Nadene Roff’s 2022 Amsterdam Pearl Jam Fan Report
The Pearl Jamsterdam Experience
I love music. I LOVE IT. I listen to a wide range of music, but I love Pearl Jam to the very depths of my soul. I think of music as therapy, and Pearl Jam are the greatest therapists of all. You can’t even explain it, and when you do, it makes you sound crazy. They have a song, a lyric, or a sound for every occasion, every emotion, and every memory. Their music has been the soundtrack of my life since I was fourteen years old. Twenty-eight years. Up until this year, I had seen them nine times, starting with the Yield tour in 1998, when I was 18 years old. To love a band for almost thirty years, when you are only 42-years old yourself, is a lifelong commitment and one I happily adhere to. I’m Faithfull.
So is my Amsterdam concert buddy, Trish. Before mid-May 2022, I didn’t imagine that I would be seeing Pearl Jam this year. I hadn’t even entertained the thought. In fact, mid-pandemic, I couldn’t see myself traveling overseas again for a very long time. The last time I’d seen PJ play was Boston 2018, and to be honest, I really didn’t know when I’d ever see them again. Not until they come back to Australia at least, and who knows when that could be. We’ve waited a long time now. So, when my friend, my concert buddy who loves these guys just as much, mentioned back in May this year that she had a spare ticket for both Amsterdam shows, and could I get myself there…well, it didn’t take a lot of convincing. It seemed crazy, but within a couple of days my trip was booked – spend a few days exploring Europe first and then four nights in Amsterdam doing all things Pearl Jam. Yes please! I’d never been to Europe before, but I have always wanted to visit Amsterdam. Funnily, I’ve had a weird kind of interest or semi-connection to Ziggo Dome as a venue for Pearl Jam shows in the past. In 2014, I tried to win a trip to Amsterdam to see PJ at Ziggo Dome. One of our local radio stations here in Australia was doing a huge contest and that was one of the prizes. Despite my efforts, I didn’t win. I have also written the show notes for the Ziggo Dome Night 1 show in 2012 for the Live On 4 Legs Concertpedia. (Yet to be released at time of writing this.) Now here I was, planning a trip to this super cool destination in just eight weeks time, and I was going there for the very best of reasons – to see my friend, and our band. What in the absolute fuck.
I arrived in Europe from Australia the week before the shows. Over that week we heard that the Vienna and Prague shows were cancelled, and while we were devastated for the fans who had tickets to those shows, we hoped that with a full week of rest, Ed’s voice would recover and both Amsterdam shows would be okay to go ahead. We remained optimistic. After some fun days exploring, we arrived in Amsterdam late on Friday night, forty-eight hours before the first show. We were pumped. Our plan was to campout at the venue on the Saturday night before the first concert on Sunday in the hope that we would get a spot on the rail. Camping out overnight for a concert was all new to me, and I was so excited to live the whole experience. We knew there was a store somewhere near our hotel to get sleeping bags or blankets, and we had spotted a supermarket to stock up on supplies right next to the hotel when we arrived. It was working out perfectly. Once we checked in and dropped our stuff in the room, we decided to go for a wander to check out the surrounding area and find Ziggo Dome, which was not far from our hotel.
It only took us a few minutes to find it. As we came around the corner onto Arena Boulevard there was this big square structure peeking out between two other buildings, all lit up with red and pink lights. The whole outside of the building was glowing. “Is THAT Ziggo Dome?” we wondered. It sure was! As we came around into the front open area of the building, it took me a second to realize what I was looking at. There were already a bunch of camp mats, chairs, blankets, and bodies all lined up in an orderly fashion along the wall. What in the actual fuck was this? It was still two days before the concert! My mind was racing – what was happening? How long had they all been here? Should we line up now too? Was our plan to get here on Saturday evening a bit misguided? Did we need to go back and get our stuff straightaway and come camp out for TWO NIGHTS?? All the thoughts, spinning round my head!
We chatted with some of the people who were in the line, some of whom we already kind of knew, and we made some new friends. Everyone was really welcoming and friendly. It’s instant isn’t it – that connection over music, especially when it’s over one certain band. All there for that one purpose, to feel that feeling that only a Pearl Jam concert can bring. After talking to the others, we headed back to our hotel, discussing our game plan on the way. Saturday was going to look like this – go get tattoos (more on that in a minute), go back to our hotel to get supplies, then head to the venue to join the queue and spend the night there. But first I had to try to get to sleep. I have trouble sleeping at the best of times, but knowing what the next few days were going to bring, I barely slept a wink. In fact, over the four nights I spent in Amsterdam, I worked out that I had about fourteen hours sleep in total. And it was absolutely worth it.
A few weeks before the trip we had made an appointment with the Dutch tattoo artist, Henk ‘Hanky Panky’ Schiffmacher, for the Saturday morning at his studio in De Pijp. Henk is a world renowned tattoo artist who has done work on lots of famous people, including Eddie Vedder, Dave Abbruzzese, Lemmy, Kurt Cobain, members of the Chili Peppers, and many others. I do love a vacation location tattoo (more than half of my tats have been done while I was on holidays) so it was fitting that when getting a tattoo in Amsterdam and you’re there to see Pearl Jam, AND your artist has tattooed some of your favorite musicians, you get the most iconic Pearl Jam image known to man – the Stickman. I had toyed with the idea of getting the Stickman put on me for a long time. I already have three other PJ-related tats, but I kind of felt like the Stickman was a little too cliché for me. After tossing the idea around again, I decided to go for it. And I’m so glad I did. Henk was an absolute gem. He told us stories of visiting Australia many years ago, old Aussie TV shows he used to watch, and told a story about a time he hung out with Pearl Jam and Neil Young. What a fun experience! I walked out of there a little bit star-struck, AND with a new tattoo that I wear like a badge of honor now. Is it cliché? Probably. Do I wear it with pride? Fucking oath I do.
After our tattoos, we headed back to our hotel, packed the essentials – food, water, and poster tubes – and headed straight for Ziggo Dome. We claimed our spot in the queue – we were around the 60th position. It was hard to tell exactly how many were ahead of us, because people were able to come and go, head to hotels for showers, go get food, etc, and everyone around you looked out for your spot and belongings. It was a real community feeling, and not once in the 27 hours of camping out did I feel unsafe or uncomfortable. I’m not going to lie – the idea of sleeping out in a city I’ve never been to before did make me feel a little nervous beforehand, but once we got there and chatted with the people around us, surrounded by like-minded folks, strangers who now felt like friends, I felt completely at ease.
Now, I have to be honest – camping out is fun, and being around a bunch of like-minded people is cool, but there is a LOT of sitting around. We’d borrowed camp mats off some friends (thanks guys!), got sleeping bags, and set ourselves up for the night. We listened to music, drank some wine, and chatted with people that came by. Fans from the Netherlands, USA, Australia, Norway, Greece, Italy, South Africa, France, Scotland, England, there were people from all over the globe. It was a world-wide gathering and I absolutely loved being a part of it all. I even saw a few people walk past (not there for the show) and do a double take when they saw 60+ people all laying around outdoors. I heard one lady ask someone what we were all there for. They said “Pearl Jam”. She replied “Pearl Jam??”. In my head I thought, yeah, that’s right lady. Pearl Jam.
Sleep came for a few hours sometime after 1 am, but truly, I was too excited so I was awake by 5am. After all, it was show day! I got up and went for a walk, and on my way back I counted all the sleeping bodies lined up along the wall. We were numbers 59 and 60 in the line. I spotted some of the Pearl Jam security team outside the venue early in the morning and thought that looked promising. The show must be going ahead! We went for another walk at around 6:30 am to have a proper look at the actual Ziggo Dome building. It is kind of set back from the main area where you enter the venue. There is a road that runs between the front building (where the entrance is) and Ziggo Dome itself. In fact, you walk under that road once you enter the doors, on your way into the room itself. The Dome is not a dome shape like its name implies, but rather a huge black cube shaped building, covered in lights that you can’t see during the day. You wouldn’t even know that it lights up like Clark Griswold’s house at Christmas. It’s quite the structure, and I’m glad we went and had a look in the daylight.
At around 10 am, they moved us into our Ten Club GA entry lines, keeping our line order, and nearby, the merch line started to stretch out alongside the GA line up area. Other fans started to arrive and there was an excited buzz across the crowd all day. It felt to me like everyone was as optimistic as we were that the show was going to go ahead. Trish spent much of the day in the merch line (which by 12 pm was hundreds of people long, even though the merch stall didn’t open until after 1pm. Pearl Jam fans are nothing if not dedicated, haha), while I held our place in the GA line. By the time Trish was able to join me back in the line, it was around 4pm. We had about an hour or so to go until they would walk us into the venue. We had been told by those more experienced campers that the Ten Club crew would walk the first lot of people in and then everyone would basically follow from there. We were so close! Anticipation grew by the second. I felt like my body was full of electricity, I was buzzing that much. The previous 27 hours of camping out, the eight weeks of excitement that had built up since I first booked my flights, the four years since I’d last seen Pearl Jam live, the emotion of it all had pumped me up like a balloon inflating, slowly at first but now increasing at a rapid speed. It was almost time! Another half hour or so and we’ll be inside, front row, second row at the very least.
Then… you all know what happened next. The heartbreaking news came just after 5 pm. The show has been cancelled. Wait, what?! No…is this for real? Surely not?! It didn’t even feel real at first. Even though we knew it was a possibility, it seemed impossible that it had actually happened. There were tears. A lot of tears. It felt surreal, like I was watching it happen but not really experiencing it. There was some momentary panic across the crowd, particularly amongst those of us at the front of the line about what to do – do we line up again? People were still trying to keep the line order from the previous night, other fans were upset about it, it all happened so quickly, it was a bit hard to process. The entire crowd, after being on such a high only minutes before, now seemed so deflated. A collective feeling of disbelief, sadness and disappointment. I don’t think Trish and I even spoke for the first little bit after it happened. There were just no words. We just kept looking at each other in shock.
It took us about an hour to get ourselves together and decide on our next move. Do we line up again, for another 24 hours, and possibly still not get a second show? If that happens, we would have spent basically all our time in Amsterdam on the pavement outside Ziggo Dome, with no guarantee of a show. Or, do we go out and have fun in Amsterdam for the night and try our chances again tomorrow morning, knowing that if the second show does go ahead, we will still be there, just not in the front row like we’d hoped. After putting in all that effort to secure our place at the front, it kind of felt like we were letting ourselves down. First world problems, I know, but a dilemma all the same. After much consideration, we decided that we would go out and get messy in Amsterdam’s Red Light District. That feeling that had been building up for all those hours, days, weeks (for some people months and years) of waiting just burst like a bubble. It was an awful feeling walking away, so defeated.
We spoke with some friends of ours and told them we wouldn’t line up again, that we were going out instead. We needed to go see some nightlife and unwind after this massive let down. Just before we walked away, one of my friends quietly said to me “here you go” and pushed something small into my hand. At first (being that I was in Amsterdam and whatever it was, it was little), I thought maybe it was an edible product from one of the many coffee shops there, haha. But once he took his hand away, before I even opened my hand to look, I could feel what it was. It was a pick. As I walked away I opened my fingers to discover one of Eddie’s picks in the palm of my hand. I couldn’t believe it. I asked my friend about it when I saw him the next day and he said he thought I looked like I could use some cheering up. I was so grateful for this thoughtful gift. It might be tiny in physical size, but what it represented was huge to me. As upset as I was, that little gift really lifted my spirits. I hope my friend knows how much I appreciate it.
As we left Ziggo, we passed by one of the bars nearby and spotted some other people we know. They were heading out for the night and invited us along. We jumped on the Metro and headed to the Red Light District, where we found a bar that agreed to let us take over the music. There was only one thing to do – put on some Pearl Jam, put it on loud, and dance, sing, and drink the night away with fellow fans. And that’s exactly what we did. At one point I remember saying to Trish how fun it was to be out in a bar listening to some PJ deep cuts, something I’ve only ever experienced at home, or in my car, or at a PJ concert. Nowhere I go at home is playing State of Love and Trust or Red Mosquito. A cancelled concert is devastating, but hanging with my PJ bestie in Amsterdam was a pretty great consolation prize. When we got back to the hotel it was around 2 am. We decided to go for a walk to see how many people had decided to stay and camp out again. It looked like there were only around 30 people, but we guessed that those numbers would increase early the next day. We headed back and tried to get some sleep, but the anticipation was already building again for what the second show might bring. During that drunken late-night wandering, we theorized about the whole situation. We wondered if perhaps Eddie’s doctors had said he had one show in him, and that he was saving it for the final show of the European tour. We hoped that was the case. I wondered out loud if perhaps we would get an acoustic show instead – something along the lines of MTV Unplugged or Live At Benaroya Hall. We even made a list of songs we thought would work if they did an all-acoustic set, because that’s the kind of nerds we are. My number one song that I was hoping to catch on the tour was Hard to Imagine, a song that had only been played 38 times over a thirty-year period, one of my all-time faves. It would work perfectly for an acoustic set, but I knew it had just been played in Krakow, so the chances of it being on a setlist again on this tour were extremely unlikely. Bummer. Anyway, whatever happened, whatever kind of night they gave us, in whatever style necessary, we just wanted to see our band do a show.
On Monday morning we got up, got ready, and headed back to Ziggo Dome. It was almost 11 am by the time we arrived there, so we expected there’d be at least a few hundred people lined up already. You can imagine our surprise to discover there were less than a hundred. We were numbers 92 and 93 in line! We spent the rest of the day making our signs and talking with fellow fans. We chatted with a friend who has connections to the PJ crew, and they told us that they’d heard the concert was going ahead and that it was going to be a very special, unique show. We could hardly contain our excitement anymore. It was happening, and we would be up front. I’d never been that close before and now I knew it was definitely on, I could let myself feel excited again, without that underlying fear of a cancellation.
We’d been told that even though it was not a Ten Club ticketed show that night, the venue security had agreed to take the first group of concert-goers through the doors, as per the Ten Club GA early entry process. Something happened in those last few minutes though, just before the doors opened, where we were informed that instead of doing that, they had decided to open the doors and let everyone in all at the same time. This news came literally seconds before they opened the doors. When they opened those barricades, people started pushing and trying to get ahead of each other. For the next five minutes or so it was complete chaos. The venue’s security boss was yelling at people to get back outside and threatened to cancel people’s tickets. For a few minutes there, I was actually really scared. People were angry and emotional, and it felt like the situation between the fans and security was escalating quickly and it felt quite volatile. Trish and I held hands so we wouldn’t get separated in the crowd, and luckily we managed to get in pretty quickly. Unfortunately, in the mayhem, we’d been pushed out of our place in line and we didn’t end up being in the second row as we should have been. Most importantly though – we were inside the venue!
We got our position right in front of Jeff and Mike, but closer to Jeff, about four or five people back. The support act, Shame, came out and entertained the crowd with some very energetic tunes and dance moves, and then it was time for Pearl Jam to take to the stage. We had noticed that the crew had set up chairs in front of each of the mics, so we figured we might have been correct in thinking we’d be getting an acoustic set. The guys finally sauntered out onto the stage and the crowd went berserk, and rightly so. I could not believe how close we were. These guys that have been playing the soundtrack of my life were right in front of me, just mere meters away, making those songs I know all the words to come to life. It doesn’t matter how many shows I’ve been to (this was my tenth show, that’s small numbers compared to some, I know), seeing them live always feels like it’s the first time. The thrill never lessens. If anything, it increases. This time though, I could see their facial expressions without having to look at the big screen. At one point I was watching Jeff sing and I realized that I could actually hear his voice and it wasn’t through the microphone. I could hear his words directly from his mouth to my ears, with no electronic interference. It kind of blew my mind. Nothing As It Seems, Off He Goes, Footsteps…I mean, can you think of a better way to ease into the night? They played Alright and after that, W.M.A. W.M.A.?! On its own and not tagged at the end of Daughter?!?! YES PLEASE. That’s when things really kicked off. Why Go. Always a crowd favorite and one of my absolute fave live songs. Stone sang Mankind. Mike and Matt did Black Diamond by Kiss. We could not believe the treats we were receiving. Then, Josh came up to the front and sang Purple Rain with Eddie on backups. Holy shit. It was epic. There were a few times throughout the show when you could hear and see that Ed had some trouble reaching some of the notes, or holding a long note, but it didn’t really matter. He had 17,000 backup singers ready to take over and lend a hand. And we did just that.
The signs that we had made for the show were so fitting. We’d made a double-sided sign so we could share two messages with the band – THANK YOU on one side and WE’RE FAITHFULL on the other. We thought we were very clever making them double-sided. It meant that we could quickly pop them up in the air, then while they were up, flip them over to deliver both messages. Two birds, one Stone, if you will. We had considered a song request, but then decided that saying thank you was what we really wanted to do. To thank them for this night, for the past thirty years, for a lifetime of tunes that we adore and live by. It was also awesome when after the show a friend of ours sent us a photo from up in the side of the stage of our signs up in the air, right in front of the stage. I’ve even spotted us in some footage from the show that has been posted on YouTube. Fun to be part of the crowd and to be able to see us in the mix!
Things I learned during the show:
- The entire front left corner is the Mike McCready Show. I’ve always loved watching Mike, but at this show I really noticed how much of a showman he is, and just how much the crowd laps it up. It’s high energy the whole way and I was in for the ride.
- Jeff is incredible. He is so low-key with his on-stage antics, but so cool and captivating at the same time.
- Matt should sing more.
- Stone is, as always, cool as a cucumber. He’s like, crowd? What crowd? I’m just over here sidestep dancing like everyone’s dad. And I love him for it.
- Josh might be my favorite non-member of the band. (Side note: I bumped into Josh at the airport the day after the concert. I said hi, told him I’d been at the show and we ended up chatting for a few minutes. He is such a quiet, softly spoken guy in person. I already liked him but that just cemented it for me. He told me a couple of things about what it’s like being around the band for him, someone who was a fan just like me growing up (he and I are the same age!) and I appreciated what a down to earth guy he is. Suffice to say, I’m a fan. Meeting him on my way out of Amsterdam was just the cherry on top of an already very sweet experience.)
- BOOOOOM. What else can you say? Love his energy.
- When Mike throws out a handful of picks, that’s when you get the best view of the stage because everyone in front of you scrambles to find one on the ground. If you’re only 5’2”, stay upright, forget the picks, and make the most of it before those tall people stand up and block your view again!
- Even if you don’t catch a pick as it flies through the air, you might be lucky enough to have friends who share theirs with you. Thank you, you know who you are. I will treasure them always.
But, the highlight of MY night was when Eddie said they were going to play a request, “the most requested song they’ve had in a while” in fact. It took me a second to register what I was hearing during the opening chords. HARD TO IMAGINE. YOU GUYS. They played my song! I was beside myself. The only bad thing I can say about it is, as I sang and cried so hard the whole time, I could barely even see them on stage through my blurry tears. I don’t know what it is about that song, but it just gets me right in all the feelings. I go through phases where I listen to it on repeat, and sometimes I’ll listen to it every night before I go to sleep. It is beautiful and sad and haunting all at once and I can’t get enough of it.
The whole show was incredible. I can’t even find the right words to sum it up. No words suffice (and that’s saying something, surely by now you’ve figured out I like to talk). Much like every show they put on, it was transcendental, a proper spiritual experience. Throughout the night I kept looking at the crowd around me. Every single face was happy to be there. The feeling you get, being in a room full of thousands of other fans, all feeling the same as you, I wish you could bottle it up and keep it forever. Most of all though, it’s the experiences you share with your friends that make a trip like this so special. The friends you already have, and the new ones you make. I am eternally grateful to Trish for inviting me along to join her on this adventure. Our friendship means the world to me and I love spending time with her, listening to music, talking about all things Pearl Jam, and not feeling like she’s secretly wishing I’d shut up, because she wants to talk about them and their music just as much as I do. My love of Pearl Jam is beyond compare. I am so grateful for all that they have added to my life, and yet they take nothing in return (I mean, except some concert dollars and merch money when the opportunity presents of course, but I’m a willing participant so it’s ok, haha). For five days in Amsterdam I got to just be a Pearl Jam fan. Nothing else. Hanging out with my friend, immersing ourselves in the whole adventure. I will cherish the memories from this experience for the rest of my life.
Are you getting something out of this all-encompassing trip?
I sure am.