Pearl Jam Live Review: Seattle vets make an epic return to Dublin

Fourteen years after their last trip to the Irish capital, Pearl Jam more than make up for their absence

Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, Dublin 22 June 2024

by Pat Carty |
Updated on

Pearl Jam

Marlay Park, Dublin, June 22, 2024

“Good evening, how’ve you been?” smiles Eddie Vedder. “It’s been a while...”  It’s been fourteen years to be exact since Pearl Jam last played Dublin, in the old O2 Arena. That night they attacked the stage like a gang of young hopefuls looking for notice rather than one of the biggest bands in the world. Tonight, on a pleasingly rain-free evening in the open air of Marlay Park on the other side of the city, they’re even better.

Perhaps aware of the sense of occasion, Seattle’s last men standing walked on stage earlier this evening as a virtual red curtain pulls back to white. The opening jangle of Release from their 1991 debut Ten rolls in gently and when Vedder reaches the line, “I’ll ride the wave, where it takes MEEE!”, it’s evident that his voice has lost little in the intervening thirty three years, never mind fourteen.

Pearl Jam’s setlists from the American leg of the Dark Matter tour were so gloriously varied, that tonight anything could be on the way. An early showing for Yield’s Low Light is a bit of a curveball, lovely as it is, but An Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town is met with a screaming, rapturous response.

Corduroy from ‘94’s Vitalogy is driven almost single-handedly by Matt Cameron (“One of the greatest drummers on the planet” Vedder not incorrectly states), giving his kit the kind of beating that would make him top dog in any prison yard, then Vedder triumphs over a bout of breathlessness to deliver an anthemic Given To Fly before we get to the first cut from the new record.

Dark Matter is Pearl Jam’s strongest collection since 2009’s BackSpacer, coincidentally the record they were promoting the last time they were here, although that doesn’t get a look-in this evening. Perhaps that’s down to hiring Andrew Watt to work the faders, a man who can pull late-period gems out of rock crags The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and Ozzy Osbourne, or it could simply be the strength of songs like Scared Of Fear or the furious React, Respond, which here sounding bizarrely like a frenzied run at Steely Dan’s Show Biz Kids (Stone Gossard’s starting to look a bit like Donald Fagen from a distance too). Whatever it is, it’s rare that material from a band’s twelfth album, especially Wreckage, their best single in years, slots in so seamlessly alongside songs of a thirty year vintage.

Vedder’s still slightly out of breath so, blaming jetlag, he lets Mike McCready dazzle us with a fret-burning version of Van Halen’s Eruption. Wearing shades and Thin Lizzy t-shirt with a shock of white hair, McCready looks the part of the rock star on stage, as opposed to Vedder’s casual look of a mate helping to move your furniture at the weekend, and the guitarist has hands of lightning. Later in the set, the screen blurs his finger as he navigates another wah-wah wig out, but it’s unnecessary as they’re moving so fast, they’re already out of focus. If music hadn’t worked out for him, he could have had a lucrative career as a pickpocket.

While Yield’s Wishlist is a slight misstep in terms of pace, Even Flow, Daughter (with a quote from Fugazi’s Suggestion) and Jeremy are like taking out barrelled fish with a nuke.  Again, Dark Matter, heavy as a small planet, slots into the above without any visible join. Vedder’s caught his breath, he’s bouncing like a boxer, and the crowd are hopping with him as Jeff Ament’s bass channels the thunderous noise of John Entwistle.

Things go a bit Pink Floyd for Upper Hand, but it’s hard to think of a better way to end the main set than with the hattrick of Better Man (Vedder doing Pete Townshend windmills on his Telecaster), a deeply soulful Black (McCready going all Prince on Purple Rain) and Porch, in which the guitarist practically loses his mind as Vedder bends over backwards.

There’s very little break before Vedder returns to the stage alone. He’s been in superb form all evening, wishing a young fan a happy eleventh birthday, shaking hands with security guards, calling out for change after witnessing protests over the Natasha O’Brien case, touchingly dedicating a song to the grieving family of Amelia Ferguson, reminiscing about pal Glen Hansard’s mother, confessing to nervousness playing in a town where 10,000 audience members might be better musicians than he is, and reading new lyrics he scribbled on a hotel napkin. He recalls playing in Slane with Neil Young when Shane MacGowan broke into their dressing room to steal drink and dedicates a beautiful solo run at Warren Zevon’s Keep Me In Your Heart to the memory of both Shane and Sinéad O’Connor.

The band gather back around him and Stone Gossard’s rhythm guitar, Pearl Jam’s secret weapon if a band this size can have such a thing, leads them into Not For You. Conscious that curfew is approaching, they waste no time moving on to Why Go and an angry Do The Evolution as the screens bombards us with jagged imagery. Setting Sun is as convincing here as it is closing Dark Matter but they’re still not finished. Alive into Young's Rockin’ In The Free World kicks like a mule.

Even in a set as rich as this, one might wonder how can Pearl Jam still leave out songs like Rearviewmirror, Animal, Amongst The Waves, Who You Are and many more which other bands would kill for and have no one complaining. While Vedder might tell us that not every place sings like Dublin and that it’s easier to ride on a great wave, a crowd only reacts like this when gifted with something truly special. Just make sure we don’t have to wait fourteen years before the next time.

Setlist

Release

Low Light

Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town

Corduroy

Given To Fly

Scared Of Fear

Eruption

React, Respond

Wreckage

Wishlist

Even Flow

Dark Matter

Daughter

Jeremy

Upper Hand

Better Man

Black

Porch

Encore:

Keep Me In Your Heart

Not For You

Why Go

Do The Evolution

Setting Sun

Alive

Rockin’ In The Free World

Picture: Kieran Frost/Getty

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