Yesterday I attended the show of my long time favourite group, R.E.M. I’ve been a passionate fan since 1993, when I first bought my two records of the band, Out of time and Automatic for the people. Since then, I have bought every single album they have released, including singles from Monster and New adventures in HiFi, just to get the b-sides (which I downloaded from the net anyway). I of course also have bought all of the old records from the band, and I of course love them the best. In addition, I have learned just about every song R.E.M has ever performed, especially from the IRS-years, and I play them on guitar (and piano, for that sake), and now both the lyrics and the chord changes. As the true fan I am, I also of course have been to each and every concert they have held in Norway, even the secret one in Oslo in 2003, for the greatest hits album In time. The other ones were in Oslo in 1995, on the Monster tour, and in Stavanger 2006, after Around the sun.
So now I was excited about how they wold perform this time. The time when R.E.M just got great reviews for anything they do is long gone, as is the time where R.E.M could and did fill up the concerts with new material. This time around, they include songs from most of the albums from the IRS-years, and hardly any from the albums after drummer Bill Berry left. You will struggle to find songs from Up, Reveal and Around the sun, on the setlist, perhaps an admition that those songs do not match the quality of the ones from the heydays. They certainly don’t. But are R.E.M still able to produce magic from the stage, while not doing it on record?
They are older now, but they still do their trademark, of running into the stage and their guitars. Mike Mills is dressing ever more stupid, this time in a white kind of blue suit, and a cowboy hat, compare with pictures from the eighties, something has happened to him. Peter Buck is looking ever more bored, but he still does his particular jumps with the guitar, all though you with search in vain for an expreccion on his face. And Michael Stipe is turning more and more into a friendly, nice guy super star, who chats with the audience and make everyone feel well. That is the band, now. Here is the songs.
They opened with and old one, and a good one, from Life’s rich pageant.
Living well is the best revenge
The starter from the new album Accelerate is how R.E.M sounds and want to sound today.
What’s the frequency, Kenneth?
The first one to really move the audience.
In Oslo in 1995 I was so disappointed they didn’t play this one, as it was my favourite back then. I also was disappointed when they started to play it, but in an upbeat version, not recognizeble from the starter of Automatic. This time the played it close as it sound on the record. At least, they tried.
“This one is Superold” said Michael Stipe before this one, from the Reckoning album in 1984. That is 24 years ago. This one is an example from the magic REM produced back then, it’s far from the greatest on Reckoning, it’s an average there, ut the average from the time sounds so great, who needs hits? The version on the scene yesterday, couldn’t reproduce the magic, though.
Man sized wreath
Before this song Michael Stipe got a little political, as he often do, and to speak negative about the gouverment in the USA, is not excactly controversial theese days. So he of course got ovations from the audience, when intodusing this song as a protest song. But it’s nothing near the quality of the song coming up.
Less than average on the Automatic record, this song outperforms most of the stuff REM’s done in recent years.
Wow! A song from Chronic town, amazing, and how peculiar to dedicate it to a girl in a Narvesen kiosk in Norway.
REMs own favourite from UP, is a great song, which didn’t quite shine yesterday.
Also from the newest album, Accelerate. This one is slower, and more anonymous.
The great beyond
From here the concert moved up to another level. This song is among the very best REM has done without Bill Berry, and it sounds just as good on the record, as on the stadium (or in a fortress, as was the location they played in Bergen).
Imitation of life
What can I say? Michael Stipe shows his magic, first by lifting the audience to hand high ovations even before it started, by a wonderful introdution about how this song made it to number one in Japan, and a proposition to sing along. We did, we all did.
Before this song Michael Stipe suggested the audience to put up the mobile phones and electrical devices in the air, to show some light in a spescial place in the song to follow. The song was of course Electrolite, and Stipe even made the audience laugh, by saying with a laugh this song is about Los Angles, the most fucked up city in the world. And it was truly a bright idea with the phones, I turned around to look at it, and all over the fortress, there was displays shining. No wonder Stipe said: “That was awesome!” afterwards.
This is one of the new songs I feel REM more is insisting is a great song, that it actually is. You cannot find the song in any studio album, but it is on the compilation in time, among other places. And the often play it live. Stipe and the band have to work to get this song going, and yesterday they worked really hard, and got it going.
Horse to water
Song numer ten from the new album. It has every thing to ask for from a great song, except for the magic. The best was when Scott Mc Carhty said “water”, as he did, again and again, in the refrain.
Fall on me
Another old one, from Life’s rich pageant, this is among REM’s very best pieces. Yesterday Stipe got a little mixed up in the lyrics, but you have to know the song very well to notice, and even more to notice, and all in all, this was a good performance of a great song.
The one I love
This song showed the stadion band R.E.M at its best. it’s an old song, which everybody love, and the lyrics and the tune is so easy, anybody may sing along. And Michael Stipe jumped down to the audience, and walked back and forth, screaming “Fire” together with the front row. And the entire stadion as well. And I guess he captured a few hearts, by claiming with a smile the audience should be punished for tickling him. “You should not tickle the lead singer of a band, just when he is trying to reach a high note he can no longer reach”.
I’ve been high
After two very good and well performed songs, R.E.M made a break with this slow one from “Around the sun”.
Let me in
Best in show. Peter Buck playing the keyboard, the rest of the band playing a accoustic guitar each, and Michael Stipe singing. Pure magic.
I’m gonna DJ
After R.E.M had convinced the audience they sure had some magic left, with the excellent Let me in, Stipe jumped up to the laud speaker, stretched his arm with the microphone, and waited for the band and the sound. The audience was there at once, and the band as well, and the sound was I’m gonna DJ, the strange song, which now is on the accelerate album, after having been played live for a while. And this song is like written for being played live, and for a big audience. The lyrics is very easy, and everyone may sing along both to “Hey steady, steday”, “It’s in my mind, in my mind” and of course “I’m gonna DJ to the end of the woooooooorld!” I thought the concert was over, and that it all had been excellent, but R.E.M had another one in store.
“It’s been a bad day – no pictures” was written on the big screen, and everyone knew what to excepct. And we got it. Bad day, superbly better than “I’m gonna DJ”, and I thought the concert ended even more excellently.
But R.E.M topped it all by Orange crush, showing that the old is the best. This is sheer magic in the chords of Em – G and D, so easy even someone who can’t play guitar, can play it. And electric, with the backrgound voice of Mike Mills, and the megaphone of Michael Stipe. You just can’t argue with a band like that. They are still making great concerts. And there was more to come…
The rest of the audience was exctatic for this one, I couldn’t help being a bit turned of after the supreme final of the main set.
Losing my religion
Oh, my old time favourite, sound track of my youth, no matter how hard core fan I am, I would miss it, didn’t they play this one. And I easily forgive Peter Buck playing the mandolin like he was using the remote control on the TV, being totally bored of the dull programs.
At my most beautiful
Well, here I have to refer an episode from the audience. Someone behind me told his fellows this was the best REM song ever, no doubt about it, he just loved this one. To me, this was the first one I would skip from the set list, if i were able to change a few. You can even replace it by any song from Up, “At my most beautiful” is a song which tries to hard, to my taste. Cynical, I say.
It’s the end of the world as we know it (And I feel fine)
But my most beautiful is easily forgotten, when the end of the world comes. And I feel fine. I have never ever heard a bad performance of this one, it’s a brilliant song from the Document album.
Man on the moon
“We are R.E.M, this is what we do” says Michael Stipe before this one, knowing very well no one does it better. REM is still some of the best show on earth, I can hardly think of anything better, or perhaps how R.E.M used to be.