PEARL JAM’s Cancelled Shows: What Actually Happened…?

So. I was supposed to be at the Pearl Jam show at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday 29th.

I’d been waiting months for that show. The last PJ show I’d been to was ten years ago – which I actually wrote about here at the time, only because there was a controversy over allegedly ‘antisemitic’ comments Eddie Vedder had made at the show.
For the record, they weren’t antisemitic comments – they were anti-war comments.
Anyhow, I was ready and excited for the show on Saturday.
Then on Friday, the show was cancelled: with one day’s notice. An official statement was put out, explaining that illness in the band was the reason.

An apology was conveyed, along with regret for inconvenience caused to travelling fans in particular. It was also announced there would be no rescheduled concert.
A lot of fans were obviously disappointed. Including me.
A lot of fans were also furious. The cost of the tickets would be refunded, of course. But people had already flown in from other countries for the show. People had travelled down to London on trains or booked hotels, and other things for which they would not be refunded.
And of course some people were just sad not to be going to the show.
Word about the cancelled concert made news sites in various countries, including the BBC and CNN.
Theories and claims have been heavily circulating about the cancellation: some a little conspiratorial.
I will address those theories and claims here: and work my way through the various elements to this series of events.
This will also then become a rumination somewhat on the demands placed on high profile performers in general, on the increasing unaffordability of major events, and on the question of whether even the most well-meaning and sincere artists inevitably become a little jaded and institutionalised with time and age.
First though, I wish whoever’s ill a speedy recovery. And I hope it isn’t something too serious.
The nature of the illness hasn’t been publicly specified. But Pearl Jam have now also cancelled their two shows in Berlin, which were scheduled for the 2nd and 3rd of July.
The next scheduled shows are in Barcelona, beginning on the 6th. At present, people are watching for further announcements as to whether the Spain shows are also cancelled.

Needless to say, I love this band. I’ve been following them since I was about 14: and I’m now over forty.

So obviously health is more important than anything else: more than cancelled shows, ruined plans or inconvenience caused to some fans.
So, here’s hoping things turn out okay in the Pearl Jam camp: for a group like PJ to scrap major shows on short notice implies a pretty serious issue.
But since we don’t know for sure what that issue is, let’s get into the confused information war that was going on online for a few days after the London show’s abrupt cancellation.
To start with, it’s worth pointing out that there was already a significant amount of disillusion even prior to the cancellation.
Specifically, a lot of fans were angry about the high ticket prices. The prices were eye-wateringly high.
There were standing tickets as expensive as £280. There were seated tickets as high as £150, not even at great vantage points. While cheaper tickets were available, there was general consensus that ticket prices were way too high.
This is arguably part of a general trend of over-inflated prices for most things these days: and concert tickets have definitely spiralled in price in recent years.
But some were pointing to comparable UK shows by, for example, Foo Fighters, who also just played in London and who’s tickets were felt to be more reasonably priced.
Even pop star Pink apparently had cheaper tickets for her recent show at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium: or so I’ve been told.
It may not get addressed often enough, but a lot of people are getting more and more priced out of these things in recent years. I include myself in that.
Pearl Jam was the only event I was planning to go to this year: or even for the foreseeable future. I just can’t justify the costs at this time. Even artists that I’ve loved for most of my life, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, I’ve declined to buy tickets for.
The last big or big-ish show I went to was the Pixies just before the pandemic broke. So over four years ago. And that was nothing like as big as this PJ show was going to be.

Again, PJ was the exception for me. And, as the years go on, I always wonder how many more chances I’ll get to see an act like Pearl Jam live.  

And some will say, well, yeah that’s how all business works: people who can afford something will spend the money, and those who can’t… well, that’s just how it goes.
Which is true and which is fine.
Although when it concerns an entity like Pearl Jam specifically, something could be said about the high prices being somewhat at odds with the group’s long-standing ethos.
There was also an irony not lost on fans: that Pearl Jam, the artist that famously took the corporate giant Ticketmaster to court over fans being over-charged for concerts in the 1990s, was now allowing the same Ticketmaster to ask fans to pay obscene prices for PJ tickets.
However, that was the 90s: and young idealists tend to fight battles that middle-aged career musicians maybe aren’t inclined to anymore.
That’s a glum thought. But the reality is that even a band like Pearl Jam is an institution by now: you can’t be selling out arenas for thirty-plus years and not become part of the machine.
And remember – Pearl Jam *lost* their fight with Ticketmaster all those years ago.
In the current day, corporations like Ticketmaster have the general public by the balls.

But this is where the conspiracy theories begin: with the ridiculous ticket prices in the first instance.

Fast forward to late June and fans who had bought those expensive tickets back in April or whenever it was are now really pissed when they hear about comparable tickets to the show being flogged by Ticketmaster for vastly reduced prices.
Some tickets were being sold as cheap as £50 by now.
Some reports suggested tickets to the Tottenham show were being sold as cheap as £10 – which I find unbelievable. This particular claim was in an article in The Sun newspaper, not a trustworthy source: so take it with a pinch of salt.
But certainly much cheaper tickets were now being sold – and naturally, people who paid much higher prices were annoyed.
So the disillusion was brewing significantly before the show was even cancelled: first because of the high ticket prices, then because of the cheaper tickets being suddenly sold in the lead-in to the event.
This late flogging of reduced tickets also raised a question among a number of fans: why were so many tickets even still *available* for late sale?
Surely Pearl Jam would’ve already sold out the stadium by now? Especially, given that this was the only London show and one of only three UK dates in total (the others being Manchester and Dublin)?
And one of the reasons people bought expensive tickets so early was the expectation that the show would sell out very quickly: which is what typically happens with an artist like Pearl Jam.
For example, my friend bought both a London ticket and a Manchester ticket in a mad rush back in April: because she was led to believe she had to act quickly or there’d be nothing left. She ended up not being able to go to the Manchester show: and London got cancelled.
At any rate, all of this led to rampant speculation – even weeks before the Tottenham show was meant to happen – that the show was significantly undersold.
Perhaps too many people were put off by the initial prices: or simply couldn’t afford to pay that much.
And so, once the abrupt cancellation of the show was announced (one day before the concert), many fans reiterated their theory that the show was doomed long before it was called off.
The show was scrapped, or so the conspiracy-minded claim, because it just hadn’t sold enough: implying that the band simply didn’t want to play to an under-filled stadium.
The more generous among these acknowledged that there was undoubtedly a genuine illness in the band too, which prompted the cancellation: but that the poor ticket sales for Tottenham meant there was a reduced incentive to the ahead with the show anyway.
The less generous have claimed the illness is a red herring: and that the band wanted an excuse to not play the London show.

Alright, so with all of that laid out now, let’s get into what the probable truth is.

Firstly, there’s no question that someone in the group is ill. And it’s probably Eddie Vedder.
I watched YouTube footage of the Manchester show on Tuesday 25th: and Eddie was clearly struggling with his singing. He also said outright, according to people who were at the Manchester show, that he was ill and had probably picked up a bug during the Dublin show.
Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder, Dark Matter tour
While the lack of specificity about what the illness is or even who it is in the band that’s ill has prompted some people to engage in speculation, neither Vedder nor the band should be obligated to share personal details about health matters.
And knowing those details wouldn’t change anything anyway: all we need to know is that someone is unwell. That’s a good enough reason to cancel a show.
Also, the fact that the two Berlin shows – scheduled for July 2nd and 3rd – have also been subsequently cancelled (also without any reschedule) means there’s a genuine health issue.
It also indicates that the supposedly undersold Tottenham Stadium theory might not hold water: unless we’re also saying that both Berlin shows were also undersold.
I know some people are already saying exactly this: that Berlin was also undersold. But I don’t know what the proof is of that.
I’ve tried looking up how many tickets were sold versus how many were still available for Tottenham. But there’s no reliable source.
Ticketmaster certainly isn’t making that information available.
So we’re relying on rumours and speculation. Claims that the stadium was only sold to half capacity seem unlikely to me.
I’ve also seen claims that something like 40,000 tickets were sold. If that’s true, then – regardless of whether or not that’s the Spurs stadium’s full capacity – it’s still substantial enough that it wouldn’t be cancelled unless there was a legitimate reason.
They were playing to smaller audiences than that in some of the US shows. At The Forum in Los Angeles, for example, they played what was by all accounts a tremendous show to around 12,000 people.
And I know that because I watched some video of it and Eddie referenced the venue capacity at one point during the show.
So *if* as much as 40,000 tickets were sold for Tottenham, that’s not something that would remotely be considered a write-off by any artist.
But again, I don’t know what the real numbers are. I can’t find any reliable data on that.
Which in itself is a bit odd: you’d think there would be some way to find out how many tickets were sold for a concert versus how many were still unsold.
For example, I can check online and see that Beyonce’s Tottenham Stadium dates sold around 230,000 tickets across five shows.
I can’t find anything for this Pearl Jam show though.

In fairness, the theory that London was undersold does have some basis in some degree of fact: in as much as that tickets were still being sold at reduced prices allegedly up to two hours before the show was cancelled.

Meaning that it obviously wasn’t sold to capacity yet: and this was the day before the event.
But again, I don’t have access to numbers. The stadium not being completely sold to capacity doesn’t automatically imply a low turnout: as I said, PJ played to as ‘little’ as 12,000 people in some US shows.
The London sales would’ve been substantially higher than that. And the Spurs stadium capacity is apparently 62,000: so if, let’s say, a thousand tickets were still available and still being flogged, that’s not really a lot of leftover tickets in the context of how big the venue is.
And as far as Berlin goes, I have even less information. It is possible that the timing might’ve been an issue: the Euros football tournament is currently taking place in Germany, so maybe it wasn’t the best time for PJ to schedule stadium shows in Berlin.
But, putting all the numbers speculations aside, my point is that I don’t believe Pearl Jam is the sort of artist that cancels a show because only a certain amount of people are going to show up: especially when that amount of people is in the thousands.
More than almost any artist I can think of, ethical considerations and a relationship with their fans are both a big part of Pearl Jam’s way of operating, Vedder in particular.
What the theories are suggesting just doesn’t seem to fit with the nature of these guys.

So that’s my defense of the band and their decision.

And if someone’s ill and physically can’t perform, no other explanation is needed for cancelling a show.
But… I have issues too.
Mainly, why was the cancellation statement so immediately adamant about no rescheduling?
Why not reschedule the show?
They’ve said in the press release that they have obligations that make it impossible. But I’ve looked at both the band’s itinerary and the Spurs stadium’s schedule.
PJ are not playing any shows from the 11th July to the 2nd August, which is when they resume American concerts.
And the Spurs stadium has very little happening through July.
So if whoever’s ill has recovered in time to play the upcoming Spain shows in the second week of July, there’s no discernible reason London couldn’t be rescheduled for some date in maybe mid July.

That’s the part that has me most confused: not the cancellation, but the insistence on no rescheduling.

Artists reschedule shows all the time. What’s so different about this situation?
And yes, I’m partly being driven by lingering disappointment. But moreover, a rescheduled show would seem to be the obvious way to keep good with their fans, particularly those who’ve otherwise missed out or been inconvenienced.
Not to mention that both the artist, the venue and the various other entities involved should in theory still stand to make money from the show.
I don’t know. This aspect of it is what has me scratching my head: and maybe wondering if there is something else going on here.
We await to see what happens with the upcoming Madrid and Barcelona shows.
If they’re cancelled as well, then clearly there’s a serious health issue in the group: and at that point I’d start to be worried about more important things than merely cancelled shows.
Again, nothing has been specified about the nature of the illness. People have speculated about COVID, which is supposedly rife in Dublin – which was where Vedder specifically told the Manchester crowd he got sick.
Again, I hope everyone is okay soon enough.
But in a broader sense, all of this does make me wonder about artists still attempting large tours when they’re into their fifties. Are they up to it anymore?
Certainly judging by footage I’ve seen of some of the US shows, they look wholly up to it. And Pearl Jam has always been a prolific touring band. They thrive on it.
Those American shows looked great. It was only when they got to Europe – specifically the first European show in Dublin – that things seemed to quickly deteriorate.
pearl jam stickman

The whole European leg of the Dark Matter Tour has been a shit-show, to be honest. 

But again, it’s the no reschedule that has me confused.
In addition to wondering about whether older artists are physically up to the big tours anymore, I wonder a little about whether older and well established performers also get more jaded too.
I mean, it would be natural. You basically become an institution. And when you’re used to playing to massive audiences for decades, it surely must become a little less sacred as time goes on and something you might start taking for granted.
I mean, I think *I* would feel that way after long enough.
But no, ultimately, I don’t think I believe that’s true of Pearl Jam, and particularly of Eddie Vedder. You can just tell by the way he is on stage and the way he interacts with audiences.
That’s probably more something you’d say about a Guns N’ Roses and not Pearl Jam.
Though ironically Guns N’ Roses did at least make it to playing the Spurs stadium last year: even though Axl Rose’s voice apparently sounded like a cat being tortured to death.
Oh well. Here’s to hoping I (and some 40,000 other people who were in London for the show) get another chance to see Pearl Jam again.
And again, let’s hope everything turns out okay with everyone’s health.
And we must remind ourselves that there are more important things in the world, and bigger problems, than worrying over our entertainment.

S. Awan

Independent journalist. Pariah. Believer in human rights, human dignity and liberty. Musician. Substandard Jedi. All-round failure. And future ghost.


  1. Thanks for that. A very sad story. I checked and there were no further cancelled shows. Regarding them not returning in the window available prior to their US tour at the start of August, there is a strong likelihood that long tours are very arduous and they would be very much in need of the time off.
    The illness appears authentic but skepticism is understandable because in the past it is documented that many tours have been cancelled due to poor ticket sales and another reason has customarily been given so as to avoid losing face.
    I think the inflated ticket prices in general are absolutely disgusting. I would never pay anything like that, especially not for a band far beyond their prime which seems to be the case a lot of the time.
    I assume that the industry having lost a massive part of it’s core revenue stream-physical sales of singles and albums has chosen to try to make up for it by squeezing every last cent from their biggest fans. Those who feel they must see them..
    They have every right to charge what they want but it is hardly admirable.

    • Thanks James. Yes, I don’t think I’ll ever be paying these kinds of ticket prices ever again for anyone. Michael Jackson could be resurrected frm the dead, with Hendrix as his guitarist and I still wouldn’t’.

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