I’ve got a fairly crowded concert calendar, but the show I was most excited about was Eddie Vedder at Newcastle’s Civic Theatre. The chance to see one of my childhood heroes, the lead singer of Pearl Jam, at such a small, intimate venue was just too thrilling to pass up.

But before the man himself stepped onto the stage we got to see what expats Evil J & Saint Cecilia, otherwise known as Eliza Jane Barnes and Ceci Herbert had to offer. As my dinner ran overtime I missed about half of their set, but sadly I don’t think I missed too much. The songs seemed to run together into one dreary, dull tune. The talent was definitely there. Their voices were sweet and harmonized beautifully, and they could certainly play, but I think their songs let them down. I’m interested to see how they develop though; there’s definitely potential there.

I certainly lifted once Eddie took the stage though. He kept the house lights on as he treated us to an acoustic rendition of one of my favourite Pearl Jam tracks, “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town.” Those lines “I just want to scream hello, my god it’s been so long, never dreamed you’d return,” definitely had increased poignancy as I looked at this man who’d created so many songs that got me through those difficult teenage years.

He treated me to many of them last night, but this certainly wasn’t a Pearl Jam concert. Instead it was an opportunity for us to appreciate the full depth and breadth of Eddie Vedder’s career, including his notable contributions to film soundtracks and collaborations with other artists. You’d have to be a dedicated fan to know all the songs he played, but Eddie is the kind of performer whose tunes can really stand alone. You don’t need to sing along; you just need to experience them. And experience them we did up close and personal, stripped back and played with single instruments: acoustic and electric guitars, a mandolin, a ukulele. This music doesn’t need a lot of frills, and in this raw intimate mode we really got to the heart of it.

It wasn’t a perfect show by any means. Eddie forgot his lyrics several times, although his earnest apologies certainly made me forgive those mistakes. A few bad apples in the crowd also spoilt things in a few places. Honestly folks, you don’t need to yell out everything that pops into your head. When an artist has to chastise you because he’s trying to talk, it’s well past time to pipe down. Just because the man tells you he’s created the set list around requests doesn’t mean he wants to hear every one of yours. That goes double for the twit who wanted to hear Neil Young. I’m also all for people standing up and dancing around, so long as everyone else is. If you’re the only person grooving, and you ignore the pleas from people behind you, you’re also a jerk.

But those minor annoyances certainly faded as we all stood up to revel in the final song, “Hard Sun.” Eddie was joined by local legend and friend Mark Richards, and his support act Evil J & Saint Cecilia, for those final celebratory moments. That exultation and atmosphere is what live music is all about. It wasn’t perfect Eddie, but I hope we do it all again real soon.

Image source: Metal Chris @ Wikipedia Commons