Sickness, soaring ticket prices and setlist changes: not even the curse of Co-Op Live can stop Pearl Jam at their chaotic but ultimately triumphant Manchester show

Eddie Vedder might be stricken with illness, but a vocal crowd help make Pearl Jam's Manchester show a success against the odds

Pearl Jam live at Marlay Park 2024
(Image: © Getty Images/Kieran Frost/Redferns)

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It's been 30 years since Pearl Jam went to war with Ticketmaster, but it looks like the ticketing giant has got the last laugh. Headlines in the week leading up to the band's UK tour speak of fan dismay as ticket prices for the London show plummeted from as high as £238 [for "premium standing"] to less than £50, highlighting a plain and simple truth: dynamic ticket pricing - where ticket prices fluxuate depending on demand - is a fucking racket. Add them to the "Lars was right" pile. 

Still, ticket price woes seemingly haven't had a major impact on the band's ability to pack out Manchester's Co Op Live arena. Not so much storming out as coalescing around Of The Girl, it's a gentle intro that nonetheless gets the crowd roaring vociferously, meandering instrumentals giving the band the chance to warm up and show off their musicianship while frontman Eddie Vedder clings to the mic stand like it's the only thing tethering him to the earth. 

Or, as it turns out, possibly crashing to it. Whatever cursed burial site was disturbed to facilitate the venue's building, Co Op Live has had a rough run in its early stages. Show postponements, cancellations and at one point an air conditioning unit falling from the ceiling kept the venue from opening, and while the angry deity that clearly had it out for the space has since been appeased enough for a few shows, Eddie Vedder gets no such pass as he admits early on he got sick after the band's show in Dublin earlier this week and is struggling.  

Pointing out into the crowd, he highlights a couple up front who proclaim that they were in a car crash yesterday, but still made the show. "Well, I can't let the sniffles compare to that, can I?" he jokes. 

For the softer songs in the set, you'd barely notice. Although croaky and at times incoherent between songs, Vedder's voice is as soulful and powerful as ever on ballads like Present Tense, Given To Fly and Elderley Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town, the latter bolstered by the sounds of thousands of fans spiritedly singing along. 

But the faster songs obviously suffer. Why Go ends up being particularly chaotic as Vedder seems to miss his vocal cue, coming in just off the beat and occasionally dropping out to catch his breath. The band clearly notice, and the instrumentals are stretched out to give the singer some space, guitarist Mike McCready putting on some extra razzle to fill the gap. 

That doesn't mean the faster songs are a total disaster, though. Lost Dogs track All Night hits with a punkish, punchy energy, while a slew of cuts from this year's Dark Matter including Scared Of Fear and React, Respond highlight that album's reinvigorated energy. Vedder doesn't shy from admitting how his health is impacting the show, either; a quiet discussion between the band side-stage sees them opt for slower number Immortality and it looks for a moment like they'll sidestep anthem Even Flow as they start it up and abandon it, only to be regaled with half-hearted boos from the crowd that see Vedder chuckle and acquiesce. 

Pearl Jam's well-established streak of being utterly unpredictable with setlists remains true. Introducing I Got ID as "a song we wrote with Neil Young", they break out some obscure numbers throughout the set, even side-stepping longterm live favourite Rockin' In The Free World for fellow Neil Young cover Fuckin' Up

Initially departing on Porch, it doesn't feel outside the realms of possibility that the band won't make it back, particularly as the encore gap seems to stretch on. But the band power through and seem to hit a groove for the closing run. Starting with an emotional Inside Job, the pace picks up for both State Of Love And Trust and Do The Evolution, the latter's Todd McFarlane-directed music video put to great use on the massive screens above the stage while Vedder seems especially energetic and fired up after a break. 

All the struggles and stutters pay off with a Ten one-two. The crowd roar along to wistful love ballad Black, while Alive lives up to its reputation for taking a dark turn and transforming it into something inspirational as 20,000+ people take the roof off the venue singing along, grasping the slightest sliver of victory and turning it into an undeniable triumph. 

As the house lights come up and the band continue to play - a common occurence - with Fuckin' Up and Yellow Ledbetter, Vedder thanks the crowd for "keeping him up", even pouring wine into glasses for the front row. It adds to a sense of communal joy that has long defined the experience of being a Pearl Jam fan, the Black line "We belong together" never ringing more true than when the crowd can help elevate an otherwise difficult gig. Now, about those ticket prices... 

Pearl Jam - Black live at Co Op Live Arena, Manchester 2024 - YouTube Pearl Jam - Black live at Co Op Live Arena, Manchester 2024 - YouTube
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Pearl Jam Setlist Co Op Live Manchester 25 June 2024

Of The Girl
Present Tense
Why Go
All Night
Given To Fly
Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
Scared Of Fear
React, Respond
Even Flow
Dark Matter
I Got ID
Inside Job
State Of Love And Trust
Do The Evolution
Fuckin' Up
Yellow Ledbetter

Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.