Saturday, June 14, 2008

R.E.M. at the Greek Theatre, Berkeley, 6/1/08

A couple weekends ago, I had the pleasure of seeing R.E.M. for the first time at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley. Missed the two openers (Modest Mouse and the National), but wasn't peeved. After all, I had seen Modest Mouse play a short set once before and didn't feel like being teased again. Next time I see them, it will be in a headlining slot, playing a full set.

Anyway, I noted that R.E.M.'s audience seemed oddly detached and sedate throughout most of the set, and not just during the 7 or 8 new songs from this year's Accelerate (which is excellent, by the way -- it rocks, but modestly, unlike '94's overrated Monster). Nobody really made much in the way of noise till they pulled out the big guns: "Losing My Religion," "Man On the Moon," "Orange Crush," etc. No "It's the End of the World as We Know It," fortunately. I never really got into that one. "Ignoreland" was a pleasant surprise, and one of my favorites of the evening, along with "Man Sized Wreath." Better still, I walked away having been introduced to one excellent song I hadn't heard before that I particularly enjoyed ("I've Been High," from 2001's Reveal).

For a band that is kind of "legendary" at this stage of their career, they are doing an excellent job of maintaining their signature sound, and still emanating a bit of freshness and youthful vigor. Stipe is still in fine voice and modestly charming as a front man, Buck and Mills still play as if they're enjoying themselves, and only one other guy (Scott McCaughey) augments the core quartet (with touring drummer Bill Rieflin). They're lean, not very showy, very solid, well worth seeing.

A superior, more detailed overview of the evening can be found at The Concert Blog.


Anonymous said...

My wife and saw them at Great Woods (oh pardon me, the Comcast Center) last Friday with some friends. She had the same comment, that the crowd didn't really seem very engaged. We've seen them there once before, touring after the release of Up. Seems like there was more energy during that performance.

harmolodic said...

How ironic, considering how little energy there was on Up compared to the new album. We audiences are a fickle bunch, aren't we?