Returning to PinkPop, Pearl Jam keeps on rockin’ in the free world


—- Pearl Jam at Pink Pop 2018 in Holland was momentous because of 1992.

On a rainy afternoon at Pink Pop in 1992, the up-and-coming grunge rockers from Seattle played before their largest crowd ever at that time. It was total mayhem. Fans and crew here in Landgraaf still talk about it. Eddie Vedder capped off a tumultuous show by climbing a camera arm and then jumping from a perilous height into a packed, delirious crowd — perhaps the greatest stage dive in rock history.


Eddie didn’t risk any broken bones or scratches this time. But he wore the same “Tivoli” shirt as 26 years earlier, and the band closed a non-stop 150 minute show with Neil Young’s “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World”, as they did in 1992. Political as ever, Vedder called Trump the “orange menace” (in reference to the Soviet “red menace”) and he predicted the era of “Trump and mini-Trumps” would soon be a blip in history.



Releasing a new album this year, Pearl Jam remain one of the most vital live acts in the world. Vedder was warm, compassionate, menacing and insane — and always beautiful.

He took the stage at sundown with a bottle and set list in his hands. His eyes were sparkling with the memories of their epic show in 92, and the Dutch fans (some of whom caught Vedder falling from the sky that year) roared at any mention of that classic PinkPop performance.


These guys have less hair to swing around but Pearl Jam are as tight as ever. Only U2 and The Stones can rival their staying-together power.

Think of the degree of difficulty. They are basically a punk band fronted by a madman. Their music is complex, deep and dense, and most hardcore fans still don’t know half the lyrics. They could have come apart many times. Mike McCready could have sought more spotlight, since he’s in a class of virtuosity with Hendrix, Clapton and Page. Stone and Jeff could have brought in other members to solidify their own claim to royalties or control over the brand. Eddie could have fronted other bands, fallen off the rafters, landed on his back or committed suicide. His contemporaries Kurt Cobain, Chris Cornell, Layne Staley and Scott Weiland are all dead.  “Oh I, hurrr, I’m still alive,” sings Eddie. He survived the Seattle scene. So did Stone, Jeff, Mike and Matt. That means something.


Eddie knows he’s lucky. He’s reveling in it. Near the end of the show, he told a story he’s been working on for 26 years. A classic. This is how I heard it:

Remember my stage dive in 1992? I always thought the camera operator was pissed at me. I thought he was telling me to get off his equipment. It’s a famous shot of me dangling off the camera arm above the crowd, and I see it at home everyday. A few days ago, a local guy helped us find that camera operator. He retired recently. He told us what really happened that day. He said he was motioning for his crew members below to hold down the camera arm for balance. Otherwise, when I jumped, he would be launched into the atmosphere. He said he was never angry at me. Finally, I’m forgiven.



Pearl Jam’s music is all about forgiveness, redemption, indifference, immortality and almost any other emotion or state of being. It’s an incredible experience to hear thousands of people in Holland singing words that are intensely personal. This gives Pearl Jam resonance. You can see the band live 10 times, and hear the songs a hundred times, and you are still trying to figure it out. They never get old and stale. They aren’t fading away like torn jeans. They are thriving, long after the passing of fads and scenes.







(all images copyright Christopher Johnson Globalite Media all rights reserved)