R.E.M. – MTV Unplugged

Same title as the old release, but in 2001. Geez, you’d think the bootleggers would care more deeply about the internet reviewers!

 

Anyway, this is an unspectacular live show, as R.E.M. are totally into playing boring slow songs these days (this is 2001), and this album showcases the boring material off of Reveal and Up. I mean, shit son, the first eight songs are all either off of those two albums or “Electrolite”, which sounds like it was. And Up was a good album in studio, but on acoustic guitar and bongos…well, if your dad busted these songs out at his 58th birthday party he’d so be getting blown later, but here…eh.

Don’t get me wrong, these sound like totally cool guys; they tell (short, uninteresting) stories about being friends with Henry Rollins and Patti Smith, but with so much great music – particularly great R.E.M. music – out there, there’s no good reason to listen to this one. It isn’t even a better-than-average show – maybe the most interesting thing is that Stripes keeps complaining about having allergies while singing. The selections from the back-catalogue are the ones they do on every bootleg and B-side – “So. Central Rain”, “The One I Love”, “Losing My Religion”, “Country Feedback” – great songs all, but I’ve heard them all a million slightly different times. The latter incorporates a verse of “Like A Rolling Stone”, but not to any great effect.

And why do they always get the riff to “Daysleeper” slightly wrong when they play it live? And why was “Cuyahoga”, the most interesting and most fun song on here, the one that was cut from the broadcast, you big stupids? And why does Stripes take frickin’ “I’ve Been High” – the song where they rhyme “high” with “high” in the chorus – so damned seriously? “We’ve been sweating blood and semen over that song for three days”? Really? And how could “Seventy Times 7” have such a great opening riff and then follow it up with the awful line “back in school they never taught us what we needed to know / Like how to deal with despair or someone breaking your heart”? And why do they forget about that riff anyway?

All this is to complain a nice little show that sounds like a very nice time for all those in attendance, and MTV, and R.E.M. But to the homebodies that couldn’t be in Manhattan that day in 2001, this is just another show, albeit one with six songs off the forsook “Reveal.” Still, like I said, if your dad busted these songs out at his 58th birthday party you’d have to blow him.

6 / 10

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