It’s been a good year so far for Mancunian Pearl Jam fans, with the band playing their only two UK headline shows (not counting festivals) in our city, and now having Eddie Vedder return with his ukulele for another fantastic performance a month later.
He even jokes about the amount of time he’s spent in Manchester this year, as well as how the constant rain and lack of sunshine make it feel like Seattle. It’s an observation Chris Cornell also made in his show at The Lowry last month, so hopefully they’ll both keep coming back to their ‘sister city’, because it has been a privilege to see both of their solo acoustic shows.
Like Cornell’s Songbook tour, Vedder spends time chatting, bringing people up on stage (in this case a Dutch fan he met at the airport) and playing a mixture of songs from his solo career and from his band, as well as a few covers (coincidentally, both played songs by Tom Waits and The Beatles). It was a great blend of songs and I had been particularly excited to hear music from his Into The Wild soundtrack, which is one of my favourite albums of the last few years.
He played a cluster of them mid-set, with a lovely backdrop photo of a tent (which you can see in the photo with this review) and they were just as great as I had hoped, particularly No Ceiling and Guaranteed, while fantastic support act Glen Hansard joined him for Society. A lot of his solo songs are quite simple and short, particularly the ukulele tracks, and this helps the evening flow as well as meaning that we got to hear an impressive 30 songs in total.
Some of them had a lot of meaning to him, as he dedicated Long Road to the recently-departed Dennis Fremion of the Frogs, and Satellite to the West Memphis Three, describing the day they were released from prison as one of the best of his life. Of course, some of the songs that go down best with the crowd are Pearl Jam ones, like I Am Mine, a fiery Sometimes, an electric Crazy Mary (a cover, sure, but very much associated with them), and three of the best tracks from Backspacer – Unthought Known, Speed Of Sound and The End.
Long Road had been the first to get some audience singing and both Porch and Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town seem to genuinely blow Vedder away with the volume, with the crowd on their feet and bellowing along in a manner very unbecoming to a little acoustic show. Hansard had experienced a problem with crowd noise during his set – most likely coming from the bar at the back rather than people just not listening – and had dealt with it by unplugging his guitar and microphone and continuing his song at the front of the stage, and this ‘totally unplugged’ trick worked beautifully later on as he joined Vedder for a cover of Sleepless Nights by the Everly Brothers, just stood at the front with no microphones and only an unplugged ukulele.
They also played his excellent Falling Slowly from the Once soundtrack together (how often do you see a support act join the main act onstage to perform one of their own songs?) and he was back again for the grand finale of Hard Sun from Into The Wild, with Vedder standing up to play his electric guitar as smoke rolled across the stage. Pretty rockin’ end for a solo acoustic show, and this was a night that was possibly the equal of the Pearl Jam gig I saw last month, if not slightly more special. Hopefully it won’t be long for Eddie (with or without his band) comes back to his second home.