Jammin’ with Pearl Jam

At the Pearl Jam concert at O2 World in Berlin last Wednesday, the audience came from far and wide. There were flags from Italy and Denmark. There were overheard accents from America and Scotland. Two couples with a total of five children under five had outfitted everyone in tshirts calling themselves the Traveling Poles.

For vocalist Eddie Vedder and the other four members of the rock band formed in Seattle in 1990, this was their 998th concert. “It seems like more,” said Eddie, who twice urged those on the floor to take three steps back to stop crowding at the front. They complied, then threw themselves back into the fray with raised arms, singing along as if they’d written the lyrics themselves.

Pearl Jam did 28 numbers including two encores in the two-and-a-half hour show. The signature sign-off, Rockin’ in the Free World, was followed by Indifference, with Ray Cameron, son of drummer Matt Cameron, on guitar. A young daughter of guitarist Mike McCready could be seen whirling and dancing beside the stage in the early going. Mike also brought his mother on stage to announce that it was her birthday. We all sang Happy Birthday to Louise. Pearl Jam is a family affair.

The couple next to us from Hamburg might have been in their fifties, but I think I am safe in saying that I was among the oldest at the concert attended by about 15,000 rabid fans. Most were in their 30s and 40s. Beer was well priced at two euros plus two euros for the refundable plastic glass – less than half what vendors charge at the Rogers Centre.

In conjunction with I Believe in Miracles, a Ramones cover, Eddie said he’d visited the Ramones museum in Berlin that afternoon and urged the crowd to do the same. We went the next day. For euros 3.50 you get a Ramones button and a lifetime membership. For 5 euros, you get a button, the lifetime deal, and a beer. We took the latter option. The museum, run by a couple, includes photos, paraphernalia, jeans worn by Joey Ramone, and a host of other items all displayed under screens playing Ramones concerts from the 1980s.

At the museum Mark recognized Matt Cameron and his son who had come by to pay their respects to the original punk rockers. Ray, who might be fourteen, has been to fifty Pearl Jam concerts on several continents. For Mark, an inveterate Pearl Jam fan who attended the back-to-back concerts at O2 World (as a novice, I just went to one) the encounter and conversation with the Camerons was a trip highlight.

As Pearl Jam’s newest fan among the millions, I’ll be back for more.

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