PopMatters did a review of Pearl Jam’s set at Mad Cool Festival and according to them, rather than seeing Pearl Jam as a band “for the young and rebellious,” they saw their fans as 30-4 year olds crying their heart out. Here is their full review of their set at the festival:
A friend said this to me dismissively a couple of days before the show. The big show. The biggest of the big rock shows. A crowd wider than the horizon itself congregates across the entire festival premises. The people are devoted and respectful, no pushing or shoving, only love and support for one another. Eddie Vedder knows this. As he quietly emerges on the stage and starts chanting “ooooooh oooooooh” to the intro to “Release”, the ground trembles. It takes less than three minutes for him to plead screamingly, “I’ll hold the pain, release me”, and thousands are already crying, voices cracked, souls most likely too. I think of what my friend had said to me about Pearl Jam being a band for the young and the rebellious, but all I see is the 30-, or 40-year-olds who are crying their hearts out.
By the time I start weeping to “Better Man”, thinking of a friend experiencing domestic violence with nobody being able to really help her, I know for a fact that this isn’t a song one can understand as a teenager. As the band got older, as their lives changed, so did their songs – Eddie Vedder has always appeared to be an old soul, wise beyond his years, but his songs move both 15- and 50-year-olds. In any case, people of all ages and profiles weep together, hugging one another throughout the show. It is a deeply moving, liberating experience; it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that there is a religious quality to it.
“Given to Fly” elicits another massive singalong, and as “Lukin”, “Corduroy” and “Why Go” appear on a massive, 24-song set, Mike McCready demonstrates his prodigious skills yet again – his guitar arrangements and solos imbue Pearl Jam with qualities of hard rock, metal, punk, even country and blues bands. It is a delight to witness his interpretation of songs’ basic melodies, time after time. After old crowd favorites, “Animal” and “Even Flow”, “Mind Your Manners” is the brilliant, hardcore spitfire single that demonstrates just how relevant Pearl Jam still are. “What they’ve taken is more than a vow, they’ve taken your innocence, and then they throw them on a burning fire, all along they’re sayin’ mind your manners,” growls Vedder, while the masses go bonkers.
But there is a lot more to Vedder’s acute sense of social injustice than just the lyrics – midway through the show, a prerecorded message from Vedder’s friend, Javier Bardem, and Luis Tosar, another great of the Spanish cinema, hits us over the head like a mallet. “No matter if she’s smiling, no matter how much fun the night was, if she says ‘no’, that means ‘no’.” The sexual harassment awareness video goes on as the crowd cheers. It’s deeply disturbing to know that in 2018 we still need a PSA appealing to one’s common sense, but we do – and Pearl Jam know it. After one more thundering singalong to “Jeremy”, Vedder addresses the crowd to say that he wishes to dedicate a song to all the women, women who make the world go round, and “Can’t Deny Me” begins. It’s Pearl Jam’s first single since their 10th studio album, Lightning Bolt, came out in 2013 and it is yet another protest song, a song of great anger and yet hope, mirroring the majority of band’s most potent songs. While almost certainly a stab aimed at Donald Trump, the song also hits close to home for most women, who feel oppressed by the society at large, not just influential politicians.
“Do the Evolution” allows drummer Matt Cameron and bassist Jeff Ament to have some fun, before Vedder grabs the acoustic guitar for a devastating rendition of “Better Man”. An hour and a half in, a seven-minute version of “Porch” is one more reason to cry and lose breath to loud singing. Vedder speaks emotionally between songs, reading notes written for him in Spanish. He is an emotional, honest man and tonight his words resonate with a particular vulnerability, the quality that made him and Pearl Jam such powerhouses in an otherwise hyper-masculine genre. Perhaps they rings this way every night – maybe the wounds never heal, or maybe he just does a phenomenal job. Ultimately it doesn’t matter, the end result is equally poignant in both cases.
Encore commences on a brighter note, as Vedder reminisces about the wedding of his “dear friends”, Spaniards Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz. Speaking about the “great love”, the love that moves mountains, love greater than the oceans and the sky itself, he declares he expects the two actors to stay married for “a long, long time”, before launching “Just Breathe”. Tears are noticeable on many faces again, but if the entirety of the show was packed with intense emotion, the rest of the encore smashes us to smithereens. “Black” and “State of Love and Trust” completely exhaust the last ounces of feels. As Vedder wails “Lo siento” (I’m sorry) toward the end of “Black”, drops of liquid stream down his cheeks. Could be sweat, could be tears as well. Among the great qualities of Pearl Jam is that live their performances lose nothing of the intimacy and personal appeal, despite habitually taking place in stadia, with nearly 100,000 people present every time.
“Rearviewmirror” and “Alive” are the stellar closers one can only wish for, angry yet hopeful, eliciting more enormous singalongs, and leaving us all with cracked, raspy voices. Neil Young’s “Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World” is merely an adequate coda to Vedder’s story about overcoming racism, homophobia and class differences. “I want you to know that you’re old and you’re dying, and your ideas are gonna die with you, fuckers. Your ideas are dying,” said Vedder to nobody in particular during a speech about discrimination and social abuse.
Go HERE to see their full review of the festival