Patrick Wetzels European Tour Report
Gonna See My Friends
There were some things which I missed during the pandemic, but overall I was quite content in my own bubble. As it was for so many others, for me it was a time of reflection and self-care, for exercise, and to spend lots of time with those who are close to me. But all that aside, there was something that was weighing on my mind heavily and that was the cancelled European tour by Pearl Jam. Man, had I been looking forward to that! And all of a sudden it was….gone. But then, somewhere in 2021 the green light was starting to reveal itself. The wait was over…I was gonna see my friends!
Return of the Legends
I live within walking distance of the Pinkpop festival grounds, so the tour started literally in my backyard! Pinkpop, where the emotions seemed to flood over the guys in ’92, when Eddie did his stage dive into the crowd. The place where Pearl Jam became legendary across the Netherlands and far beyond.
What made it even more special for me was that my 14-year old daughter joined me for the first time at a festival AND to see Pearl Jam!
Pearl Jam had a pretty solid start at Pinkpop, with the usual suspects like Porch, Even Flow, Elderly Woman, and Corduroy mixed with songs from the latest album Gigaton. The guys did put in some nice easter eggs like Comfortably Numb, Street Fighting Man and Sleeping By Myself. Still, as I left the grounds I was more content than excited. Great start to the tour guys, but you’re just warming up!
Next stop…Italy. On the famous racetrack of Imola, the day started early. Ten Club members were sent to an early entry at 1pm in 38 degrees Celsius to wait until 9.35pm for the show to start. Me and my partner found ourselves a nice, yet small spot in the shade and roughed it out until the Pixies and White Reaper finished their sets.
When the boys from Seattle came on stage, the sun was starting to go down and I looked around to see the evening creeping over the race track and it felt really special. So, when the first chord was struck, it was clear to me that this evening was one to remember. Now, the setlist wasn’t massively exciting but we as fans were fired up and singing as one. I remember the final notes of Jeremy which carried across the massive field minutes after the song had finished. It was a great day, but once again I left feeling that the guys had so much more to give.
German Home Run
3 days later I found myself in Frankfurt for my first indoor gig of the tour. I realized the second that I came through those doors that this evening was not just going to be special, but AMAZING. The venue looks like an old Victorian hall and only holds about 13,000 people. Me and my buddy parked ourselves close to the front, and what happened after the opening tunes I can only remember as a wave of emotions and ecstasy.
Let me start by saying that when Eddie comes on with his leather jacket, you know you’re in for a treat! A whooping start with Inside Job was followed by Animal, Last Exit and Why Go…HELP!!! I need time to gather myself here!! Nope, there was no time for that. Mind Your Manners and Corduroy, and then the first slam dunk of the evening, Fatal! Still trying to keep it together as I was on a different planet by now…the planet called ‘PEARL JAM ARE FRIGGIN’ AWESOME’! Elderly Woman gave me a bit of time to recover. I don’t think there was anyone who wasn’t 1000% focused on the songs, nor was there a single person sitting on their seats. Could the evening get any better…?
HELL YEAH! In My Tree and Garden were next, and by now the sweat is dripping off the walls (how I didn’t catch COVID that night is a miracle on its own). Jeremy was the second slam dunk. Never have I heard an audience sing this song like it was sung that night. Porch sounded more intense, followed by a much-needed break before the encore. State Of Love And Trust really became the knockout punch, and the whole thing ended with a beautiful performance of Indifference.
THE TOUR HAS STARTED FOR REAL LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!
As I live relatively close to Rock Werchter, I decided to add that one to the list as well. By now, I have somewhat less expectations of greatness at festivals, as most standout performances seem to be indoors rather than outdoors. Also, the festival crowds aren’t always great company (I have found myself singing alone in the front section at PJ gigs at festivals more than once). So, with a slightly reserved feeling, I drove to Werchter.
I was clearly wrong and I was very happily put in my place by the guys as they kicked off with Eddie wearing a cowboy jacket at the start of the show with accompanying Western music. First 2 songs: Rain and I Believe In Miracles – yep, we’re rolling kick-ass style! Whipping was great to hear again, and I was very pleasantly surprised with Unthought Known and Nothingman. I was even happier to hear my favorite cover song, Rockin’ In The Free World, to close this set. I was very happy and left with excitement as there was so much more to come! 4 Down, 3 TO GO!
3 gigs in a week in 3 different countries. Now, this is more like it!
War & Peace
My next gig took me and my partner to the beautiful city Krakow, in Poland, which was politically and geographically the most interesting venue, as it’s so close to Ukraine. That evening had the wow factor for so many reasons:
1.The setlist wow factor: Sometimes, Dissident, Immortality, Hard to Imagine, Smile. Need I say more?
2.The political wow factor: So many references to the Ukraine conflict, many volunteers who were invited to the gig.
3.The audience wow factor: Everyone was just over the moon and exuding happiness.
4.The Eddie wow factor: EV was super switched on and had a score to settle with the infamous Russian world leader.
I spent most of my time in the mosh pit, where the energy was flying about like there was no tomorrow. I made some friends that night and we all agreed, that was the best set of the tour…so far. Eddie was clearly enjoying the ride as they had to literally drag him off stage!
Remember the 1st night of the Amsterdam shows…wait, it never happened!
Right, last 2 gigs of the tour. Amsterdam 2x! Or so I thought…me and my buddy drove up to the Dutch capital with a 50/50 feeling about this one. As PJ had cancelled gigs all week, it was highly doubtful that the final ones in Amsterdam were going to happen. But let’s take it one gig at a time.
Whilst driving to Amsterdam, more and more signals were coming through that this concert would indeed take place. People had seen and spoken to traveling roadies and crew members, rumors were coming from within the PJ camp that this one was indeed good to go, and last but not least, we as Ten Club members were praying to the music gods to deliver this concert which we so desperately wanted to see.
Well…as you know, it didn’t happen, cancelled while we were standing in line to go inside. What we were left with was camaraderie, leading to fans singing PJ songs outside the venue (which EV commented on the next night). We had a great night drinking some beers with some fellow PJ fans from Montana. Still a great night after all before the drive back south.
A WORTHY FINALE!
To be honest, as the prospects were so poor and the disappointment of the night before was still fresh, I nearly didn’t go to Amsterdam on night 2! But as I had a hotel booked already as I was flying from Schiphol the next morning, I had nothing to lose. So, with a fool’s hope, I took my leave to the Dutch capital once again. Boy, WAS I HAPPY THAT I WENT!!!!!! During my trip it became clear that the concert was going ahead after all, so with my car radio blasting PJ songs at max volume and with a spring in my step I charged towards the Ziggo Dome.
I am struggling to put into words what happened that night, as it was one of a kind. A final concert which was on the brink of being cancelled again, possibly leading to a huge anti-climax, the sudden rush of the last minute go ahead, EV and the other guys on fire, fans who are aware of this historic happening in the making. I guess it was a combination of them all.
The concert started nice and slow with a very intimate feeling: Nothing as it Seems, Off He Goes, Footsteps, W.M.A. (yep those 4 were within the first 5 songs!). Okay, we’re all happy and feeling fuzzy inside. Time to take it up a notch! The classics were mixed with jewels like Pilate, Mankind, Wishlist, and Hard to Imagine. Have we impressed you yet? Yes? Well, what about some cool covers? Black Diamond and Purple Rain!
Mike McCready had clearly missed his last therapy session and was in need of smashing up his guitar into his amp and pedals! But who cares, it’s the last night!
It was a majestic and magical evening. Highlight for me? Some dudes were annoyingly smashing into me, so when I shoved them aside, one of them started to get aggressive with me only to come back 1 song later to apologize. We hugged it out. Only at Pearl Jam!
Like every tour, to follow Pearl Jam feels like a rollercoaster. A good steady start, some really steep climbs in the middle, worries when the cart plummets towards the earth again, only to be picked up at the last bit with a raging finale at the end. This is why I love this band so much. Not just because of the energy of the band, the ever changing setlists, or the messages in their songs. Pearl Jam is just real, like life is real. Whether through good or bad, after all these years they are still a group of guys who just want to be playing live and who want to give everything to their fans. How many bands would put in the same level of energy or determination to make sure their fans get one more show?
Pearl Jam is the soundtrack of my life. I love you guys.
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