'I take the blame - its a new song'. Four songs in, with God's Dice just ticked off the song list and Eddie joking with a London crowd, their appetite for a Pearl Jam answered after four long years.
The night started well, The Monkeywrench proving to be a fine opening act, but almost everyone was there for the main event, which began with 'Of The Girl'. I thought from the time I saw them at the opening show in Lisbon that the band seemed really comfortable with the songs from the new album. As, has proved, this has become an opening favourite, Eddie picking up his maracas at one point, shaking to the groove of the tune.
This rather muted but cool beginning to the show is then enlivened by the rapid fire shots of Breakerfall and Grievance. Perhaps not as much as Lisbon, but the crowd are singing along, the audience along the sides of Wembley Arena, previously in the seats now on their feet. The excitement from those on the floor completes the atmosphere. Pearl Jam have made their arrival known.
God's Dice is followed in quick succession by Corduroy, Animal and Given To Fly, an audience-friendly mixture of recent tunes, and old favourites. Fingers are counting out the numbers, Eddie's forgetting the words, Jeff, Matt and Mike are pushing each other on. Watch their eyes meet, as they connect, as they play. Ah, the band. Stoney's grooving, with his usual shoes and shorts combo, Jeff's laying a solid foundation, but Matt and Mike are the ones laying an early claim for the title of MVP of the tour.
Almost as if to prove the point, I bring you the song that Eddie chooses, with a smirk, to introduce as 'er.......its called 'Don't let the sun down on me'.' For a moment I'm taken back to that horrible video of George Michael and Elton John at the same venue years before..but anyway, its 'Even Flow'. Everyone knows this song, but watch the end. Stone steps to the side, hands away from the fretboard, Eddie, mic at his side joins him and watches as Mike, Jeff and Matt play out the end of the song, stretching the song's structure to new unbelievable heights. Is it just me, no, its a shared thing, this is a newly confident band, revelling in their enjoyment, pushed on, ever onward by the magnificent Matt Cameron.
The song ends, the light fades, Mike steps up, and we're into 'NAIS', a song that he just owns. Its his. Eddie cracks open a bottle of wine, almost as if to toast Mike, and if none other this is one song that demands you to hear it live. I guess this track has a special place in my heart, having heard it acoustically at the Bridge School last year. Newly electric album, and now live, this song just soars. I remember the hairs on the back of neck raising as Mike took us through the ascending chords late in the tune at Shoreline, but this time its tenfold (no pun intended).
Daughter's up next, everyone knows the words and Eddie beckons us to 'sing with me' before letting out a euphoric 'rise above'. This is great, this is good, but things don't let up and we're into the Yield duo of Faithfull and MFC. Stone's smiling, but strangely standing out of the spotlight, Mike just hogs it, throwing his guitar to the ground of the latter song. Two very different characters but without either the band wouldn't be the same.
Wembley Stadium is just a few seconds walk from the Arena, so its quite fitting the arms in the audience should move Mexican wave-like during the 'arms up raised' verse of 'Wishlist'. A sweet song, and while some quarters would choose not to make any further comment on this ;), its well received by the audience. Up next is Do The Evolution. 'Admire me...' sings Eddie and I think we all do. Mikes on the floor at the end of this one. By the end of the evening its a fair assumption that he's climbed, walked, run and fallen over every inch of that Wembley stage.
The pacing of the show all night has had a logical progression to it, bring the audience to the boil, then simmering, then blow-torching. To demonstrate, let me tell that the next song is 'Black'. Still, after all these years, a great song and one few will ever tire of hearing, the crowd singing in unison with Eddie, 'dodo-do-dododo' as the song fades. The end? No. Its 'Alive', alright.
An exhausted audience find their second wind and the opening 'Sonnnn!' rings out. Loud! my notes note. Yep, my ears are still ringing at the thought. Once more, Jeff, Mike, Stone and Matt are providing the emotional foundation of this song, for Eddie to buils on, wrapped up in what he hears in front and behind him. The band play on, Eddie sits on the side of the stage, he beckons Pete (PJ security) over and sits on top this man mountain's shoulders. He's with the crowd, near the crowd, touching the hands outstretched. Is this '92 but with a 2000 edge? Back on stage, Ed asks for some applause for Pete. 'Let's hear it...'
Back on stage, the show is temporarily over. However, the roar of the audience, the stamping of the feet, ensure that the band return. 'Its turned out to be a nice night' notes Ed and to a great reception tells of how London is the city of the gods (see notes). 'Its like heaven, serious' he says. :)
Timeless Melody gets its first proper airing, having been noted at previous soundchecks, the band awash in light for this pretty little ditty by the quasi-legendary The La's. Insignificance follows but I'm sure there are people elsewhere better at elucidating at how special this song is. I may try again another time. For the third song in a row, Eddie's guitar remains strapped to his sweat-drench frame. Its 'Rearviewmirror' and its bedlam in the audience, and Mike's off on another run, playing to the crowd, the 'V' is truly flying. Stone's looking at him, eyebrows raised, as almost as if to say 'whats he up to now?!' :)
Betterman, with Save it for Later tag and I Got Shit are up next, Eddie recounting meeting fans after the Monkeywrench's Borderline show the previous night ;) Next, it may not be 'Thin Air' but according to Ed 'its Stone's song.' Go. But they don't. They remain for two more.
After a short break, Ed's playfully back on stage as he tells us that there is 'a song on an otherwise noisy record where I play ukele ... Matt calls it Grungele!' The audience are clapping in time, or that should that be out of time. Ed shouts 'speed up' as the clapping falters, but he makes it to the end, and the band are back to finish things up with 'Soldier of Love' and 'Yellow Ledbetter'.
Another very good show, many souls left there with their expectations met and perhaps exceeded. I remember walking out and thinking that as good as this show was, what was going to be in store for the the second night in London?