Pearl Jam at BST Hyde Park 2022 – Day Two: A Photo Diary

RockShot were in attendance yesterday for the first of the Pearl Jam two-night residency at BST Hyde Park, and you can read the excellent description of it by Lilen Pautasso here. It came as something of a surprise therefore that we were also offered the chance to attend the second of the two shows. Never being one to miss an opportunity, I grabbed it with everything I’ve got.

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This isn’t a full review of everything on offer for day two. For one thing, nobody needs to be reading two consecutive, full on reviews of two consecutive shows by the same band in the same publication; and for another, I’m just off the night shift on the day (and night) job and operating on barely any sleep. It’s pushing thirty degrees out there and whizzing between stages hasn’t really been an option. I can’t really do justice to everything that’s on offer here. Instead, I’m camped out in front of the main Great Oak Stage with a camera and will let the pictures help do the talking. Hey, we’re called ‘RockShot’ after all.

Unfortunately, the fitful sleep I did get this morning, results in me arriving on site just in time to miss The Last Internationale, opening act on the big stage. So, what can I tell you about them? Well, from the production area behind the mighty oak, they sound exceptionally loud. The general consensus among the press corps was that they were not to be missed; regrettable news when you’ve just missed them.

My later than ideal arrival also results in missing Connor Selby, the opening act on the little, but rather sweetly named, ‘Birdcage’ Stage. This one is tucked by the south entrance to the site, in and around some enormous trees, the leaves of which bring welcome relief from the unrelenting sun and heat. The location of this stage does make it eminently ‘get-to-able’ – provided you’re there early enough to get to it. It’s a shame to miss Connor, a prodigiously talented young blues guitarist, who really knows how to make a Les Paul sing. Last time I saw him play was at Wembley Stadium as first support to The Who; so, whilst I’ve no doubt he did good things on the diminutive Birdcage Stage, he’s no stranger to the enormous ones too. Perhaps one day we’ll see him on the enormous stage at BST.

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Still, there’s no point in lamenting things you can do nothing about, so I set my sights on the next artist on the Great Oak Stage, Imelda May. She’s famed for her revivalist rockabilly sound, which make songs like Mayhem, It’s Good To Be Alive and Johnny Got A Boom Boom instantly recognisable tunes.

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From the photo pit, faced with ear level speakers and towering cabinets in a PA system that could broadcast to the Moon and back, she sounds a whole lot more rock ‘n’ roll than rockabilly. Part of the reason for this is the face-melting lead guitar of Donny Little, who rips a couple of fantastic solos during my time at the front.

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The turnaround times in the earlier part of the day are commendably quick so it’s not long before Johnny Marr comes out, using his iconic Fender Jaguar as impromptu protection from the sun.

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I’m stood on a step stool in the pit so have a decent view of the crowd as well as the stage. I turn around and spot my wife. She’s enthusiastically smiling.

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Turns out she’s with work colleagues she had no idea were there. They saw my head and sent her a text: “Is Simon taking photos at BST? I think we’re 20 feet behind him”. “In that case, I’m 20 feet behind you!” was the reply.

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Marr is majestic; a photographer’s dream. Those guitar lines sound as sweet now as they ever did and (forgive me), to my ears the old Smiths tunes are all the better for not having Morrissey’s vocals out front.

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At the end of my allotted three songs, I cause some irritation by swerving around some of the crowd at the front in an attempt to find my wife. Mission accomplished; we take in some more of Johnny’s jangles before I break away for a necessary appointment with the BST merch stand.

I’ve been in the queue for a while and a band come out on the nearby Birdcage Stage that kicks ass.

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I’m torn between staying in the queue and banging out to check out the band. I choose the latter; someone kindly holds my place and in any case the line is moving slower than a slug on a crutch. The band are called Petrol Girls and I’ve made a good decision. They’re a feminist punk band; loud, and angry. Their post-hardcore sound rattles around the trees and is interspersed with invective from vocalist Ren Aldridge, citing cases of femicide and domestic abuse in numbers that are genuinely horrifying.

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It’s uncomfortable listening in front of a festival crowd, but then it’s supposed to be. When she reaches the end, she gains a respectful round of applause. I imagine she’d prefer a wholesale change in societal attitudes to misogyny in the Police and the workplace, but I cannot deny I’m moved by it nonetheless.

In more mundane news, I’m now back in the queue for a tee-shirt. It hasn’t moved much. Fortunately, the glacial pace of progress is just fast enough for me to snag some bounty before Stereophonics come out to play.

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By now, the crowd behind the barrier has swelled considerably; there’s no room for people to sit on their picnic rugs any more.

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I spot a young lad in the crowd. It’s his first gig and he’s made a little sign to prove it. I’m guessing his name is Jake ‘cos he’s written it on the sign. Jake cannot be any more than ten years old and he’s on the front row with 65,000 people behind him on the barrier at a Pearl Jam gig. He flashes me a big smile. I’m not surprised. Way to go, kid.

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Kelly Jones leads out Stereophonics to a great reception and they break the ice with C’est La Vie. The three front men are distanced from the crowd by blackout sunglasses, but they’re not being aloof. This sun doesn’t want to quit and is now at an azimuth designed to incinerate your retinas. The Stereophonics glow bronze in the late afternoon rays.

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I Wanna Get Lost With You follows; another banging tune. Jones tells the crowd what a privilege it is to head the Pearl Jam undercard and I’m guessing it absolutely is. “We’ve got 12 albums and 20 years but we’ve only got an hour and a bit, so we’d better fucking get on with it!”, he says.

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This flushes out a big roar from behind me. Then they play The Bartender And The Thief and there’s an even bigger one. This setlist is clearly going to be a filler-free zone.

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As usual, I have to exit after three songs and there’s no real prospect of getting into the crowd now before Pearl Jam so I opt for shade and a seat in the press area. You can make out the tunes from here and you can definitely make out the roars between them. Stereophonics are tearing the place apart.

In the break before the main event, there’s time for a beer and a pizza, and I try and track down one of my work colleagues who is also here tonight, but who owing to melting railway tracks underneath South West Trains only arrived at 7pm. I manifestly fail at that, which is a shame because it was him for whom I bought the shirts. I give them to my wife for safekeeping.

Pearl Jam Shooting Position BST Hyde Park 090722-001

It’s a long lens for Pearl Jam because the shooting position is sadly not right under the stage, but by one of the two sound desks, a few hundred feet away. We get escorted to our position, each step taking us further away from the quarry.

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I’m shooting at a focal length of 700mm. The human eye is reckoned to operate at around 35-50mm equivalent, so I’m at a crop factor of around 17x human vision. At this kind of zoom, you’re a bit like a Space Shuttle passenger when the boosters are lit. The gig starts and you shoot frames but there’s a feeling of going along for the ride rather than of nuance or any consideration of what you’re actually doing. OK, so you make sure it’s exposed about right and is in focus, but what comes back after that is in the lap of the Gods. Luckily, Pearl Jam are just about one of the most expressive and exciting live acts on Earth, so what comes back doesn’t disappoint.

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Talismanic frontman Eddie Vedder is well into his sixth decade but age is just a number and his levels of energy are off the scale. It might be close to 8pm but it’s still mighty hot out here and he’s performing into a raging sun; but you wouldn’t know it, save for a glow of perspiration once he gets going.

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He growls, he jumps, he windmills Pete Townshend style, he runs from side to side on the stage.

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When called upon he rocks out with guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard and with bassist Jeff Ament.

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About the only thing he doesn’t do is clamber over the drum riser and knock Matt Cameron off his stool.

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Gossard and Ament are animated but McCready is also on another level. I’d not fully appreciated what a great player he is until this moment.

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His solos reach a level of intensity you think can go no further and then he squeezes a few more pips out of the lemon. He rocks a wah-wah the way Jimi rocked a wah-wah. There’s no better praise than that.

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My time behind the lens is at an end and we snake back through the crowd to the press area. Frequently at this point I’m going home, but not tonight. I dump the gear and get back out there ASAP. I was feeling the effects of that night shift a couple of hours ago but the endorphins are in.

I made arrangements to meet up with my wife but she’s not where I thought she’d be – it’s rammed at our meeting place so that’s not a surprise. I’m still out of contact with my work mate and it’s looking like I’ll be watching on my own. Sad face emoji. Then, about six songs in I manage to receive a text. It’s my buddy wanting to know where I am. I pinpoint my position and miraculously a few minutes later, I get a tap on the back. It’s him. Turns out he and his wife and daughter are not that far away, so he leads me to them – and who do I find when I get there, but my wife. They happened to just spot her in the crowd. These things happen in a group of 65,000 people. Smiling face emoji.

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The rest of the evening is a joy. Vedder promises to play all the songs they didn’t play last night. I freely admit I’m not an über fan, so that means a few I don’t know – but it doesn’t matter. The sun finally relents and gives way to a balmy summer evening. I’m with friends and family and my wife’s just got the beers in. My mate’s daughter is nine and she’s wearing the tee-shirt we bought earlier. She’s attending her first gig too and really seems to be enjoying it. My friend is an über Pearl Jam fan and getting her into it has been his plan from birth. He played the long game, but it seems to be working.

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Meanwhile, during State Of Love And Trust, Vedder spots my earlier photo op and other first time gig attendee Jake in the crowd and before he knows it, the production have projected his face across the whole of the stage. He remains there during Mike McCready’s personal take on Eddie Van Halen’s Eruption. Jake looks happier about this than he did when he was on the end of my lens a few hours before. Anyone would think it meant more to him. The cheek of it all.

After what seems like not quite long enough, Pearl Jam go off stage. I look to my mate and he tells me not to worry – Pearl Jam encores are legendary. They come back with Eddie sat at a pipe organ. He dedicates River Cross to the people of Ukraine with a plea that “The fucking madman will never win”. Sometimes rock stars make dedications like this and it all feels a little facile. Not so here. There is real emotion in his voice and I can feel it in the crowd

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In a while, as they surely had to, the band play everybody’s Rock FM favourite Alive and a sea of mobiles go into the air. Pearl Jam close with The Who’s Baba O’ Riley and this encourages some of the loudest crowd singing tonight. Johnny Marr comes back out to play on it and the cameras up front scour the crowd to project them across the massive video screens on the stage. It’s an unbelievably inclusive moment.

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And there we are. Two hours twenty of one of the most exciting live acts in the world played out to a massive crowd in a beautiful place under seamless blue skies in the company of some of the nicest people I know.

If only it could always be like this. Some things most certainly are worth missing sleep for.

Live review and photos of Pearl Jam at BST Hyde Park by Simon Reed on 9th July 2022.

Simon Reed is a freelance music photographer and writer based in the Surrey Hills around an hour from London. His personal website Musical Pictures is here. He is also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Pearl Jam at BST Hyde Park 2022: An Intimate Show On A Massive Scale

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