Tickets for Eddie Vedder’s first Irish solo gig sold out in minutes, such is the pulling power of the Pearl Jam frontman. Heightened security following recent events mean lengthy queues of eager fans for the all seated event (the venue has a slightly reduced capacity for this show).
Support comes from a man known to the majority of the crowd, and carrying almost as high a profile as the headliner – Mr Glen Hansard. Playing to an expectant home crowd, he receives the warm welcome Dublin audiences excel at. On another night, he could easily be headlining the 3Arena, for tonight he’s more than happy to be playing support for his good friend.
Fans are still filtering in as he appears onstage, with the arena quickly filling up as the opening strains of “High Hope” starts proceedings. We’re treated to a solo rendition of The Frames “Revelate”, with Hansard’s passionate guitar playing and distinctive voice making it sound as huge as it would do with a full band backing him. “When Your Mind’s Made Up”, from Hansard’s Swell Season project is majestic, whilst a cover of Woodie Guthrie’s “Vigilante Man” follows a deserved berating of an audience member regarding the homeless situation in Ireland. An all too brief set (later events make up for it) concludes with “Way Back In The Way Back When”, and we’re teased with a brief snippet of Pearl Jam’s “Present Tense”.
As always Hansard doesn’t do quiet moments, the break in between each song filled with his usual witty storytelling. We also discover, Mammy Hansard doesn’t usually go to her son’s gigs these days, and is merely there “because she fancies Eddie!” He’s an extremely likeable character, always comes across as the kind of guy you’d love a few pints of Guinness with. His voice is huge, best appreciated in the live setting and has the amazing ability to produce an almighty racket with just it and battered guitar.
Eddie Vedder is close to a God in these parts. Having played the Point Depot with his band many, many times, tonight marks his first appearance in the altogether massively impressive 3Arena. Unlike Neil Young a few years back, he’s also well aware he’s familiar with the venue, whether through observation or being tipped off. I’d suspect the moment he drove up to it, he scratched his head for a few seconds with an air of recognition.
In 21 years of attending gigs (side note: my second gig ever was Pearl Jam in this very venue), I have never witnessed an artist receive a standing ovation before he has spoke, sang or played a note. It’s an amazing sight, and sums up the fever pitch anticipation of what lies ahead.
“Trouble” and “Brain Damage”, a Cat Stevens and Pink Floyd cover respectively kick things off for an epic 33 song set. As would be expected, four Pearl Jam covers in a row are met with rapturous applause and mass sing-alongs. “Thumbing My Way” and “I Am Mine” are perfectly suited to a more stripped back setup, whilst “Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town” (or something like that), receives one of the biggest responses of the evening.
For “Sleeping By Myself”, Vedder is joined by Hansard and the Red Limo String Quartet make a brief appearance. They stick around to accompany Eddie for a stunning rendition of “Jeremy”, the all seated crowd jumping to their feet, and no longer resting their aging knees. Every note is sung perfectly by the audience, a truly spectacular sight that personally ranks amongst my favourite ever gig moment.
Four songs from the Into The West soundtrack finishing up with “Rise” get a great response, and it’s evident the majority of those in attendance are not merely here for Pearl Jam covers. The singer, like the support act, is well known for story telling in between songs, and we’re entertained by various stories, many involving Dublin – and drinking. A haunting rendition of “Immortality” is met by a thunderous applause, as is “Better Man”, both songs being played either side of a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Masters Of War”. Amongst versions of songs from Vedder’s main band, we also get covers of Fugazi, Beatles and David Bowie songs.
The string quartet reappear for a performance of “Black”, ably assisted by an audience member, plucked out of the crowd by Vedder. A quick blast through “Lukin”, and the audience once again rises to its collective feet for “Just Breathe”. In fact that’s where they remain for the rest of the evening, the set not finishing until 11.30, one hour over schedule. Glen Hansard once again joins Eddie for “Sleepless Nights”, and sticks around for a joint version of his Oscar winning “Falling Slowly”. “The Auld Triangle” gets a VERY warm welcome, the Friday night audience in good spirits and quite happy to be part of a mass sing-song. Stephen James Smith is invited onstage to recite the wonderful “Dublin You Are” poem. Clearly understandably nervous, he quickly settles in to it, but is clearly relieved when it’s over, and he can join the rest of the night’s entertainers for a rousing version of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World” (preceded by one of a few mentions of Donald Trump).
Finally at 11.30, with the house lights on, and a group of grown up grungers worried about getting locked in a car park overnight, Vedder, Hansard and the quartet finish up with “Hard Sun”. A once in a lifetime experience, one of those “I was there” moments, and a room full of grinning gig goers buzzing from what they have just witnessed. 17 out of 10.