Picture used with permission from Big_Franko.
We'll save you the suspense on this one. As the intense competition for tickets suggested, general expectations for this week's Pearl Jam gig at the Shepherd's Bush Empire were sky high. Or possibly a bit higher.Yet despite this, the American grunge-rockers somehow managed to exceed our hopes in emphatic style, producing a performance of such quality and emotion that it's sending shivers down this Londonista's spine just thinking about it.From the moment front man Eddie Vedder strode on stage, it was clear this was going be very special. They opened with Sometimes to huge applause, surfing through the first three tracks on a wave of pure joy before introducing Ronnie Wood for a frankly awe-inspiring cover of All Along the Watchtower.It says something when you've got one of the Stones playing a supporting role, and the reaction to that moment cemented the sort of connection between audience and band that we've never seen before.Perhaps it was the tension that builds after two-and-a-half hours without even the distraction of a support act. Maybe it was the collective feeling of good fortune at being there at all (if you were the guy with the rueful smile and the massive "please please please I need one ticket" sign, we really hope you got in).But more than anything, we think the euphoric atmosphere was down to the simple fact that so many people in that little venue cared so much about this huge band.The mass singalongs were enough to drown out Vedder's vocals at points, and with the crowd acting as one it seemed like the whole of the standing section was the mosh pit. In fact, the building did well to take the strain.As for the set? They played big hitters like Even Flow, Alive and Given to Fly, new material from their forthcoming album and, during the second encore, a cover of The Who's The Real Me. Another special guest joined the band for that one: Simon Townshend (Pete's brother) who recovered well after a brief problem with an out-of-tune guitar.The most-overhead word as people spilled out onto Shepherd's Bush Green at the end? "Unbelievable." Because it was.Pearl Jam play the O2 next week. Tickets apparently sold out in twenty minutes, but if you persevere you might be able to find one somehow.