With a roaring 3 ½ hour set in Leeds on Tuesday, hopes were high for a repeat in Milton Keynes, where a little more than the 13,500 people in attendance will get to see Pearl Jam. Tickets have not sold out, and at the beginning of the day, although long queues snake around before the doors open at 2pm, there is nowhere near 65,000 people here. Just wait until later on though, when the fans come out in full force…
With the doors opening two hours before the bands are due on, there is nothing to do except go to the bar and try and get in there early for the much sort after merchandise. At a fiver a pint (which is extortionate, you can collect 10 empty cups for a pound return but still), there is little to do. Maybe those in the know stayed outside for a while before BRMCs set. Those that were here though got a nice surprise as Eddie Vedder took to the stage to perform a solo acoustic version of 'Porch'. The crowd swelled to the front, but alas it was just for one song as he introduced OFF!
This supergroup were a surprise addition to me, as I knew BRMC were here but thought we had a long wait before the music started. Thanks to Eddie and these guys we were no longer twiddling our thumbs! Keith Morris of Black Flag / Circle Jerks, Dimitri Coats from Burning Bridges, Redd Kross' Steven Shane McDonald and Rocket From The Crypts Mario Rubalcaba all make up this hardcore punk band.
They power though song after song, some with no gaps in what so ever. 'Borrow And Bomb' and 'I've Got News For You' are the only names I catch, while Morris crosses between snarls like the Sex Pistols Rotten and one way conversations like The Hold Steady's Craig Finn. McCready sports a BRMC t shirt, and Vedder wears and Off! T-shirt, so you know who chose who!
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are on next, later than scheduled. Mike McCready pops onstage to introduce them (before returning near the end of their set to play guitar on 'Conscience Killer)'. They go straight into The Call's 'Let The Day Begin' then it's through a shorter set than Off! (mainly because the Californian rock band play there songs a little slower). 'Ain't No Easy Way', 'Whatever Happened To My Rock And Roll' and 'Weight Of The World' are highlights.
The crowd is indeed growing for Pearl Jam now. The sides of the bowl are full of people basking in the sun shining through the clouds. Many are rushing to the food stalls, of which there is a broad selection since the last time I visited this amphitheatre. Argentinean steaks, noodles, burgers, chicken, vegetarian, donuts, it all seems to be catered for. People are rushing before the main show for the other human need too; the problem here being that for people down the front end of the bowl, the loos are behind the line of trees that close in the circle and are a good walk around to the sides. Stewards are trying to stop men and woman going along the tree line but are failing. My advice… move them closer to either side of the stage area. There is a concrete path so getting cleaning transport to them is not an issue. That's the only way to reduce this, just saying…
Back to the music… Pearl Jam take to the stage a little after their 7.30pm starting time, so we won't quite get 3 ½ hours tonight. However we get 3 hours so it's not far off! And there are two encores filled with many guest appearances…
Simon Townsend, brother of The Who's Pete, joins Eddie to play acoustic guitar to 'I'm The Answer', Simon's own tune. Dhani Harrison, George's son, comes onstage to help cover The Beatle's 'Rain'. Luckily the rain stopped before the show, with the ground just dry enough to sit on, and it held off throughout. To finish the show and the second encore it's time for 'Rockin' In The Free World' by Neil Young, featuring members of Off! And Matt Cameron's son Ray on guitar.
The rest of the set is a total mix of the bands back catalogue, one of the reasons I and many others see this band so many times on a single tour. No set is ever alike. The rarities, a lot of which were at Leeds for some earlier in the week, are changed. Personally hearing 'Ten' B-side 'Wash' and 'Chloe Dancer / Crown Of Thrones (originally by Mother Love Bone) are my holy grails for the set. Add to that 'Footsteps' and over the past week fans at both shows get to hear a fragmented version of Eddie's Mamasan Trilogy ('Alive', 'Once' (in Leeds) and 'Footsteps'). Other favourites are 'Corduroy', 'Nothingman', 'Betterman', and another airing of 'Porch'!
Eddie is in comedy mode, seeing the sign for “4 pints and a carrier, £20” he says “You get a carrier who brings it to wherever you are? This is a posh gig!” He also mentions that the weather here is like a nice day in Seattle, and tells the crowd to look out for the women first in the pit. “If you weigh the same as say, 4 to 5 people, then you shouldn't crowdsurf” he jests with one surfer. The banter turns serious for 'Daughter' however as Vedder has a passionate rant about people having bombs dropped on them, before going into Edwin Starr's 'War'.
The 10.30pm curfew is forgotten about, and the band Rock In The Free World until 10.55pm, for the second time this week hitting an over 30 song setlist. The gig can be heard for miles, the Bowl is now full of fans, the rain has still held off; it was a most superb gig. PJ's 30th UK gig in fact. Here's to 30 more!
Brain Of J
Mind Your Manners
Do the Evolution
Nothing as It Seems
Given to Fly
Let the Records Play
Spin the Black Circle
I'm the Answer
Chloe Dancer /Crown of Thornes
Rockin' in the Free World
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