Eddie Vedder at 3Arena, Dublin, 9th June 2017
Can a gig in front of a crowd of ten thousand be described as intimate? Missives issued in advance of Eddie Vedder’s sold out 3Arena show were keen to emphasise the “intimate nature” of the show with a view to curtailing the taking of photos and videos during the performance. Apparently it really annoys Eddie. A stern lady re-emphasises this message verbally just before the start of the show and sure enough security are patrolling the aisles, scolding any rule-breakers.
Truth be told, it does feel quite intimate. The stage is set-up like an olde-time musical basement with battered suitcases and a reel-to-reel recording unit. The stage techs are decked out in white lab coats for some reason. For this intimate solo show six or seven are required to keep things ticking over.
Vedder, looking remarkably clean-cut, is greeted to the stage by a standing ovation so expectations are clearly high. Picking up a Stratocaster he opens with two covers: Cat Stevens’ Trouble, which he originally recorded back in 2011 for his ‘Water On The Road’ live album; and Brain Damage, the Pink Floyd song. As he palm-mutes the electric guitar there is a slight sense of loss that the rest of the band are not there behind him.
Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town gives rise to the first big singalong of the night, with everyone joining in on the refrain of “hearts and thoughts / they fade away / fade away”. Two more Pearl Jam songs follow in the shape of Thumbing My Way and I Am Mine, keeping those old school fans happy. As he settles into his groove he moves into full raconteur mode, describing his arrival into Dublin on the plane with Glen Hansard (who was the support act) and drawing parallels between his adopted hometown of Seattle and Dublin. One is the Emerald City, the other in the Emerald Isle. He extols the virtues of cold coastal cities and their ability to foster music. Apparently himself and Hansard were drinking in The Gravediggers in Glasnevin the previous night with Eddie noting in his droll way that “there’s nothing like drinking the best pint you’ve ever had next to a graveyard to make you feel alive”.
While the ‘no phones’ rule is being remarkably well-respected the constant stream of patrons in and out of the bar and toilets is surely more annoying for Eddie, particularly during the quieter ukulele set, the highlight of which is his rendition of Sleeping By Myself for which he is joined onstage by the Red Limo String Quartet. This is followed by what was probably the set highlight in a strings-only performance of Jeremy, dedicated to Jeremy Corbyn’s election resurrection and with the slightly adjusted lyric of “Jeremy spoke about class today”.
After this came the ‘Into The Wild’ part of the set, complete with cheesy a looking fake campfire on the stage, the stand-out song being the mandolin-led Rise. When he talks about Trump he gets so angry he can barely get the words out, but he channels it into a seething rendition of Dylan’s Masters Of War. When one particular recounting of a discussion of the state of the world with a friend ends in the friend despairing “what is the f***** point?”, “a great f***** place to play in Dublin!” is the upbeat retort to the delight of the crowd.
Better Man and Porch have the masses back on their feet again. Instead of leaving the stage for the encore he interacts with the crowd, throwing a few picks and picking up a little girl for a chat. However, when his generosity extends to inviting an audience member on stage it backfires to an extent. Extended deliberations on what song they both know lead to the audience member breaking into Black. The crowd are delighted but the quartet are suddenly rushed back on stage and trying to catch up. Clearly this was being saved for later. The guy then has the bottle to take a selfie with Eddie mid-song, flouting his no camera rule right in his face. You almost have to admire him.
Glen Hansard then joins him on stage for an extended period during which their genuine friendship is readily apparent. Hansard’s Falling Slowly and Society from ‘Into The Wild’ sound great with their combined voices but the set then peters out into pub singalong mode with slightly ropey versions of Rockin’ In The Free World and The Auld Triangle. They even find time for street poet Stephen James Smith to recite his Dublin You Are. Generous as ever, perhaps too generous as the show is well over curfew at this point, Eddie clearly feels an affinity with this town. And the feeling is mutual.