R.E.M. – R.E.M. Live

More like R.E.M. Dead. Let’s do this point form style:

– The band sounds exciting for exactly two songs, a couple old album tracks, before settling into a sad rut of bored-sounding greatest hits and boring new album tracks.

– Over a quarter of the set (six songs) come from their boring shitcan (what, you didn’t get the deluxe edition??) of a last album. These songs have no hooks, and every time you think there might be a little momentum building, they kill it by playing one of these snoozers.

– The new song, “I’m Gonna DJ”, is a sad attempt to sound “rocking.”

– MIchael Stipe consistently thinks the only way to emphasize a line is to shout the last word, so “so fast so numb that can’t even feel” becomes “so fast so numb that you can’t even…..FEEEEEEL!!!!” This mannerism quickly becomes parodic when it’s used even in the quiet “Drive.” Hey, at least I got a smile out of it!

– Old man Stipe ruins “Man On The Moon” by saying the Elvis impersonator line like a maniacal, jovial clown, not a depressed Elvis. He also keeps up the tradition of shouting “COOOL!” after the chorus, which is really, really annoying.

– There’s almost zero stage patter to comment on, except for the time Stipe says he’s going to play two protest songs, which gets a rousing applause, but they let the audience down by playing sleepy new songs “I Wanted To Be Wrong” and “The Final Straw” instead of the great, angry “Ignoreland”.

– The backing “bocals” are out of key most of the time. The heck?

– As the show drags on, the whole band sounds like the collectively come down with a cold. The whole production gets more wheezy and nasal, Stipe starts pronouncing words wrong, the drums sound like they’re playing along to slightly different songs. Or maybe I’m just as tired of hearing “Everybody Hurts” as the band were of playing it.

– Lovely Up-era track “Walk Unafraid” translates just horribly in a live setting.

– All this is to ignore that two-thirds of these songs are great songs, even if they’re in better form on albums other than this one. Go listen to those albums instead. After all, “Depression can make you nihilistic – you start to see everything as pointless and absurd. Depressed can blind you to the genuinely awesome and wonderful things in life, but it also gives you a very low tolerance for meaningless bullshit. If you start from a place where everything is meaningless, a LOT of the little stuff people really stress out over becomes totally ridiculous.”

5 / 10

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