The last time Pearl Jam played a show this small was just down the road at The Astoria, so those UK fans who didn't get the chance to see Eddie Vedder & Co in this most intimate of surroundings had yet another opportunity last night. Can't say they don't spoil us...
The grunge vets played a real fan set, eschewing massive hits like 'Jeremy' and 'Daughter' in favour of more obscure album tracks like lilting opener 'Sometimes' and the epic 'Present Tense', both from their rarely-referenced 1996 classic 'No Code', the harmonic 'Lowlight' and the angular 'Do The Evolution' from 1998's 'Yield', and even 'Inside Job' and 'Severed Hand' from their critically acclaimed self--titled comeback of 2006.
Guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready looked completely at home on the Empire's stage, which considering they're used to playing to 15,000-strong arenas every night is testament to their enjoyment of the music they play.
Surprisingly the highlights of the set were two tracks off their upcoming ninth LP 'Backspacer' - new single 'The Fixer', the Jam's first rousing anthem in about eight years, and hairs stood up on necks everywhere as Vedder appeared solo with acoustic to play The End, a track which could give 'Daughter' a run for its money as Pearl Jam's most moving yet.
There was a surprise at Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood leapt on stage to join the band for a rendition of 'All Along The Watchtower,' its indulgent, extended jam at the end forgiveable considering the rock pedigree present.
Barring new material, every person in the 2,500 capacity Empire knew every word to every song, a tribute to this remarkable rock band's fiercely loyal fanbase. Pearl Jam are still scaling new heights almost 20 years after 'Ten' came out, and for that they deserve everyone's respect.