Sunday, June 08, 2008

Coming in fast

I had my last day of school on Friday, and then went to see R.E.M. at the United Center. I have seen R.E.M in concert five previous times, starting back in 1989. The most recent concert before Friday was when they toured for their greatest hits album a few years ago, and that ranks as the best concert I have ever seen.

Friday night came close.

First The National opened with a great set, including most of my favorites from Boxer. They put on a really good live show. I wish they had played a bit longer, but instead they made room for Modest Mouse. I am not a big fan of Modest Mouse, but I did love seeing Johnny Marr, the legendary Smiths guitarist who now plays with Modest Mouse.

So I was extremely excited for R.E.M. to start. I knew from reading the setlists from the still-young tour that they were mixing in a lot of old songs, some of which they had not played in years. So this fact added to my excitement. We had excellent seats, too--the closest I've ever been to my all-time favorite band.

1. Living Well's the Best Revenge

Finally they took the stage with one of the rockers from Accelerate, and this got the show off to a rousing start. I could tell right away that the band was in top form, and Michael Stipe's voice sounded better than it has in years.

2. These Days
3. Begin The Begin

They followed with these two opening songs from the stellar album Life's Rich Pageant, which really got the crowd going. Both of these songs are classics, and Peter Buck's guitar work really stood out. I was already singing and dancing along, extraordinarily happy to be exactly where I was.

4. What's the Frequency, Kenneth?

They rocked this song as well. Michael's strange gyrating dance moves added to the fun of this performance.

5. Pilgrimage

A tour first! "Are they playing Pilgrimage? Holy crap!" This is truly a great song, from their debut LP, 1983's Murmur. And it sounded fresh and amazing. I may have had the biggest smile of my laugh at this point.

(The giant screens behind the band projected
live images, which were pretty cool.)

6. Hollow Man

"Hollow Man" is one of the best songs on the new album, and the live performance really did justice to the song's beauty. Mike Mills on back-up vocals was in top form as well.

7. Animal
8. Man-Sized Wreath

This pairing worked well. "Animal" is a lesser-known song from their greatest hits album, but it sounds great live, and "Man-Sized Wreath" is a fairly angry political number that again showcases Peter Buck's huge skills.

9. Ignoreland

Michael made his first political comments of the night, noting how not much had changed since "Ignoreland"--about the Reagan/Bush years--came out. I was hopping up and down to this awesome song from Automatic for the People.

10. The Great Beyond

Michael said this was the first time they had played "The Great Beyond" and that it sounded like shit in rehearsal, so he apologized in advance. But the apology was unnecessary, as it sounded very good. The crowd sang along, and except for a missed verse at the end, the song went off without a hitch. The band just played the last verse again, laughing the whole time.

11. Accelerate
12. Houston

This pair of tunes from the new album was also flawless, with "Houston" adding a somber note to the evening.

13. Electrolite
The only representation from New Adventures in Hi-Fi, "Electrolite" sounded lush and gorgeous, bouncy and glorious. Michael's vocals really shined here, and the crowd loved this one.

14. The One I Love
But not as much as they loved this one. Mike Mills' bass drove this classic forward. The crowd went wild, and I'm not sure R.E.M. has ever sounded better than they did at this moment. Superb.

15. Final Straw
Michael used the occasion of this anti-war song to say how happy he was to be in Chicago, and then he projected on the screen a close-up of his Barack Obama pin, which also made the crowd erupt in applause.

16. Find The River

Truly one of my favorite songs . . . The beautiful and melodic number, usually ripe with orchestra accompaniment, sounded wonderful parsed down to its glorious skeleton. I was in rapturous joy.

17. Let Me In

The band huddled around the piano for an overwhelmingly lovely acoustic rendition of this song from Monster, which is an ode to Kurt Cobain. Michael's heartfelt lyrics and singing really made this a wonderful moment in the show.

18. Walk Unafraid
19. Orange Crush

Another amazing combo here. "Walk Unafraid" is one of the best songs from the band's post-Bill Berry albums, and Michael danced his way across the stage.

And what needs to be said about "Orange Crush"? A classic R.E.M. song, and a clasic R.E.M. performance. As Michael sang the chorus through a megaphone, I was transported back 19 years to the Green World Tour and felt that sense of excitement again.

20. Horse to Water
21. Bad Day
22. I'm Gonna DJ

And they ended the set with a rollicking sing-along. Both "Bad Day" and "I'm Gonna DJ" had the crowd belting out the words. This was the only R.E.M show I've seen that did not end with "It's the End of the World as We Know It," but "I'm gonna DJ at the end of the world" worked just fine!

23. Supernatural Superserious

I knew this would be the first song of the encore, and it really sounded great live. The whole band had so much energy. They were completely into what they were doing, and this energy rubbed off on the crowd.

24. Pretty Persuasion

Another "Holy crap!" as they pulled out another tour first. This was a very pleasant surprise. At this point I was hoping the concert would never end.

25. Losing My Religion

Of course they played their biggest hit, and every time I've seen them play this song, I am struck by how much better it sounds live. The bass and drums are always more pronounced, and the live version is really quite a thrill.

26. Fall On Me

And now Modest Mouse's appearance on the tour becomes worth it. The great Johnny Marr (again, of The Smiths) came out and played on "Fall On Me," which has always been one of my favorite songs. To see such legends all together on one stage really sent chills down my spine. Another R.E.M. classic, made more classic.

Peter and Johnny

27. Man On The Moon

What a great song to end on. This has always been a crowd favorite, and as the night wrapped up, the energy continued at maximum level. Michael ran all over the stage, did his Elvis impressions, and had the crowd in ecstasy.

I did not want the show to end. This was one of the best concerts I've ever seen, and I left riding on such a musical high. The concert reinforced everything I feel about R.E.M. and started my summer off on such a wonderful note.


At 11:06 AM, Blogger Erik posited...

27 songs? Plus the National and Modest Mouse? I really should have just shelled out the 80 dollars to get tickets to the Minneapolis show...

At 3:51 PM, Blogger Kathleen posited...

Thanks for posting this info! We are going to see them on June 19th, and I'll be thrilled if it's half as good as this setlist!

At 4:50 PM, Anonymous Eriny posited...

I had to come back to your blog just to see what you said about the show. I am SO jealous! They're not coming anywhere near me this tour. Sounds like it was awesome -- woohoo for you! (and thanks for texting me from the show!) :-)


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