

Food? Drink?

We queued.

Two $7 beers and a burger for LRRH later and we found our seats whereupon I whinged for the first time to LRRH that I didn't come to Pearl Jam to sit in the stand.

Nature called so we queued again.

Liam Finn, EJ Barnes and Connan Mockasin then started off the musical journey for the evening.

I'm a huge fan of Liam's and I didn't want to miss the chance to see him in a stadium setting. His set was short but perfectly formed and included Long Way To Go off his new EP Champagne In Seashells and a guest appearance from Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder on Cinnamon Girl. What a buzz! Finn then dedicated his next song, Second Chance to Ben Harper and ended his set with one of my favourites off his debut album I'll Be Lightning - Lead Balloon. You were the highlight of the party... woohoo.

Half an hour break before Ben Harper and Relentess7? Cue queue for drinks again.

OK, I fully respect that a gig catering for around 30,000 people needs to have rules but was I the only one that found the booze situation ridiculous?

It was not long after 6.30pm and we wanted to buy a couple of beers each to take back to huddle over in the stand for the wind was bloody cold and we were thirsty. We were told ''only one beverage per person as the general level of intoxication in the crowd is too high''.

Eh? So, er, just a thought - don't serve the guy who is puking on his shoes and the girl in the inappropriate footwear who is visibly swaying.

We exited the turnstile clutching our precious drink (singular) only to be immediately stopped by a woman who looked absolutely miserable.

Eftpos? she wailed like someone who has read too much Dante, have you seen Eftpos? They say there's one down here somewhere (gestures wildly).

We took our seats for Ben Harper. Down on the field I could see three (assume blokes) dressed as Santas and some other men, wearing what looked like pink hairnets, were lobbing a ball into the stand and then trying to catch it again.

In the stand people politely enquired of one another if perhaps they were in the wrong seat.

I moaned again to LRRH about being in the stand. To me being in a seat at a stadium gig is just wrong. It's like sitting down to play tennis.

Ben Harper arrived on stage and the crowd erupted into applause so I didn't catch her answer.

Isn't Harper an amazing musician? He is one of those performers who has a tremendous vibe so that no matter what style he is playing it comes across as mellow and richly warm, even if he's rocking out, which he certainly did last night.

The Relentless7, who are actually the relentlessly talented trio - comprising Jason Mozersky (lead guitar), Jesse Ingalls (bass/keys) and Jordan Richardson (drums) - first met Harper when Jason was his driver and playing him a demo of their material.

Spotting one of the blokes in the pink hairnets in the mosh, Harper said: ''Got to respect a man with pink hair''.

As well as the excellent Serve Your Soul  from Both Sides of the Gun, the group played Boots Like These, Fly One Time and the stand-out song Lay There And Hate Me from  new album White Lies For Dark Times, released this year - Harper's first album recorded with Relentless7.

Guitarist Mozersky has mad skills and was a joy to watch. Vedder jumped back out on stage to guest with Harper, too, on a mighty version of Under Pressure.

I must also mention a humorous dancing woman in a red jacket in front of the stand who had obviously popped a few pills before leaving home. She was whirling around like she was dancing to bring forth the sun (fail) and inadvertently knocking drinks flying left, right and centre.

LRRH finally agreed that the field is where we should be so Operation Field March was waged and, several queues and dealings with power-crazed door bitches later, we had found our spot on the green and it wasn't only the grass under our feet that we could smell.

Shortly before 8pm we queue for drinks again (hurrah, maybe the intoxicated people have gone home for a lie down because the turnstile booze baron says we are now allowed two beers each but, perversely, now I only want one).

Queue for toilets.

The women's queue was long and there were puddles on the floor. A friend of LRRH used the men's instead and pronounced it far nicer. Ladies! A plate!

I also saw a pee circle on the field where a group of ladies huddled around another woman who peed on the field.

See how much some people hate queues!

We emerged from the ''ladies'' to see a bloke being led away in handcuffs with a sobbing girlfriend in tow. No-one seemed to know what happened.

Back on the field we took our place next to the man we nicknamed Better Man as every few minutes he sang to himself ''can't find a better man''.

Then the crowd rose to its collective feet and roared to greet Pearl Jam.

The next two and a half hours would have go to down as being up there with the best live concerts I've ever seen.

The Christchurch show was the final one on the tour and they obviously wanted to make it memorable. What was the most awe-inspiring thing was how tenaciously brutal and ferociously the group ripped into the songs - 30 of them, by my count, including Why Go?, Animal, Once, Unthought Known, Tremor Christ, Elderly Woman Behind the Counter In A Small Town and, as the rain started to tiptoe from the clouds, World Wide Suicide.

Vedder's banter with the crowd was friendly and polite. Before Gonna See My Friend - he calmly advised a group to ''jump up'' - not out - six people once died at a Pearl Jam gig - before later going on to say that the flight to New Zealand was so long that he read the Bible  ''well Genesis, anyway'' before steely guitars were back on show on Marker in the Sand.

As the rain grew stronger the classic Even Flow and Force Of Nature off new album Backspacer seemed highly appropriate. A joke about Parisian rugby violence and on to Life Wasted, State of Love and Trust and Do the Evolution (''yeah, baby!'').

It was drummer Matt Cameron's birthday - he turned 48 in Christchurch but doesn't look a day over 30 - so we all joined in and sang along.

LRRH then nudged me and said ''look, it's Ben''.

Ben Harper then joined the group for Red Mosquito but it turns out LRRH was nudging me because Kiwi comedian Ben Hurley, in flannel shirt, was standing in front of us.

A highlight for me was hearing Indifference live. Vedder said something that sounded like (the wind was strong) the first time he performed Indifference was with Ben Harper last century.

The Fixer, the big single off Backspacer, saw the 20-somethings around me spring to life and dance like those little click toys where you press the middles and all the legs go collapsible.

I like the mental imagery of this song - Vedder wandering through the world and correcting all of the things that seem askew and, considering the dampness (''When something's cold/let me put a little fire on it'') was pretty apt.

Mike McCready, Jeff Ament, Matt Cameron and Stone Gossard are classy musicians. I could only see on the big screen which, 90% of the time focusses on Vedder, but flashes from this talented bunch left me reeling - the screen was in black and white which only added to the intensity - the guitar playing and the precise drumming skills were just breathtaking. Like watching one of those arty films were traffic is speed up to warp speed.

Back for the second encore, Vedder called us all ''tremendous champions'' before saying something about how the group were watching people go into the venue and were delighted by the expressions on our faces. With Vedder commenting with his typical humour ''some of you it wouldn't even take two or three beers to want to f... you''.

From the opening chords of Jeremy the crowd was singing as one and when Better Man started, our Better Man next to us almost passed out with joy, his friends fanning his face with their hands. He sang louder than anyone in the vicinity.

And, just when you thought it simply couldn't get any more spectacular, Liam and Neil Finn arrived on stage and everyone (Pearl Jam, the Finns, Ben Harper and EJ Barnes) sang Better Be Home Soon and the Split Enz classic I Got You.

As it was happening it felt like one of those moments you want to freeze in time in a space in your brain to pull out to tell people about years from now.

A woman next to me said ''wow, that must be it'' and started packing things away in her little backpack but then the band kicked into Alive and she shouted ''f...'' with great enthusiasm.

A drunk man found a shoe and threw it with glee.

Vedder didn't even need to sing most of Alive, the crowd taking over vocals for a good proportion.

The lights started to come on and then this amazingly diverse yet cohesive group of stellar musicians performed a cover of Neil Young's Rocking In the Free World that was simply epic. I'll never forget it.

It almost made up for the fact that they didn't play Daughter or Oceans (unless I was queueing for the Port-A-Grotties and missed it?)

After Yellow Ledbetter, Vedder promised they wouldn't leave it so long to come back next time before adding ''we'll be back in one or two years'' and ''this felt like home''.

We queued to leave. Someone shook Ben Hurley's hand. I wanted to go back around to the front and start all over again at the first queue. Instead I made sheep noises in the queue to get out the gate.

On the walk down the road to the car an enterprising young band were playing on the side of the road. They were pretty good. On ya for going to the trouble.

Sprawled near a tree, a bearded man had an array of Pearl Jam t-shirts lying on the ground.

LRRH spied a black one and nabbed one for $20.

Really, though, it's priceless.

With some of the bands involved having missed Thanksgiving to party with us, I, for one, would like to give a heartfelt thanks to all who helped make Pearl Jam's last show in the Southern Hemisphere completely out of this world.

The Press