Pearl Jam pay homage to UK rock music during their biggest-ever London show

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Pearl Jam have played their biggest-ever London show as they kicked-off the final weekend of Hyde Park gigs.

Frontman Eddie Vedder told the 60,000-strong crowd that they were the “best crowd we’ve ever had” in the UK, as a warm summer evening at the British Summer Time (BST) festival gave way to mass sing-a-longs.

The US grunge stars paid homage to the country they were performing in, slotting in Black Sabbath riffs and Sex Pistols choruses into their own numbers, and playing a Public Image Limited cover.

After opening with the catchy Better Man, the only song from 1994’s Vitalogy album contained in the setlist, Vedder seemed genuinely choked as he greeted the sea of people for the first time on Friday evening.

Pearl Jam Hyde Park BST
Pearl Jam’s Hyde Park headlining slot was their biggest-ever show in London (Ian West/PA)

He recalled the band coming to the UK to mix their debut album, the 1991 grunge classic Ten, and spending time in London, visiting Camden in the north of the city to buy bootleg tapes.

One of the tapes Vedder said he purchased and “wore out” due to playing it so often was alternative rock band Pixies’ Live At Brixton – the main support act on Friday.

“To share a stage with them, in this country, in this town – that feels special,” the Chicagoan told fans.

It is a credit to the Seattle band’s refusal to become a greatest hits touring act that they ensured there were plenty of songs from the latter half of their career during the 22-song set.

They played three songs from Gigaton, their climate change-focused latest record, including Quick Escape, which came with a twist as they swung into God Save The Queen to end.

The show properly took flight with the arrival of Even Flow, one of the singles off multi-million selling Ten that showed off its mass lyrical appeal.

Fan-favourite Daughter soon followed, with Vedder’s distinctive deep vocal performance enticing the crowd to join in the singing before the song morphed into a funk-style jam led by guitarist Mike McCready.

Vedder was in a playful mood during the evening, taking a jibe at the fans in the hospitality stand – “We’d like to say hello to the Wimbledon section” – and likening the “beautiful” pink-flooded sunset to something akin to a drug trip.

There were also political messages, rallying against gun manufacturers following a spate of mass shootings in America and arguing it should be a “criminal offence” to spread misinformation.

Thankfully, the band of three decades – made up by rhythm guitar player Stone Gossard, bassist Jeff Ament and drummer Matt Cameron – let the music do most of the talking, with Porch and its extended solo a particular high point of the night.

McCready’s plucking brooded and lingered, incorporating Jimi Hendrix-esque reverb while Vedder ran to and from each side of the lengthy Great Oak Stage, looking far fitter than the average 57-year-old.

Pearl Jam Hyde Park BST
Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder leads the band during their Hyde Park performance (Ian West/PA)

The British connection was referenced again during the encore as Vedder played with Simon Townshend, the younger brother of The Who guitarist Pete Townshend, duetting on the guest’s 1983 song I’m The Answer.

Emotion-dripped versions of Jeremy and Alive helped bring the encore to a boil as those gathered fired every word back.

One colossal rendition of Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World later – with tennis ace John McEnroe back for another appearance on the guitar at Hyde Park following his cameo with Eagles – and the band wrapped-up their two-hour set.

The good news for those with any lungs and stamina left is that the five-piece play again on Saturday evening at the same venue, before new wave band Duran Duran close this year’s BST on Sunday evening.

The festival has seen Adele sell-out two nights, while Sir Elton John and The Rolling Stones have also played to huge audiences.

Along with Pixies, Pearl Jam were supported by Cat Power, White Reaper, The Murder Capital, The Glorious Sons, Simon Townshend, La Luz, Sick Joy, October Drift, Fatherson, Life, Dream Nails, and Daytime TV.

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