Eddie Vedder & Glen Hansard @ Hammersmith Apollo, London – 30th July 2012

As the original frontman of one of the planet’s most popular rock bands, who have recently celebrated their 20th anniversary, you’d think Eddie Vedder might appreciate some time off in between filling arenas with Pearl Jam. Yet here he is, filling venues as a solo artist (this is the first of two sold out nights at the 3600 capacity Apollo) and looking like he’s enjoying every minute.

First up tonight though, we’re treated to a quite spectacular opening set from The Frames frontman, and Academy Award winner, Glen Hansard. Here in support of his debut solo album, Rhythm & Repose, Glen’s easy nature, humour and obvious talent wins over this crowd almost instantly. Beginning with The Frames’ own Say It To Me Now, Hansard charms the crowd with stories of meeting Bob Dylan, the decline of television and touring with tonight’s headliner, announcing, “I’ve never met a person with more heart”. Highlights include his own Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting, from the new album, which segways into a snippet of the Otis Redding/Aretha Franklin classic, Respect. Bird Of Sorrow not only shows Hansard’s accomplished songwriting skills, it also demonstrates his abilities as a vocalist.

A fine cover of Springsteen’s Drive All Night fits well with Glen’s own material and a final Song Of Good Hope bring his 8-song set to a close. It’s a brilliant start to the evening and I feel sorry for those Vedder fans still chatting in the bar. They missed one of the best opening acts I’ve seen, but it’s safe to say Glen Hansard is winning over plenty of new fans on this tour.

Tonight’s gig is all about the songs. Eddie Vedder has a huge back catalogue of those to delve into thanks to two decades with Pearl Jam and two acclaimed solo albums, but over the next couple of hours he manages to cram in plenty of covers into a 29-song set, including set-opener, the Daniel Johnston song, Walking The Cow. There are no big intros. Eddie casually wanders on stage, chooses his instrument of choice and perches himself atop a stool, surrounded by items which could well have been borrowed from his own living room. He looks out at the Apollo crowd and, noticing a few flags in the room, states that “playing here is a lot like playing the olympics, except all the seats are full!”

Vedder’s cover of Cat Stevens’ Trouble precedes the first Pearl Jam song of the evening, Can’t Keep. Predictably, the Pearl Jam tunes receive the biggest response of the night, but this is far from a greatest hits set. Instead, Vedder showcases some of the lesser known but equally excellent music from the rock band’s career and, even when he does play more recognisable songs, such as crowd favourite, Better Man, it’s radically reworked to the point that the fans struggle to sing along.

For almost the entire gig, Vedder remains on his stool, centre-stage, only really moving to change instruments, some of which are handed to him by his own daughters. Of the tracks played tonight, it’s the songs he plays on ukelele that perhaps don’t translate so well in this relatively large venue. They’d be more suited to being played around a camp fire on some remote beach and that’s possibly why Vedder opts for acoustic guitar for the majority of the night.

Eddie seems to be enjoying the freedom to play anything he likes during these shows. Broken Heart and Pearl Jam’s Elderly Woman aren’t even on his original setlist for tonight and both go down a storm with this audience, which seems to be made up largely of dedicated fans. Indeed a good chunk of tonight’s tickets went to Pearl Jam fan club members.

A cover of Cat Power’s Good Woman leads us into the aformentioned reworking of Better Man and “Lennon’s Bob Dylan song”, You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away, which sees Eddie add some harmonica to his list of instruments. The main set ends with two uptempo Pearl Jam songs, Lukin and Porch, which are thrashed out on acoustic guitar, but there’s plenty more to come in the encores.

Unthought Known sounds magnificent in this context but it’s when Vedder welcomes Glen Hansard back onstage to join him for Society from the Into The Wild soundtrack that the evening becomes truly special. The two friends walk to the front of the stage to sing Sleepless Nights a cappella (it’s an impressive achievement in a venue this size) before Eddie introduces Hansard’s Oscar-winning song, Falling Slowly – “This is one of Glen’s”… It’s one of the highlights of the gig, with Vedder taking on shared vocals. The second Springsteen cover of the evening comes in the form of Open All Night before the appropriately named The End, a spectacular rendition of Arc and a final encore of the rousing Hard Sun (again sung with Hansard).

Apart from a few backdrop changes, this was visually a very simple show, but musically it could hardly have been improved upon. Eddie was in fine voice and had put together a setlist which must surely have delighted his fans. Tonight was all about the songs, and that voice. Everybody at the Apollo tonight knew they’d been witness to something truly magical.

Set List:

Walking the Cow
(Daniel Johnston cover)
(Cat Stevens cover)
Can’t Keep
(Pearl Jam song)
Sleeping By Myself
Without You
More Than You Know
(Vincent Youmans cover)
Broken Heart
I Am Mine
(Pearl Jam song)
Brain Damage
(Pink Floyd cover)
Dead Man
(Pearl Jam song)
Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
(Pearl Jam song)
Setting Forth
Far Behind
Long Nights
(with Glen Hansard)
Good Woman
(Cat Power cover)
Better Man
(Pearl Jam song)
You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away
(The Beatles cover)
(Pearl Jam song)
(Pearl Jam song)
Unthought Known
(Pearl Jam song)
(Jerry Hannan cover) (with Glen Hansard)
Sleepless Nights
(The Everly Brothers cover) (with Glen Hansard)
Falling Slowly
(The Swell Season cover) (with Glen Hansard)
Open All Night
(Bruce Springsteen cover)
The End
(Pearl Jam song)
(Pearl Jam song)
Encore 2:
Hard Sun
(Indio cover) (with Glen Hansard)

Review & Photos – Steve Gerrard

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