Tuesday, June 17, 2008

R.E.M. at Walnut Creek June 10th, 2008

First, I can safely publish the set list thanks to a. this GENIUS and welcome site and b. my husband taking notes on his Blackberry. I generally hate the new trend in concerts wherein people feel compelled to call friends, take photos, hold up the glowing white light of their phone during a ballad, etc. Still, I enjoyed texting my boss (who was at the Cubbies v. Braves in Chicago) and an old college friend (who got last-minute 12th row seats, grrr) during the show.

So....here's a preview of the show....

....and here's the setlist typed out:

Harborcoat (!!!!!)
Living Well's The Best Revenge
Bad Day
Whats the Frequency, Kenneth?
1,000,000 (!!!????)
Man-Sized Wreath
Welcome To The Occupation
7 Chinese Brothers
Hollow Man
Imitation of Life
Houston (not quite as greasy awesome as on the record, sadly)
Walk Unafraid (I've heard this live now probably 5x)
The One I Love
Final Straw
Find The River
Let Me In (acoustic!)
Horse To Water
Auctioneer (Another Engine) (OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!)
Orange Crush
I'm Gonna DJ


Supernatural Superserious
Losing My Religion
Pretty Persuasion (Um, haven't heard that live since, oh, I don't know, 1989?)
Fall On Me (w/Johnny Marr)
Sitting Still (w/Mitch Easter and Don Dixon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
Man On The Moon

I should not type anything more before stating that, as you may have read, Stipe wore a SUIT. The entire time. This was no small feat. After "Harborcoat" (a wholly unexpected and delightful opener), Stipe said, "Welcome to the R.E.M. weight-loss program 2008". But he professed to love the heat, as a Georgia boy.

(I did NOT love the heat. It was blinding. Though, my husband did text me, whilst on a beer run, that I am hot when I sweat.)

Stipe only mentioned Obama twice. Amazing!

He was appropriately chatty, which pleased me. Many of Mssr. Stipe's comments centered around his love for the Raleigh area. So nice, especially considering that he travels the world regularly. R.E.M. has a lot of history here, and we were the site of Bill Berry's one and only reunion with the band (in 03...a show that was not even that amazing, except that the completely unthinkable happened. The audience was rapt...it was an incredible moment.)

The set and lighting were, as usual, strange and mysterious and great. R.E.M. works with avant-garde filmmakers and designers, so I expect nothing less. I can tell where they were headed: "Remember, we are a stadium band who make stadium rock, but we want the look and feel of an indie film." They got it.

Peter Buck barely rates notice in concert, which is very rock n' roll. The night of the 10th he was lazy on some songs, especially some of the older stuff, but he was inspiring on new songs like "Accelerate" and "Supernatural Superserious". I could have been listening to a guitarist half his age in a club twenty times smaller.

I'm not complaining about the old songs, though. Being with my husband and with my old college friend and hearing them was nostalgia exemplified. My friend took me to see R.E.M. and Let's Active at the Township in Columbia, SC, about a two-hour drive from Greenville where we attended college. I love the Internet, cause I can look back and see what that show was like -

17 November 1986 - Township Auditorium, Columbia, SC
support: Let's Active
set: These Days / West Of The Fields / Harborcoat / Crazy / The One I Love / Feeling Gravitys Pull / The Flowers Of Guatemala / Pipeline / Cuyahoga / Tired Of Singing Trouble / I Believe / Swan Swan H / Lightnin' Hopkins / Superman / Can't Get There From Here / Old Man Kensey / Pretty Persuasion / Auctioneer (Another Engine) / Little America
encore: Driver 8 / Harpers / Fall On Me / Strange / I Can Only Give You Everything

And to that I say, LORD HAVE MERCY. My friend (who still rocks) and our fellow concert-mates (one of whom I recently found again, and the others...whoever they were) got up to the very front of the crowd, nabbed a set-list after the show, and received pieces of Stipe's flannel shirts (he also had hair then). This was not unusual in those days...during one Athens show in the 80s I recall leaving a front-and-center position to go outside, and then coming back in and getting right back up front. After the Township show, my buddy introduced me to Mitch Easter. Dude!

I've only seen my friend once since he graduated in '87? I think? but through the magic of technology we reunited at this R.E.M. show, near 22 years later. The band brings us all together in harmony and love, promoting peace and happiness and rock wherever they go.


Here are the notes I jotted down on my early-ass flight to Chicago the very next morning:

Mike Mills had his traditionally goofy stage presence, but his vocals! They were spot-on and as moving and pretty as I've ever heard them. Well done, sir!

Seeing Mitch Easter and Don Dixon come out for "Sitting Still" was not as exciting as Bill coming back, but fun nonetheless and really set Raleigh's show apart. I am very grateful to R.E.M. for doing shit like that, as my Chicago trip made Raleigh seem ultra-boring. But Chicago's R.E.M. show was not as long OR as cool. So HA.

You may know that Johnny Marr came onstage to play on "Fall on Me". That was fun and 80s but didn't sound all that spectacular. Still, seeing Marr in person was very Smithstatistic....as for Modest Mouse, I could have done with about 20 minutes less of them. Jerry, of my college days, texted that they sucked - I wouldn't go that far, but I do think they need to vary up their tempos a bit. Johnny was good & jangly.

The National opened and I was in a very, very hot and humid heaven. I have a thing for the lead singer (he's a baritone! So unusual in pop music today) and the drummer is crazy-good. They didn't have the drums as loud in the mix as on the record, which was disappointing, but they really sounded lovely. The band kept a great rapport with the crowd and played a finely tuned set. I was impressed...you will be, too, if you have not yet checked them out.

I have a hand cramp, so let me wrap this up:

I was eager to hear the acoustic version of "Let Me In", the fabled ode to Kurt Cobain which was probably also an ode to River Phoenix and now, probably an ode to Heath Ledger (also a friend of Stipe's). I preferred Mike Mills's keyboards on "Electrolyte", though that song was not quite as successful as "Let Me In". The acoustic accompaniment was pretty, but Mssr. Stipe's vocals made "Let Me In" ethereal. I read somewhere, sometime, that Bono called Stipe our modern-day Bing Crosby. It's true: he sings beautifully and loftily, and evokes so much.

Also, such a dandy poseur and dancer, and all, as I've said, IN A SUIT in the HEAT.

The overiding themes of the show were political protest and enviromentalism, Not a bad idea in these trying times. One was reminded, amidst all the politics, of how relevant the band's stands have been for lo these many years. Still, there was never too much seriousness, and the nostalgia of the golden oldies never got in the way of the new, the untried, the technologically marvelous, and the driving rock and roll.

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