Pearl Jam - Isle of Wight 2012 review

'The Isle of Wight festival is nothing if not Alive'

Photographer:Mark Holloway

Anja Kimberley - 24 June 2012

There's a nervousness in the air. The cameras pan the front rows and the faces peering back gaze at the stage. As the lights flash into action drum rolls promise to revive memories of a time when music was all that mattered to the grunge movement. The introduction is long and breathes the exhilaration of a bygone era through the core of the Isle of Wight festival.

Frontman Eddie Vedder takes to the stage and leads headfirst into 'Unknown Thought' where immediately his lyrics "fill the air up with love" come to life as love for the band can almost physically be felt rising towards the darkening clouds. Pressing his lips firmly to the microphone Vedder breathes "under my breath" as 'Last Exit' pulls the crowds tighter to the front of the stage.

The set is simple, with side screens displaying the performance in black and white, emphasising a dark power that emits from each deliberate stance and movement. Reaching out to the front of the stage, Vedder cups his hands, encapsulating the static atmosphere. He juts his hands up, with fingers splayed as if throwing it up in the face of those threatening-looking dark clouds.

All focus is on the band members and the lighting that swims through the array of instruments as some close their eyes. This is exactly how Pearl Jam devised their career, having turned down many music videos with the insistence that music should be listened to without the bias that imagery injects.

'Elderly Woman' follows before a brief acknowledgement to the audience as 'Supersonic' is introduced as a song about a love of live music. This preparation is suddenly of real importance as 'Given to Fly' lyrics "waves come crashing" cue the beginning of the long expected downpour.

Nobody is deterred, dancing in the face of the change of fate to 'The Colour Red', awed by Mike McCready's guitar stunt as he lifts his guitar behind his shoulders and plays it there for what seems like an impossible length of time. Vedder's movements are more limited and calculated, clutching the mic as if his life depends on it, unruly, jaw-length hair sticking to his face, with the occasional run and jump on well-emphasised bass drum beats.

'Got Some' stabilises an eager bounce as far as can be seen in all directions and the staple cow on a stick that has been the centre of the audience for the weekend swoops in low circles over the heads of the masses. 'Daughter' and 'Just Breathe' provide a full and hearty set before Vedder appears at the front of stage at lightning speed during the 'Porch',  shaking hands with all of the most dedicated who made it up to the bars. The excitement feeds the rest of the crowd as screaming and shouting surely makes this one of the noisiest fields in the country.

Exiting the stage Pearl Jam leave a sea of lights in their wake and nobody moves. The encore is inevitable and eventually returning, Vedder speaks with carefully selected words. "I was once told", he murmurs, "Give a man a gun, he'll rob a bank" there's a pause:  "Give a man a gun, he'll rob the world".

Red lights flood the stage as 'Blood' follows. The grand finale arrives as if time has escaped the Isle of Wight and it's all over too soon. Thankfully we are indulged in a lengthy dramatic rendition of 'Alive' which is what the festival is - dancing and singing with heads thrown back and fists punching the rain with defiance. The Isle of Wight festival is nothing if not Alive.


Click here for our full Isle of Wight 2012 coverage.

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