Pearl Jam’s first show in Italy 25 years ago: 10 things you may not know

Pearl Jam’s first show in Italy 25 years ago: 10 things you may not know

As we have always been told, you never forget the first time. Pearl Jam’s first Italian show at the Sorpasso Club in Milan may not go down in history as the longest one or as the one with the best setlist, but it definitely marked the birth of the “state of love and trust” between the Seattle band and their Italian crowds, a bond that was born twenty-five years ago on a cold February night and is still alive today and stronger than ever.

Below, we have collected some interesting facts about that legendary first time. Thanks to our friend Marco Rizzitelli for sharing his memories and to Myriam Bardino for her photos documenting this small piece of the band’s early history.


1. Sorpasso was a very small club in the Sempione central district of Milan with a capacity of a few dozen people – the estimate is about 150. Legend has it that more than double showed up that night, crammed into the tiny, stifling space. To say that the venue was packed would be an understatement. It’s no wonder, though, considering it was a free entry show with a drink purchase required (10.000 lire… sigh). In other words, you could see Pearl Jam at a distance of 2-10 metres max at the cost of a single beer, even of the shittiest quality. Not bad, since the max distance nowadays equals to San Siro’s third tier.

2. The concert, organized by Barley Arts – a local promoter who brought PJ to Italy until their 2000 Binaural Tour – was essentially a showcase to promote the band and launch “Ten”, that was released six months before and whose wave of success was beginning to reach Europe. Within a few months, Pearl Jam’s “Ten” and Nirvana’s “Nevermind” were topping the charts around the world, acting as a driving force for the success of other bands and bringing the so-called Seattle sound into the limelight once and for all.

3. Videomusic was an Italian music TV channel broadcasting in the 90’s, and was supposed to record a concert special. Unfortunately, the venue’s small size and poor lighting made filming problematic, so the channel was granted permission to film a couple of songs exclusively. In the late afternoon, the club doors were opened for a dozen fans who were lucky enough to see the band play “Once” and “Black” just for them. When he came on stage, Eddie told them: “Welcome to our private show”. Once the mini set was done, the band chatted with the few lucky fans, signing autographs and taking pictures. The only full-length video available of the evening concert is thus amateur, except for a segment of “Release” filmed by Videomusic with a static camera at the back of the audience. The band returned to Milan four months later for another concert, this time in the bigger City Square (in via Castelbarco, now named Lime Light), where they played in front of a thousand people. Videomusic managed to provide a full television coverage of the second show.

4. The concert at Sorpasso has been the only Pearl Jam show in Italy to take place during the winter.

5. “Hunger Strike” by Temple of the Dog was played twice in Italy: as a snippet at Sorpasso and in full four years later at PalaEur in Rome.

6. For the only time in Italy, Pearl Jam performed “I’ve Got A Feeling”, the Beatles cover included in the band’s very first promo, a cassette-only release.

7. After a powerful version of “Porch”, the band launched into a well known 2-minute improv jam where Eddie, visibly concerned about overcrowding and two ill-placed speakers that were about to plunge into the throng, started singing: “One hundred people riding on my face in the littlest tide, in the littlest place / I want so bad for you to be happy, after all what is being happy? / I don’t know but I want you to be happy in the littlest place, it was the littlest place / Attenzione, I want you to be happy / I want you to be good”.

8. “Leash” has only been played twice in Italy: the first time at Sorpasso (obviously unreleased at the time), the second fourteen years later at the Forum in Milan during the tour in support of their self-titled album, “Pearl Jam” (aka the “Avocado Album”).

9. At Sorpasso the band played “Breath”, which was still unreleased at the time, as well as its sister “State of Love and Trust”. A few months later they were both featured on the soundtrack of “Singles” by Cameron Crowe, and while “State of Love and Trust” became somewhat of a fixture in their subsequent Italian concerts, it would take another fourteen years to see “Breath” make its return to an Italian setlist – September 20, 2006 in Pistoia.

10. Nine out of eleven songs on “Ten” were played at Sorpasso. They only skipped “Garden” (played June 22, 2000 at the Forum in Milan) and “Oceans” (played four months later, June 17, 1992 at City Square in Milan).



▶ Pre-show: Once, Black
▶ Setlist: Release, Even Flow, Once, State of Love and Trust, Alive, Black, Deep, Why Go, Porch, Improv, Jeremy, Breath
Encore: I’ve Got A Feeling (The Beatles), Hunger Strike (Temple of the Dog) [Snippet], Leash



by Luca Villa |