- Live Review
- 15 Jul 22
The British Summer Time Festival took place from June 24 to July 10 in Hyde Park, London, with Pearl Jam headlining July 8 and 9.
In hindsight, I should've known what to expect when signing up for a two-day Pearl Jam festival. However, the British Summer Time Festival 2022 was a sweaty, grungy, rock 'n roll experience I will never forget.
Strolling in the gates of Hyde Park on on Friday, July 8, the inescapable London heat wave scorched my Pearl Jam X Pixies Volcom merch I spent two hours queueing for the day before. Immediately, we searched for shade you might find under the big trees framing the main stage at Electric Picnic, to no avail. Luckily, there was an immediate distraction from the heat in the form of The Murder Capital.
Gracing the stage of Hyde Park dressed in red, frontman James McGovern greeted an eagerly waiting audience with "what's the craic?" and the immediate comfort of home crept back in. Playing well-loved tracks 'Don't Cling To Life', 'More Is Less', and 'Green & Blue', these Dublin lads outdid themselves. The post-punk riffs from Damien Tuit and Cathal Roper stayed ringing around my head for hours after their set had come to a close.
Not long after, American garage punk band White Reaper took to the main stage. Despite my excitement to see this Kentucky based band, the short, verging on repetitive set list was a tiny bit disappointing. This drove me to the smaller Birdcage stage where UK band LIFE were performing. The Hull based band were an immediate Spotify follow - providing an amalgamation of Fontaines D.C., Nirvana, and The Smiths.
Returning to the main stage, there was no way I was missing American singer-songwriter Cat Power. Performing an impressive 14 song set list, the alt-indie singer was an absolute treat to the senses. Power played a good amount of her own lyrics, but peppered her set with tracks from her new Covers album, such as The Rolling Stones' '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction', Frank Ocean's 'Bad Religion', Frank Sinatra's 'New York, New York', and Johnny Mathis' 'Wild Is The Wind'. Cat's powerful indie vocal was the perfect backdrop for a glistening green Hyde Park.
The final act before the headliners was the sensational Pixies. It seems ridiculous to write that this band weren't headliners as their repertoire and reputation have sold out shows internationally, but I digress.
Even with the replacement of bassist and back-up vocalist, Kim Deal, with Paz Lenchantin, the American alternative rock band still had the same iconic sound as they did back in the '90s. The crowd left deeply satisfied after fan favourites 'Where Is My Mind', 'Monkey Gone to Heaven', and 'Debaser' were sprinkled throughout the set. This is definitely a band I'll be gripping the barrier for at Electric Picnic in a few months time.
With a sizzling Hyde Park backdrop, iconic Seattle band Pearl Jam took to the stage for the first of two nights at the British Summer Time Festival. The grunge group were set to headline the BST fest in 2020, however, the pandemic saw the rescheduling of their entire tour spanning Europe and North America.
Founded in 1990, the year 2020 officially marked 30 years of the alt-rock outfit. After a few line-up changes, the influential group consists of Eddie Vedder (vocals & guitar), Mike McCready (lead guitar), Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar), Jeff Ament (bass), and Matt Cameron (drums). The band continues its global success with 11 studio albums, hundreds of unique live performances, official live concert bootleg releases, and over 85 million albums sold worldwide. It's no surprise that at least 65,000 people attended the show each night.
As the intense sunshine began to subdue across the jewel-like plains of the central London park, fans rushed to meet the blithesome refrain of the classic Beatles hit, 'All You Need Is Love'. Vedder and crew entered the stage to thunderous applause, donning unassuming ensembles, obviously excluding the iconic Jeff Ament hat. Unexpectedly, the band opened their set with 'Better Man' - while an extremely popular track, it was an unanticipated opener - and I must say: an emotional gut punch. Eddie's raspy tones drifted across the devoted audience's sunburnt skin, some immediately in floods of tears at the poignant lyrics contained in this somewhat auto-biographical tune.
As the hall of famers moved through Yield's 'Low Light', 'Breath' from Ten Redux, and Lightning Bolt's 'Mind Your Manners', we moved to find a better view point in the crowd. Naturally, all the best spots were secured by members of the Ten Club - a fan organisation started by Pearl Jam in 1990 as a way for the band to give back to their fans and create a community around their music. The Ten Club gets first access to tickets and a separate wrist band allowing them to the front section of shows, along with other exclusive content. The highest rank in the club stands at $40 a year - which instantly piqued my Pearl Jam obsessed boyfriend's attention.
With a much better visual of the band secured, we stood amongst a hugely diverse crowd of dedicated fans. However, we must have ruffled one group's feathers as we were warned of a mosh pit when 'Even Flow' was played. Quickly becoming the running joke of our weekend, it was laughable to think how a group of big, tall English men were going to mosh to one of Pearl Jam's least mosh-able tracks. And to be honest, when the Ten track was played, their pit lasted all of 30 seconds, adding even more gusto to a new favourite anecdote.
The band are clearly devoted to their fans - taking multiple moments throughout the show to thank the crowd, making this enormous gig somehow feel intimate. During the performance, frontman Vedder took a moment to speak about a British fan of theirs, Donna, who passed weeks before the show, dedicating grief-filled 'Light Years' to her memory.
Always the hippy, Vedder spent an unquantifiable amount of breaks between songs speaking about the sunset across Hyde Park, the bright moonlight when darkness fell on the crowd, and the environmental work the band are well-known to do.
Stand outs from show one were 'Even Flow', 'Daughter', and 'Once'. Vs.'s 'Daughter' caught me unexpectedly, stinging the heart with all too relatable lyrics. When the band "finished up" on 'Porch', the crowd were well aware the set was far from over. What the crowd was anything but prepared for was Vedder re-entering the stage with Simon Townshend, the younger brother of The Who's Pete Townshend, and is heavily associated with The Who and various members side projects.
Townshend had performed much earlier in the day, and has previously taken to the stage with Vedder on his solo tour. The two performed Townshend's track 'I'm the Answer' to an ecstatic response. Launching straight into 'Jeremy' upon Simon's exit - fans were treated to a host of fan favourites in this encore. 'Alive' had fans screaming the park down, and after 21 songs the rockers closing the show with the customary 'Rockin' in the Free World', a cover of Neil Young's classic joined by tennis legend John McEnroe on guitar.
As temperatures soared into towards the 30s on day two, ticket holders flocked to BST fest for another line-up of jaw-dropping acts. The second day of Pearl Jam's headliner saw The Wild Things, JJ Wilde, La Luz, The Last Internationale, Imelda May, Johnny Marr, and the Stereophonics as special guests.
Making a bee-line for unforgettable Irish singer Imelda May, we enjoyed newer tracks, alongside classics like 'Mayhem'. The Dublin songstress always puts on a fantastic performance, this time backed by incredible visuals, especially during a new favourite of mine 'Made To Love'. The musician surprised the crowd, and excited us Irish attendees, by whipping out a bodhrán before breaking into 'Johnny Got A Boom Boom'.
As a close to her set, the singer spoke about her dear friend Meatloaf, who passed away earlier this year. Dedicating the song to him, May had the whole of Hyde Park singing along with her to 'I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)'. The rendition was one of the most beautiful pieces of music I heard across the whole weekend, bringing tears to my eyes at the simplicity of her vocal power and clear love for her friend.
Announced as a performer quite late in the game, Johnny Marr graced the stage at approximately 4.30pm. The Smiths' legendary guitarist put on an instrumentally insane performance, playing the band's iconic tracks 'Panic', 'This Charming Man', 'Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want', and 'How Soon Is Now?'. The guitarist, joined by his band, performed some incredible guitar solos, technical madness. Closing his set with the renowned track 'There Is a Light That Never Goes Out', Marr had a sea of Smiths fans kept incredibly happy for the duration of his stage time. Getting to witness Johnny Marr was like the musical equivalent of eating a vegan burger - all of The Smiths goodness with none of the Morrissey guilt.
The Stereophonics set was downright joyful. Every person I could see was dancing and singing along - including families with little kids who knew every single lyric before it even passed frontman Kelly Jones' lips. The Welsh band opened their performance with 2015 dance-rock track 'C'est La Vie'. The quintet of rockers appeased the crowd with well known tunes 'Maybe Tomorrow' and 'Have A Nice Day'. These songs went down inevitably as a treat, with raspy whiskey-mulled vocals, combined with incredible riffs from Jones and Adam Zindani, stunning beats from Jamie Morrison, twinkly keys from Tony Kirkham, and melodic bass from Richard Jones. Closing their set with heartfelt track 'Dakota', Stereophonics well and truly won over a very sweaty Hyde Park audience.
As Stereophonics left the stage, fans prepared for a second night of dulcet tones from the '90s heartthrob headliners. Just as golden hour approached, once again the air filled with the familiar chords of the Beatles' masterpiece 'All You Need Is Love'. On the Saturday evening, the American groovers opened their show with legendary track 'Corduroy' from 1994's Vitalogy. The second night of Pearl Jam had a certain gusto to it that can't quite be captured in words.
The 22-song setlist contained only two post 2000s tracks, giving die hard original fans exactly what they wanted. The instrumentation on this night was breathtaking, with passion oozing from every chord played and every note sang. Emblematic tracks 'Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town', 'Deep', 'Garden', 'Do the Evolution', 'Dance of the Clairvoyants', 'Faithfull' and 'Rats', filled every desire of these enraptured grunge-head fans.
Early on in the set, it was no surprise to see Vedder call Johnny Marr onto the stage to perform another Neil Young cover of 'Throw Your Hatred Down'. This came after the vocalist spoke to the crowd about gun violence in the US and how it had recently brushed his family. There wasn't a dry eye in the crowd when Vedder crooned the lyrics "throw your weapons down" before Marr launched into what was probably the most impressive guitar solo of his career. Not to forget, the cuddle Vedder gave Marr during this solo was probably the sweetest part of both nights.
While speaking to the audience, Vedder revealed they were going to play a song they haven't in a long time - 'Whipping'. While revealing the track, the audience begged the group to play 'Not For You' instead, bringing the two to a vote. Vedder laughed as McCready, with hands on his head, tried to figure out how to play the unrehearsed track.
While the two nights of performances by the band were insanely impressive, by far the most exciting moments of the two night was when I had taken a trip to the merch stand, heard the opening notes of the iconic Singles track 'State Of Love And Trust' and literally sprinted back to my group. This rarely played track, followed by a Van Halen cover rolling into 'Black' made my entire weekend.
Opening their encore with 'River Cross' dedicated to the people of Ukraine, the final stretch of Pearl Jam's set was nigh. The grateful band finished out their second and final show with The Who's 'Baba O'Riley' joined again onstage by Johnny Marr in addition to Andrew Watt.
As we made the long trek back to the hotel from Hyde Park, I couldn't help but think I'd just witnessed some legendary music history being made. Even if Pearl Jam don't return to Ireland, I can rest easy knowing I got to take in one of the most magical grunge-rock experiences of a lifetime.
Pearl Jam continue their tour around Europe before heading back to the States for their North American tour.
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