Forever Faithfull: Memories From The Road featuring David James

By: Randy Sobel | April 4, 2023

David James Retraces Pearl Jam Memories From The Road

Forever Faithfull is a series derived from daily Facebook posts on the Pearl Jam Podcast Community group. These tour stories were shared by David James. As a late era Pearl Jam fan in the UK, David shares his stories of experiencing the band for the first time when Ed’s voice forced the postponement of a night 2 show in London.

6/18/2018 – Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town – London, UK

My obsession with this band happened fairly late. I first took a shine to Pearl Jam in 2009, listening to Ten and Vs. over and over after my bother took a liking to Jeremy. I then received Backspacer from said brother as a Christmas gift. It was different, sure, but some of those songs hold a special place in my heart to this day. It was the first release I could really dig into at the same time as everyone else.

I started to watch live bits here and there on YouTube. I got stuck on Pinkpop 1992 (shock…!) for a long time. The raw energy, Ed’s voice, Dave’s smashing of the drums, the crowd. It was mind-blowing. Through this, I ventured deeper into the catalogue and the monumental live material, until that same festival eight years later truly turned me from a fan into a super fan who is totally consumed. Pinkpop 2000. I watched it over and over and over and over. I bought the bootleg, and from there I decided to go further and further. Years later, I have 40 bootlegs from the 70+ available of the Binaural tour. I’m not exactly a collector but those 2000 bootlegs are different. I’ll have them all one day!

It wasn’t until the 2018 European tour was announced when I could realistically have the chance to see the band. I got to work early the day tickets were going on sale and pretty much downed tools for the morning until I had secured both London shows. Once they were mine, I could breathe. From then, it was just about counting down the months, weeks and days. Family, friends and colleagues were in for a treat! As a little aside, a few days previous to Pearl Jam, my girlfriend (now wife) and I attended a Demi Lovato concert. Demi had cancelled a few shows the days leading up to the show we saw due to throat issues. A friend of mine at the time cheekily commented “at least it’s not Pearl Jam having to cancel shows”. I laughed it off but she must have known something…

The day of the show was warm. Very warm. Uncomfortable, even. We had arrived in London the previous evening and I was a bundle of energy. Like a kid at Christmas. The anticipation was indescribable. The minutes seemed like hours and the hours seemed like days. It was exhausting. Finally, arriving at the O2, we patiently waited. Thoughts ran through my head, like what would the opener be and what songs would I look back on after this as the “moments” of the show.

Metamorphosis Two started and my heart thumped. The adrenaline rushed through me. I was ready. A big puff of the cheeks and clasping my fingers, I felt like I would explode as the band coolly eased us in with Of The Girl. A truly perfect way to kick things off before the stunning Low Light carried us on. It’s often agreed that Corduroy is the moment when you know you’re at a Pearl Jam show. At my first show, Corduroy was not played. Instead, Small Town will forever be my first “so this is what it’s like…” moment. Screaming back “HELLO” is something that gives you goosebumps. Even hearing it on bootlegs still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I didn’t need confirmation really, but at that moment I knew how special this band is. I’ll never, ever forget it.

Of course, Ed’s voice that night was damaged. I didn’t notice it until he actually spoke about it before Even Flow. It may be a tough listen for most, but I doubt that show will ever be topped for me. It was my first, and hey, it was a fantastic show nonetheless. Even a night where he could not realistically be 100%, Ed and the band threw in some gems. Brain Of J, Love Boat Captain, Deep, You Are and Severed Hand among others. Outstanding.

Even better, I had the very next night to look forward too… or so I thought…

7/17/2018 – Fatal – London, UK

On the previous night, I had lost my Pearl Jam virginity. I woke up beaming and the stroll around the city of London that day flew by. The sun was shining. I was walking on air and I was exhausted, yet full of energy! You could not wipe the smile from my face.

At around 2pm, I was at the hotel getting ready to head to the O2. News filtered through. The show was off as Ed’s voice was damaged beyond repair. I remember staring and just being totally heartbroken. Of course, I felt sorry for myself. A bizarre way of feeling looking back. I was fine. I had an amazing night 24 hours previous. I quickly snapped out of it and thought of Eddie. I thought of those travelling just for this show. I had travelled just three hours on a train. Others came from the other side of the world. It was gut wrenching. Clearly, Eddie had given his all and more and sadly paid the price. Hopefully, he would come back stronger and be healthy soon. The train ride home the next day was a fairly miserable one but I focused on that first night and what an absolute blast it had been. The band were going to try and reschedule. Fingers crossed.

We were in luck. A few weeks later, the band would return to London to wrap up the European tour. Once again, we headed back down to London. The thick summer air greeted us and it was a perfect metaphor for a show where it felt like there was a wrong to be righted with the energy and temperature rising and rising to a frenzy. I’d be lying if I didn’t think that, now this was the last show before a rest, things might be kicked up a notch. The band did not disappoint.

The opening combo of Oceans and Nothing As It Seems once again started the show at a deliberate and methodical pace. I’d never actually been a fan of Nothing As It Seems, but that night changed my mind. I was completely invested and almost lost in Mike’s guitar work. I’d soon feel a thump to the chest however as Matt thundered his drums to signal Go. Let’s go indeed. What followed was Corduroy, Save You and Do The Evolution. The place was rocking. Banger after banger.

Around this time Ed addressed the situation regarding the cancelled show. “We’re gonna play like there’s no tomorrow.” He went on to apologize, and while cancellations are horrible and hurt a lot (something we’ve all experienced again since), these guys are human. This band isn’t perfect. Yet, that’s why I love them. They’ve put all their shows out live, and you know what? There’s plenty of sloppy performances. Plenty of mistakes. They don’t hide from it though. They don’t shy away. They own it and just get on with it. Pearl Jam, man. As Eddie would say – “In the words of Marvin Gaye, Let’s Get It On.”

Given To Fly and In Hiding, two stellar singalongs from the wonderful Yield, were followed by a soaring ‘I Am Mine’. Green Disease, an underrated gem in my eyes, was a real treat. Matt’s drum beat here in harmony with that guitar work never fails to spark a little something in me. Satan’s Bed was downtuned and probably didn’t possess the energy of the studio version, but my jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Rarities aren’t everything, but when you get them, it’s a moment you cherish. Luckily, there was more to come.

Taking a step back for a moment, my girlfriend and I the weekend before the show made a little list of five songs we hoped to see them play. If I remember correctly, I got none of these correct! She, however, got a few right. One in particular was Whipping. “I hope they play that for you” she said. It might have something to do with the fact it’s one of those songs I always seem to have in my head and just randomly sing. Terribly, I may add!

I heard the guitar for Lukin and immediately was ready to go wild. Only it wasn’t Lukin. Quite often at a show, a song will start and I am hearing something else. This was the case here. Matt’s cymbals crashed and his toms started getting battered. Oh my God… I turned to see a huge smile. WHIPPING! Pure energy ripped through the arena (despite the somewhat false start!) and every word was screamed back to the band. Lukin and Rearviewmirror followed before the encore.

I Won’t Back Down was followed by Fatal. A true holy shit moment. Again, I was awestruck. The feeling of pure joy and gratefulness as the band grooves their way through a faultless performance. Oh how I love Lost Dogs.

By the end of the show, 33 songs were played in total. Only nine repeats from the previous show in London. Two monumental shows. Around five hours of sheer joy, togetherness and experiences which just made me hungry for more. They wouldn’t be back next year, but there wouldn’t long to wait, surely!

It didn’t quite work out that way.

7/8/2022 – Retrograde – Hyde Park

2020 was a year no one will ever forget. The pandemic put a stop to the world, and it was a long, dark year when it seemed very difficult to see a way out. You had to take solace in all you could. Naturally, Pearl Jam are always good for that.

Gigaton kind of crept up on me. I was looking forward to it but I’d be lying if I said especially high hopes for the album. I liked Lightning Bolt a lot but it had been seven years since. Would they be brimming with inspiration? Or was the album so long in the making due to a lack of ideas? Regardless, release day was spent listening and listening and listening. I was pleasantly surprised. The album is not their best, but it’s certainly not their weakest. Some songs on that record are exceptional. One in particular is Retrograde, a song which transports me back to a time of worry, isolation and depression. Yet, those 5+ minutes fill me with hope and warmth at the same time. It’s in my top five, where it sits nicely alongside the likes of such absolute classics as Present Tense.

When Summer 2022 came around, it was a big time for me. My wife and I were months away from our wedding, and it was a summer of excitement as well as stress. In the U.K., things were a little crazy. Train strikes, flights being cancelled, travel was a serious headache. I feared the worst for both London and Amsterdam. However, our train to London that Friday morning was all good to go. The train arrived, but we were stopped from boarding. There had been an incident. “Withdrawn. You can hop on the next one.” Okay. No big deal. We’d have to wait an extra 30/45 minutes. Long story short, three hours passed before a train pulled up to take us to London after numerous trains were cancelled. The relief when we pulled away was palpable. We were on our way.

We dropped our bags off at the hotel and headed for Hyde Park, a glorious location for a glorious day. We found our spot and settled ourselves. I enjoyed The Pixies as the space around us began to fill up. It got a little crowded and soon the stage was empty as the seconds ticked down. All You Need Is Love blared out and the crowd joined in. The band walked on stage and blew my prediction out of the water for a Why Go beginning, instead opting for a rare opening performance of Better Man. It was beautiful. It’s not for opening every show, but when it happens, it’s truly wonderful. The crowd were loud for it, and the voices exhorted around the sky above.

I sang every word, which I realized may have been an issue for some! “TURN IT UP! TURN IT UP! TURN IT UP!” Those within my area were right, to be fair. The sound was on the quiet side, but nothing too glaring. I’m not sure if this is something imposed in regard to the area of Hyde Park. Either way, the sound didn’t get turned up, but at the same time everyone just got into the show and relaxed from Low Light onwards.

Breath. In third spot! A song which never grabbed me, but this grabbed me in a big way. It sounded heavy and raw. It went down as a treat and was a great way to kick off a mini set of rockers. Mind Your Manners was next before Save You. It’s a top ten song for me, but this performance will live with me. Eddie’s lyrics were all over the shop it seemed. It chugged along at a blistering pace. Matt was in top form. You will all have heard better but THIS is the performance I seek out now. Maybe it’s just because I was there, but then again, it was played in 2018 when I was there and I thought this topped it considerably. In Hiding was a treat. It never gets old singing along to this classic.

Then came Retrograde. The song I wanted so much. I grinned from ear to ear as they worked through the intro. “It could be thunder, of this crowd”. A soaring roar carried forward towards the band as that epic outro started. Matt Cameron, I feel, doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Maybe Retrograde isn’t a song you link to feelings of “oh, isn’t his drumming great” but it’s just perfect. The guy is a legend with those sticks. Light Years was perfect. Further proof of the class this band has with honoring a request for those who needed some healing at that time. It was beautiful.

The rest of the show was pretty much spot on. Indifference was a particular highlight for me. A fine mix of hits, new songs and covers. A wonderful show to start off my summer. The atmosphere at this one was great, although there was a much more relaxed vibe the next night. Whether it’s because Saturdays are better than Fridays, who knows! However, I certainly wouldn’t say this was the lesser of the two shows. They were both different, and I appreciated the post-Yield love at this show, something which admittedly concerned me with earlier sets in the tour.

Night 1 was a great mix of everything I love about Pearl Jam. It was a struggle getting there that day, but it was all so worth it. In truth, if I had the chance, I’d follow this band wherever they went, whenever they went there.

7/9/2022 – Faithfull – Hyde Park

We got to Hyde Park earlier on Saturday. We were lucky getting pretty much right to the front on Mike’s side. Funnily enough, despite the earlier entrance, the day whizzed by. It was a great atmosphere in the sun-drenched park, and each act seem to be well received. Especially Johnny Marr. Stereophonics are certainly not a favorite of mine, but I thought they were a decent watch.

Once again, All You Need Is Love was the soundtrack as the band took to the stage, and Corduroy kicked things off beautifully. Being one of my favorites, I want to hear it at every show, but as opener it’s something I really wanted. A great way to start a Saturday night and the scene was set. Small Town and Why Go came next, the crowd eating it up as hit after hit blared out before a nice surprise with Deep! A stomping version followed and it went down really well. The pace slowed a little with Wishlist, a song I’ve always had a lot of love for, but can see why others might not feel the same. Garden was a huge surprise, and sounded pretty epic with the crowd belting the lines back to the band. I had goosebumps throughout, and it was a truly great moment within a great show. Johnny Marr then joined the band for a cover of Throw Your Hatred Down. I’m not personally huge on covers, and can take or leave it, but it was a solid performance.

At this point, I had been thinking that no Gigaton songs had been played and no songs from 2000 onwards. I was convinced we were going to get a run of Gigaton, but a quick-fire combo of Do The Evolution and Animal picked the pace back up before we did indeed get some Gigaton love with Dance Of The Clairvoyants. I grew to love this song, especially after hearing the live recordings from the 2021 shows, and it did not disappoint. I sincerely hope it sticks around for future tours. Eddie then addressed the crowd and asked if we wanted to hear Not For You or Whipping. The former certainly got the bigger reaction, and they kicked right in, even though Mike didn’t seem to be quite on board. This was my favorite part of the show, as a great Not For You was followed by Faithfull, an absolute gem of a song and was accompanied with Ed wrapping himself in a Union Jack flag.

Things went from strength to struggle as Rats started. Then stopped. They messed up the beginning and Eddie asked for a restart. It got a little chuckle! They soon got into it, and the groove was immense. I felt like I was dreaming hearing those songs back to back! State Of Love And Trust was a crowd pleaser before Mike shone playing Eruption. Black and Porch followed to round off the main set.

River Cross opened the encore. It was a poignant moment with the sky now dark and Eddie reaching down and pouring his all into those lyrics. It was nice to just take that performance in, especially ahead of what was next… LEASH! Incredible. This really did feel like the icing on the cake as the band ripped through it. It would have actually been appropriate had they changed “fucking” to “lucky” this time as I felt lucky that night, for sure! The bread and butter of Alive and Yellow Ledbetter then saw out the evening before Baba O’Riley with plenty of extras on stage. A fine way to end the night and the weekend.

I left London beaming knowing I still had two more shows in Amsterdam to look forward to. The summer had already been fantastic, and there was plenty more to come.

7/25/2022 – Nothing As It Seems – Amsterdam, Netherlands

1. I am a glass half empty kinda guy. Remember that.

2. I don’t drink a lot of alcohol at shows. Remember that.

This story starts before my London shows and before the tickets were even bought. In December of 2019, the European tour was announced. My wife and I planned on going to Amsterdam. The day the tickets went on sale was the day we were booking the venue for our wedding. The wedding venue visit was at 9am. Tickets went on sale 10am. It wouldn’t last an hour, but yes, I was wrongfully worried about timings. My wife assured me it would be okay, although she had every reason to be furious with me for concentrating on Pearl Jam at a time when our wedding had to take precedence. Everything went fine. The venue was booked and we were delighted with our choice. It only lasted around 45 minutes, and by the time I sorted tickets, we were in a car park ahead of some Christmas shopping. Not long after, we went to get some food. I was queuing for the food when my wife text mere metres away saying “a second date has been added.” “Buy them.” “Okay.”

By the time I got back to the table, we had two shows sorted. I could have screamed the place down I was so happy. Fast forward two and a half years, lockdown, Gigaton, you name it. We are walking the dog on a midweek summer’s evening. I went to check my phone to see what people were saying ahead of the Vienna show that night. It was cancelled. My heart sank. Pictures were online of people in the queue devastated and consoling each other. It was awful. I had a feeling the tour was done at this point, with just Prague and Amsterdam to go. Again, Eddie is human. They all are. I’ll never criticize them for being ill or unable to perform. Its awful, but it’s life, sadly. However, my I felt terrible for those that night who had been cancelled on just hours before the show.

That Saturday we headed for the airport. The Prague show had indeed fell, and although there was no chance of the band performing, we headed to Amsterdam. We would still have a good time, but I was a little bit miserable. On our first full day in Amsterdam, we checked out the city and had a few drinks. Just enjoyed ourselves really. I checked my phone roughly every 30 seconds for updates. but none were forthcoming. As time went on, I started to think ‘this could happen’. Eventually, we decided to go back to the hotel and change, because this genuinely COULD happen?!? We showered and changed. Literally as we were ready to leave the hotel, the news came through that the first show was off. I was deflated, despite expecting it. I just wanted to go home there and then, as selfish and juvenile an attitude as it was. We decided to walk around the city. Someone pointed at my Pearl Jam shirt and said “maybe tomorrow!” I laughed it off, although I was gutted.

Many other fans were just having a good time and making the best of things. I tried to do the same. We found a bar and had a few drinks. My wife offered me hope. “Maybe tomorrow.” I guaranteed her there and then it wouldn’t happen. The next day we decided to head to the arena and see what was going on. It felt odd lining up for merch, but I decided to get something as a memento. We got shirts and stickers for the two nights after chatting to other fans. It was good fun, and was definitely a highlight of the trip. I had a few beers in a bar as we had some food. Nice burgers we had, too.

We picked up some things from the supermarket, including some more beers. I decided to relax and have a few drinks to just enjoy the trip. I sank some beers back at the hotel when news came through: tonight’s show was ON. I didn’t believe it. I was told to get ready. My wife’s positivity had been proven right. My negativity was blown away. “It’s not happening” I told myself. I had a bit of a buzz from the beer and adrenaline and after I finally accepted it WAS happening, we headed to the Ziggo Dome.

After a short wait and drinks outside the venue in the summer evening with fellow jubilant fans, we entered the venue. As I said earlier, I tend not to drink at shows, but I had drank that day as I was positive that no show was happening. The Greatest by Cat Power started. The band entered. “This is happening” I thought again. The opening cords to Nothing As It Seems started. I cried. Embarrassing, but beer and emotion took over. My eyes filled and tears ran down my cheeks as I sang and sobbed along to every word. The crying didn’t stop fully until Footsteps finished. NAIS, Off He Goes and Footsteps. As an opening three, you can’t get much better. I finally calmed down as Alright started. A beautiful rendition before W.M.A. YEEEESSS. I was roaring with approval as Eddie and the band performed it in full. Why Go and Even Flow followed before a nice surprise in Pilate. It’s one I never expected to hear and I loved every second. Corduroy with an alternate opening. Always welcome.

While they played Mankind, I had hoped for Don’t Gimme No Lip, but this was a night where they could play anything, and I was just grateful for every second. Wishlist followed before taking a request in Hard To Imagine. It was stunning. A gorgeous performance. Again, I love Lost Dogs so much. The main set ended with the hits of Better Man, Given To Fly and Porch. However, Matt, and Mike at the beginning, gave us a gem in Black Diamond. A rocking rendition. A fine tribute to Kiss.

The encore was pretty much the expected, with Do The Evolution starting things off. I’ll never tire of that. Purple Rain was nice to hear before Alive and Indifference. The roof came off with Rockin’ In The Free World. It seemed never-ending as Mike destroyed his guitar. I’d have been happy if it hadn’t have ended. A perfect end to a perfect evening. As a side note, I have seen Pearl Jam five times, and all five times have ended with a cover! We headed back to the hotel. Our flight was EARLY the next day. I think we had about three or four hours sleep before needing to get up and sort things. It was more than worth it though.

So, that’s my Pearl Jam story. I hope to add more in the next few years. Two cancelled shows and five shows witnessed. I wouldn’t change anything though. I’m grateful and just hope I get to see the band do their thing for as long as possible. Nobody tops them, and I will follow them wherever I can, whenever I can. Thanks for everything lads. Here’s to more special moments in the future.

Randy Sobel

Concertpedia Managing Editor & LO4L Host

The first time I heard Yield, I didn’t know it at the time but it changed my life. 10 years later, I saw Pearl Jam for the first time at Madison Square Garden and haven’t looked back. I’m still holding out hope that W.M.A. will one day be played as a full song more consistently in setlists rather than just as a tag off of Daughter, and you won’t ever find a bigger homer for the band’s Hartford shows than me. Top 10 Pearl Jam crowd, fight me on it!

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