5 Unforgettable Moments of Pearl Jam in Stockholm
On July 3rd, Pearl Jam is headlining the Swedish version of the Lollapalooza festival in Stockholm. This will be my only PJ show this tour and my tenth in total. I’m not expecting anything out of the ordinary setlist wise, it being a festival show and considering this point of the band’s career. I’m honestly just happy to see them at “home”. However, I do expect Ed to show off his Swedish speaking skills, and if we’re lucky, maybe even a guest appearance by IDLES and/or Jerry Cantrell. No matter how the show turns out, the fact that they’re coming here is a good excuse for me to dig deeper into Pearl Jam’s history, and relationship with my home country Sweden and it’s capitol Stockholm.
Pearl Jam has played in Sweden a total of 6 times since 1992 (7 if you count Neil Jam in ’95). All the shows have been in Stockholm (ever heard of Gothenburg anyone?) and half of the shows have been played on the same date, the 28th of June. For the stat nerds out there, I can tell you that PJ has only played a show on that date five times in their history, six if you include Frankfurt from this past week, making Stockholm the city most associated with that date.
Myself, being born just a few weeks before PJ’s first visit to the city in 1992, have only seen them live the last two times they went here. So for this write-up, I asked myself the question of what makes Pearl Jam’s relationship with Stockholm?
Turns out considering it spans over 30 years, it involves a lot of moments, maybe not career-defining ones, but for sure significant for the different versions of Pearl Jam that has taken form over the years. For playing in a country that has given birth to music acts like The Hives, Robyn, Refused, Dungen and First Aid Kit (I don’t like to brag about my country but for music I’ll make an exception) Pearl Jam has never really clung on to that while playing in Sweden. Instead, their history here rather tells a tale of transformation, one where we get a glimpse of a unit just on the threshold of inevitable change, more than once. And where sometimes the time between the stops is long enough for both the crowd and the band to forget the bond that once was created, only to find it again after a long time. With that said the story also involves shoes being used as drinking vessels, some rare performances and a few museums!
02/07/92 Kool Kat Klub – “I can’t believe we made it here”
Pearl Jam starts off their journey in Sweden in the middle of the winter of 1992. After two shows in England, this is their third ever show in Europe. The band finds themselves in a dimly lit rock club in Stockholm called the Kool Kat Club, which after some research, apparently closed in ’94 and claims PJ’s visit there was one of the biggest highlights in the club’s history. In Sweden, Ten peaked at number 9 on the sales charts so the 300 lucky fans who managed to get there (or just happened to be there) that night was obviously a lucky bunch.
The whole show is actually available on YouTube and it’s probably the smallest stage I’ve ever seen the band play on (discounting that acoustic show in Switzerland). During the show Ed tells an honest story of how he had a friend when he was 16 who went to visit Sweden and how Eddie never thought he would come here because he could never afford it. He can’t believe he somehow made it here now. Typically for Ed at the time, you can really tell he’s trying to connect to the audience by being as humble and sincere as he can. Before a classic 1992 era performance of State of Love and Trust, Ed mentions that he read in the paper that the club was “about to explode or something, but if it does, we will at least fall into the water and it will cool us all of”.
06/25/92 – Moderna Museet – “I’m crazier than any of you fucks”
Pearl Jam’s second visit to Sweden came during an interesting period for the band. Just a few weeks after Pinkpop, and just one day before the infamous Roskilde show which resulted in members of the band getting into a fight with security, consequently cancelling the remaining Euro shows that tour. The band is in a great mood, playing a rare-for-the-time 110 minute (!) long show including a pre-set which premieres covers of Driven to Tears by The Police, and Hunters And Collectors track Throw Your Arms Around Me. It’s no surprise that this show is covered on the podcast in episode 73, because it’s full of great performances and highlights from the era.
The crowd is a bit rowdy with a lot of shenanigans going on. At one point Ed passes the mic into the pit, which leads an audience member to scream “I’m crazier than you!” several times into the mic. A few moments later a shoe gets thrown on stage (every great tradition has a start, right?) which then of course prompts Eddie to pour his beverage in it, proceeding to take a big swig from the shoe. He then tells the crowd a smirking “I’m crazier than any of you fucks!”.
Full performances from this show are not available on YouTube, however a long lost clip from Swedish TV is, which I highly recommend watching. For some reason, the speaker-voice in the clip calls Pearl Jam a cult band, which gives him a weird credit for apparently seeing into the future of the band. The awkward speaker voice aside, this clip gives us a nice peek behind the scenes at a pretty relaxed looking young band. You get to see clips of Ed and Mike being interviewed, as well as the aforementioned shoe incident.
During the show, someone steals belongings of the band’s backstage, including Ed’s collection of notebooks with lyric and song ideas, a sad occurrence which Ed makes sure to mention on later stops in Stockholm throughout the years. The show was originally scheduled for a smaller rock club in the city called Melody Club but was moved to an outdoor space near the Museum of Modern Art due to the popularity of Ten at the time. The show still feels small and loose and is played to a crowd of 1500, and this is perhaps the last time ever we see the band playing with the innocence and intimacy we usually associate with the first year and half of Pearl Jam. After the tumultuous Roskilde show the day after, Pearl Jam heads back to the US for the Lollapalooza Tour, and the rest is well known history. When they return to Stockholm one year later as an opener for Neil Young, they’re a completely different band.
06/28/93 Sjöhistoriska Museet – Tonight’s (not) the night
The band returns to Stockholm during a short run of shows in Scandinavia opening for none other than Uncle Neil in the summer of 1993. This time they’ve traded the garden of the Modern Art Museum for a bigger lawn outside the Naval Museum in Stockholm (museums were apparently the coolest places for concerts in Stockholm during the nineties). The show is short, and the band, particularly Ed, does not seem to want to engage with the crowd all that much. The innocent and open-hearted Eddie from just a year before is now long gone, and the little banter from stage that happens is mostly consisting of the band hyping the crowd for the main act. Eddie does however make sure to mention that last time they were here, some asshole, apparently an American, stole their belongings backstage.
The set is divided about 50/50 between Ten and tamed versions of Vs. songs. The set does however pick up during the end with a raging cover of Sonic Reducer and a beautiful version of Daughter. During the song, Ed appropriately decides to tag Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night, which leads to a sweet sing-along moment with the crowd. For the first time during the show, Ed actually seems to relax and take it all in before they hurry away from the stage. At the end of Neil’s set, the band apparently joins him for an outstanding version of Rockin’ In The Free World, a version which I have yet to find a recording of somewhere.
06/28/00 Sjöhistoriska Museet – “There’ll be plenty of time to clap later”
Skipping ahead to the Binaural Tour and the band’s show in Stockholm in 2000. Since the band skipped playing Scandinavia on their Euro tour 1996, this is the first time they’re back in seven years, not including Neil Jam in 95. As a throwback to the Museum of Modern Art show in 1992, Ed begins the evening by playing a five song pre-set before the opener came on. The section of songs starts off with an acoustic version of Last Kiss with a crew member named Shawn onstage, pretending to sing while Ed is hiding behind the rig. However, it’s a timid performance of perhaps the most underrated song in their catalogue that makes this pre-set special.
A beautiful, fragile version of Parting Ways marks the live debut of the song. It’s just Eddie and an electric guitar. The crowd starts clapping along to the intro which prompts him to ask for their complete silence while he’s playing; “there’ll be plenty of time to clap later”, he mumbles. The song was never played with any subsequent frequency after it’s live premiere, maybe Ed deemed it to personal and therefore wanted to try it out for himself before letting the full band play it.
The show once again takes place on the lawn outside the Naval Museum in Stockholm on a beautiful summer’s evening and Eddie makes short mentioning’s of the other times they’ve played in the city. The night is mostly dedicated to the music rather than the talking, with great performances including Rival, Insignificance and Go. When listening to the bootleg, it’s hard not to think about what would happen just two nights later in Roskilde.. Considering how history played out, it’s easy to over-contextualize Ed’s words when leaving the stage; “see you next time, if there’ll be a next time”. But fact of the matter is, just like in 1992, the Pearl Jam that visited Stockholm would be forever changed before they decided to return, over a decade later.
07/07/12 Ericsson Globe – “It’s been twelve years, why haven’t you called?”
For the last moment on this list, we jump forward to July 7, 2012. Although the band played in Stockholm again in 2014, the 2012 show will always be remembered as the triumphant return of Pearl Jam to Sweden. It was their first time back in twelve years, and my god how the waiting drove us mad.
Now that the band had ditched the outdoor museum venues, they opted for the majestic, architectural randomness that is the Ericsson Globe, which nowadays goes by Avicii Arena, making this their first indoor show in Sweden since the Kool Kat Club gig in 1992. The band returns full throttle playing a set full of throwbacks to their past history in the city.
With a few exceptions the setlist is not one of their most memorable by any means, it’s the crowd that makes this one special. Greeting the band back after so many years with long and loud claps and sing-alongs, there are many moments during the show where you can tell the band themselves seem almost surprised by the love from the crowd. For more insight into the band’s warm reception from the crowd this night, check out episode 166 of LO4L where Randy and John break it all down.
A few songs into the show, Ed pulls out a note and starts speaking Swedish. He says the following, noting the band’s absence the last decade:
“Jag kan inte fatta att det är tolv år sen vi sågs sist” (I can’t believe it’s been twelve years since we last met)
”Varför har ni inte ringt!?” (Why haven’t you called!?)
”Vi är jätteglada över att vara här och ni är snyggare än någonsin” (We’re really happy to be here and you guys look more beautiful than ever)
For me, being the first time seeing them in my home country, that small speech (however cheesy it was) was super emotional. There was my favorite singer in my favorite band, speaking to us 13000 fans in my native tongue. The feeling of being a part of this rousing crowd reflecting the energy to and from the band was one of the greatest moments in my life.
Two moments during the show where both the band and crowd shine is during Garden and All Those Yesterdays. The performance of Garden is really heavy and grounded, introduced by Ed as one of the songs being played at the (now sunken apparently) Kool Kat Klub in ‘92. All Those Yesterdays ends with a lovely moment when the crowd starts swaying their arms along to the song. At the end of the clip you can hear the once again humble Ed thanking the crowd for making the song beautiful.
When Pearl Jam hits the stage at Lollapalooza Stockholm in a few days, it will have been eight years since they last played in Sweden. From what we’ve seen so far from the band this tour is that they’ve changed their routine quite a bit again. I might not think it’s all for the better, but I also realize they are getting old(er) and that it’s a natural part of evolving. No matter what, I will go into this show with a stronger sense of the band’s history with Stockholm thanks to this small research project. And if the band decides to play Parting Ways as a random nod to the 2000 show, I will happily drink any beverage of choice from my shoe!