Pearl Jam

support Idles
author PP date 05/07/22 venue Royal Arena, Copenhagen, DEN

It has been quite a while since Pearl Jam last played here in Denmark - ten years if my memory serves right. The venue has doubled in size since then from Forum to Royal Arena, but they could've easily upgraded to Parken. The show has been sold out almost ever since it was initially announced three years ago. They were originally scheduled to play two years ago, one day prior to the 20th anniversary of their tragic Roskilde performance where nine fans lost their lives which led to the introduction of the pit system at the festival. Needless to say, this is a special show and a special tour for the band as a result, which is also why their setlist has been changing on a nightly basis leading up to this date to give them the flexibility to play exactly the songs that feel right on a given evening. The Ten Club faithful - as the Pearl Jam fan club members are known - are here early as well, and tightly fill up the vast majority of the floor long before Idles are due to start their support set. Talk about a tough crowd, eh?

Idles

Three days ago, Idles played one of the best shows at this year's Roskilde Festival. The 5.000-capacity Avalon was packed to its limits and then some, with an electrifying atmosphere and a crowd that simply went apeshit to their raucous form of unmelodious post-punk. Today, they're playing in front of a Pearl Jam audience that looks as if they couldn't care less for Joe Talbot's antics on stage. "Colossus" opens the set with its lengthy, off-tune spoken word-esque segments which receive almost no applause from the fifteen thousand people at the venue so far. "I know this isn't our crowd... but this is our crowd, we're all human beings here trying to spread the love", Talbot attempts, before requesting the crowd to split open for a wall of death. "It's happening... it's happening... do it", he eggs them on, but nothing happens. It's quite a radical contrast to the craziness from just a few days prior because here, the crowd is standing literally dead still and not responding to anything the band does on stage.

Idles - Photo by Jacob Dinesen / Devilution.dk

Idles try their best at generating an atmosphere: their energy on stage is admirable with plenty of swirling jumps and guitarists thrashing around the stage - even making it into the crowd at one point. "Mr. Motivator" and "Mother, both tracks that drew a thunderous response at Roskilde Festival, are best described as Idles delivering a performance exactly as they did a few days ago, but where the crowd is completely dead this time.

Unfortunately, the lack of a crowd dynamic exposes their off-tune post-punk bare: without the crowd participation, the songs just aren't interesting enough to stand on their own feet. And that is despite the band displaying a flurry of energy on stage throughout. Sure, towards the end, even the Pearl Jam crowd picks up a little on why Idles are one of the most hyped bands in the genre right now, but it's too little, too late. It's a performance where Idles give it their all and get nothing in return.

Setlist:

  • 1. Colossus
  • 2. Car Crash
  • 3. Mr. Motivator
  • 4. Mother
  • 5. Samaritans
  • 6. Never Fight A Man With A Perm
  • 7. Crawl!
  • 8. Danny Nedelko
  • 9. Rottweiler

Pearl Jam

Typical bands visiting Royal Arena wrap the scene in bombastic production, taking full advantage of all facets that the multi-arena has to offer. Not so with Pearl Jam, who plays the first couple of songs on a scene that's almost pitch-black dark. If you're not standing up front in the first few rows, you're not about to catch a glimpse of Eddie Vedder, not even on the two small screens set up on both sides of the stage. But then again, Pearl Jam is a band that has never been about that. They've always been about the music and tonight's performance is a masterclass in how to generate an incredibly special and welcoming atmosphere in a concert where you're not necessarily going after your biggest hits.

Pearl Jam - Photo by Jacob Dinesen / Devilution.dk

Indeed, for the first twenty minutes, the band rarely touches the mainstream fan favorites, instead taking us through deeper cuts from their back catalogue from the beginning of the 90s. We're talking "Release", "Animal", "Last Exit", "Lukin" and "Corduroy" right off the bat. The Ten Club faithful up front are one of the most dedicated crowds in the world, so the beginning of the set feels like a special showcase for those fans only. If you're here for just "Even Flow" and perhaps "Alive" and "Better Man", you're gonna be in waiting mode for quite some time. Or that's at least how it could go.

Instead, Eddie Vedder's persona on stage is one of warmth and pure honesty. It's a raw display of emotion of the kind rarely seen these days, as he sips from a bottle of wine to hydrate in between his surprisingly energetic performance. He's bouncing like a rabbit on stage, swirling around, running back and forth, just like their lead guitarist Mike McCready, who storms from one edge of the scene to another to play solo bits right in front of drooling fans. He even utilizes his face, the guitar amps, the floor, and other features for soloing during the set in a wild display of grunge energy at its finest. Both are drenched in sweat in no time, showcasing the passion they have for their songs even after all this time.

The setlist then continues to switch between material from their latest album "Gigaton" and old cuts from "Ten" and "Vs." to the delight of hardcore Pearl Jam fans, but it is between the songs where the magic starts to happen and they start capturing the entire crowd little by little into a sphere of love and humble honesty. First, they give a toast to Idles, with Vedder arguing their albums are four of the greatest albums to have come out in the last five years. Later, they discuss how happy they are to be in the second happiest country in the world but do so in a particularly charismatic and loving manner.

Pearl Jam - Photo by Jacob Dinesen / Devilution.dk

The minimalist production behind them allows us to focus exclusively on the songs and on the band's persona on stage. For example, during "Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town", Vedder casually suggests "Let's do this one bit alone" to allow the crowd to fully take over the song. Sure, it's not an arena-wide anthemic sing-along like "Even Flow" a couple of tracks later, but it's a trust dynamic between the floor and the band that starts rubbing on the crowd up at the seats as well.

During "Daughter", Eddie Vedder works in a speech about women's rights towards the end of the song in an apparent commentary on what's going on in the United States. It doesn't feel tired rather than as genuine sorrow, which gives songs that follow, "Never Destination" and especially "Jeremy" just that much more power.

Someone in the front row has been waving an "Inside Job" banner, and Vedder gladly fulfills the fan's request by dropping "Down" and playing this in its stead. Later the same is done to get "Black" on the setlist.

But where the Pearl Jam set goes from good to extraordinary is just before "Love Boat Captain". This is a song that was written about the Roskilde Festival tragedy that happened during their show 22 years ago. Here, the band first asks to shut down all lights in the venue, so we all bring up our phone torches to light the venue up as if it was a vigil. He then spends a long time describing how the experience was for the band, how there was a time for Pearl Jam before that event, and how there is a time after. It has clearly affected the band deeply, as Vedder tells us they're so grateful to have gotten to know the families of the victims and even the grandsons and granddaughters of some of the families affected back then. He speaks about how they visited the memorial, about the trees there, and much more in what feels like an incredibly warm, personal experience not just for Vedder but for Royal Arena itself.

It's a moment where the 20.000 capacity venue shrinks to feeling like an intimate club, which is something that has been gradually happening throughout the set already. With one grunge anthem after another without having to reach into sing-along classics, the band's charisma and raw honesty create a unique ambiance, unlike nothing I've experienced at this scale before.

In other words, it's a slow buildup that finishes in an experience that you don't want to end. They even talk about the Fields shooting that happened a few days ago and tell us how reprehensible it is that US elected representatives are using it as an example of how strict gun laws don't work in a reference to several republicans echoing this line of argument on Twitter.

Two and a half hours later, the band finishes off an incredible performance with "Better Man" and "Alive" to a thunderous response from Royal Arena. Sure, you can argue that the Neil Young cover of "Rockin' In The Free World" feels misplaced in such a fans-only experience as tonight, where they could have added perhaps "Life Wasted", "Nothingman" or another classic instead. But overall, Pearl Jam managed to melt down the hearts and minds of Royal Arena in what feels like a tailor-made set just for the Danish crowd. What a show.

9

Setlist:

  • 1. Release
  • 2. Animal
  • 3. Last Exit
  • 4. Lukin
  • 5. Corduroy
  • 6. Retrograde
  • 7. Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
  • 8. Garden
  • 9. Dance Of The Clairvoyants
  • 10. Even Flow
  • 11. Daughter
  • 12. Never Destination
  • 13. Jeremy
  • 14. Inside Job
  • 15. Do the Evolution
  • 16. Black
  • 17. Love Boat Captain
  • 18. Porch
  • --Encore--
  • 19. Better Man
  • 20. Alive
  • 21. Rockin' in the Free World (Neil Young cover)

Photos by: Jacob Dinesen / Devilution.dk

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