Big Day Out headliners Pearl Jam paid an emotional on-stage tribute last night to a young Kiwi fan who was killed in a freak boating accident.

Tomorrow marks the two-year anniversary of the death of Tim Zandbergen - known as "Zandy". The 24-year-old from Timaru perished when a speedboat towing him on a ski biscuit down the Swan River, in Perth, Australia, struck a navigation marker.

Zandbergen was a huge Pearl Jam follower. His friend Chris Spragg, from Christchurch, managed to get a message through to the American band this week via their "Ten" fanclub. He asked if they could play Zandbergen's favourite song Black and dedicate it to his memory.

Spragg was in the 41,000-strong audience at Auckland's Western Springs last night (Friday) when Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder duly obliged. Spragg had also told the group he attended a Pear Jam gig with Zandbergen four years ago in Christchurch.


"This is for your friend who was with you last time but couldn't be here tonight," Vedder said, before the band launched into Black.

During the song, the vocalist added: "Four years ago, you were by my side, I still feel you're by my side, I feel you here with me tonight."

Spragg said the tribute would have delighted his mate, who had been working at an iron ore mine in Mt Newman, 1100km north of Perth, around the time he was tragically killed.

"I was completely blown away the band got my message and did that for Tim as it was one of his favourite tracks," he said. "It was very touching."

Zandbergen's mother Michele Johnson said Pearl Jam songs were played at her son's funeral and the tribute from the group would make the second anniversary of his death tomorrow that bit easier to bear.

"It was a wonderful thing for Pearl Jam to do and it would have been full of meaning for all Tim's friends as well as our family," she said. "I know Tim would have heard it."