5 Unforgettable Moments of Pearl Jam in Prague
The band has visited the city of Prague in Czechia (Czech Republic) five times to date. Can that yield 5 top moments? Absolutely.
Pearl Jam’s history in the city began much like most of their early career, rough and totally unpredictable. For some modern geo-historical perspective, Pearl Jam has been a band longer than Czechia (where Prague is the Capital) has been a country. Czechoslovakia gained democratic liberal independence during the Velvet Revolution, which began on November 17, 1989, in a non-violent transition of governmental power. Czechia and Slovakia would break apart into independent states officially on January 1, 1993. Pearl Jam rolled into the Czech Republic for the first time during the European No Code tour of 1996 on November 15. And by rolled in, I mean they were lucky to get there and we are all fortunate a show happened at all.
11/15/1996 – Sports Hall Prague – Better Late Than Never
Due to a snowstorm and treacherous roadways, the crew and the band arrived at the venue very late, and the crew had to set up in about an hour, The Fastbacks did not open that night, and Pearl Jam hit the stage roughly two hours later than expected.
Amazingly, this show at The Sports Hall (estimated capacity around 2,500) got captured on a fairly decent audience tape, as well as being recorded on VHS. For the setlist and stat nerds among us, the set is a work of art, with a Vs. and Vitalogy opening tracks waltz of Go, Last Exit, Animal, and Spin the Black Circle. This gives way to 4 tracks from No Code, and it’s off to the races from there.
The “moment” of the show might as well be the show itself, but the closer takes the cake. Porch circa 1996 is a more space blues rock jam a la Pink Floyd than the organized musical chaos of the earlier tours. Still, this version is mighty and showcases Mike McCready during one of his most interesting phases as a guitar player. And we also get Ed antics, climbing the left stage lighting tower to sit up in his tree for the song’s climax.
6/14/2000 – Paegas Arena – Four Year Absence
Returning in 2000 for the Binaural tour, the band moved to Sportovní hala, newly christened the Paegas Arena. They brought a mixed setlist to most nights on the European leg of the tour, often featuring a number of tracks from both Yield as well as Binaural, having not toured the continent since ’96. As a standout this night, we look to the live debut of Sleight of Hand which launches the evening’s encore. Over the years, encore 1 is where the song would be played 60% of the time, and six other times in 2000 it would open the encore as it did on this first-ever performance.
9/22/2006 – Sazka Arena – Six Year Absence
After a six year absence, Pearl Jam returned to the city on September 22, 2006 in support of their self-titled release at what was then known as Sazka Arena, now O2. Yes, they did the ‘Mega Man’ quintet – Dead Man, Man of the Hour, Nothingman, Leatherman, Better Man – but this night captures the essence of one of their all time classics taken to a whole new level on the ’06 tour, Even Flow, with the guitar pyrotechnics of Mike McCready punctuated with the backbeat kit breakdown of Matt Cameron. You think you know Even Flow, but…
7/2/2012 – O2 Arena – Another Six Year Absence?
The city would again have to wait six years before a Euro tour would bring the band back to the O2 on July 2, 2012. The show features a slew of tour debuts and a couple of slumbering bust outs, the most noteworthy of which is the return of Of the Girl after a 46 show hiatus. At this stage of the band’s career, over 60% of the song’s appearances had occurred during the 2000 tour in support of Binaural. The song had never appeared outside of the main set until now, on this night it gets its only appearance opening the encore. Splendid.
7/1/2018 – O2 Arena – ANOTHER SIX YEAR ABSENCE?!
Can you guess how many years it would take to make it back to Prague and the O2? Seeing a pattern? July 1, 2018, almost exactly six years to the day. I imagine for those there it was worth the wait, and the band does not disappoint, playing an array of crowd pleasers in a set that builds heavily off of Ten, Vs. and Vitalogy, with just enough deep cuts to keep it interesting. This majestic show closer, Indifference, highlighted by the excellent lead guitar work of Stone Gossard as he weaves through the rhythm of Matt Cameron and Jeff Ament like a breeze in a field, is the perfect closing note for this city until its next note in a few days.
The first three trips to Prague were promoting new records on the respective tours. It has been 16 years since such an occasion. Hopefully this yields a spectacularly thought out setlist. This city seems to have that vibe.