R.E.M. - Live (2CD/DVD)

2008-02-06 17:02
 
The difficulty with live albums clearly lies elsewhere. Firstly, Michael Stipe (or Stripe, on this tour) has a famous tendency to lose his voice. Secondly, though REM come armed with a cool live support band and a simple but striking lighting setup, REM need to tie together a fairly varied career. They’re negotiating with an audience that’s divided between fans of the pre-Monster albums and fans of the post-Monster albums, while a small contingent capable of appreciating both cowers quietly in the queues avoiding eye contact with both factions.

The vastly different tendencies in REM’s sound make it hard to get the show to hang together. Aside from big hits like “The One I Love”, pre-Monster material doesn’t rock a stadium like their later stuff does. Tracks like “World Leader Pretend” are riddles, best listened to in your commune over a bankie or two while taking copious notes. Belting out songs like this to a 15 000 crowd just flattens them - they lack the rousing melodies, evocative choruses, and more humorous conscience that later albums brashly brashly. The very new stuff? Well it’s mostly musically uninspired – it would be pointless without the clever lyrics scrolling across the big screens.
So the CD version of this live package doesn’t work as well as the studio versions of most songs do, although the live version of “Losing My Religion” won’t do anyone’s iPod any harm. But the DVD – with the production values and visual presence to tie the different styles together -is better. Even the weird performance of “So Fast, So Numb” snaps together, especially if you have a crush on Michael Stipe, and are fairly tolerant of atmospheric streaky light effects and fashionably shakey camera work. So if you saw REM’s SA tour leg, this makes a decent souvenir as it’s more or less the same set we saw here. But it’s not a collector’s item. For that, look for The Iris Years (EMI, 2006).

REM Live also lacks the kick and the excitement that actually being at the gig to see Stripe do his chicken dance will give you. To really feel the music, you still have to be there. Luckily for musicians, because a live performance is still the only thing that still can’t actually be pirated.

- Jean Barker

It would be nice to say REM have avoided live recording because they’re too busy producing brilliant studio albums, but it seems those days are over. Around the Sun may have pulled some decent reviews, but only because critics were deeply relieved that it wasn’t as crap as Monster (If you own that album, burn it! Then burn yourself.)


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CapeTownJunk 2008/02/07 8:27 AM
Shurely shome mishtakesh? Brashly brashly? The Iris years? Monster is crap? Compare Monster to any of their three most recent studio albums (Up, Reveal, Around The Sun), and you'll realised that it's an album that's aged well. At the time I also thought it was their worst album. Nowadays, I'm glad I own it. Then, while you're at it, listen to Automatic For The People and New Adventures in Hi-Fi... and tell me which of those is the 90s masterpiece. Otherwise I must agree that this live recording is nothing special, and rather underwhelming. Such is the depth of their back catalogue that you could have easily picked two dozen completely different songs and composed a better set list for a live show.
Michael 2008/02/07 8:29 AM
Jean Barker, what are you smoking? Clearly, you have never followed the musical evolution of genius that is Michael Stipe and REM. If you want some rough sounding stuff, try GREEN, one of their earliest works, and see how they have grown, matured and progressed over the years. MONSTER was probably the most "in your face" album they ever produced, with a sound that, granted, was not what were accustomed to hearing from the 4 man lineup, but certainly did not lack punch. For me, what sets REM apart from the rest is the complete lack of bubblegum pop / mainstream cheap rock that has been flaunted across the CD racks and stages for so many years. I challenge you, go have look at the lyrics of any REM song, and you'll find words of not just face, but much deeper meaning, writtten with insight and daring to challenge the mind. Sure there have been those huge hits that were tongue in cheek and a lark, (Stand comes to mind which Stipe said was "the worst, silliest song we've ever done" and hit #1 in 2 weeks!), but the thou
Michael 2008/02/07 8:31 AM
Jean Barker, what are you smoking? Clearly, you have never followed the musical evolution of genius that is Michael Stipe and REM. If you want some rough sounding stuff, try GREEN, one of their earliest works, and see how they have grown, matured and progressed over the years. MONSTER was probably the most "in your face" album they ever produced, with a sound that, granted, was not what were accustomed to hearing from the 4 man lineup, but certainly did not lack punch. For me, what sets REM apart from the rest is the complete lack of bubblegum pop / mainstream cheap rock that has been flaunted across the CD racks and stages for so many years. I challenge you, go have look at the lyrics of any REM song, and you'll find words of not just face, but much deeper meaning, writtten with insight and daring to challenge the mind. Sure there have been those huge hits that were tongue in cheek and a lark, (Stand comes to mind which Stipe said was "the worst, silliest song we've ever done" and hit #1 in 2 weeks!), but the thou
Jean 2008/02/07 8:58 AM
Michael - easy tiger I love Green, and I don't mean the "green stuff". Still since you feel so strongly - strongly enough to run out of space on this message board - send us a review. publishme@24.com.
lexx 2008/02/07 9:46 AM
a complex excuse its strange how people need to argue about a band such as REM. I love the lads and have spent most of my life listening to them. With that in mind i would think that stipe would chuckle at all the bad vibes and angst coming out of both the critics and fans alike. Damn people ... its just a band and i'm sure that if you get something from one their albums they have achieved something great. Rather turn it off, if it does not appeal to you. But jean i do believe that you should rather consider the change from a foursome to a threesome as point of departure and not some monster.
CapeTownJunk 2008/02/07 11:29 AM
Defending Monster again If I had to divide R.E.M. fans into two camps, I'd split them into those who love "Everybody Hurts", and those who hate "Everybody Hurts". Jean, just as much as Monster isn't as bad as some people think, Automatic For The People isn't as good as it's made out to be. You want some proof? Think of the first song on each album. "Drive" is rather dull, whereas "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?" is one of the highlights of their live set.
Jean 2008/02/07 2:27 PM
Responses CTJunk, you have a point, although I'd divide it into "People who like 'everybody hurts' when sober" and "People who only sing along to it when drunk". 1. I, by the way, am one of the people who owns Monster. In my defence, I won it in a breakup CD-divide. But there are reasons why I still have it... 2. I rate 'New Adventures in Hi-Fi" above than "Automatic FTP" and 3. There is nothing wrong with Pop as a style, even if most pop is total ear-mould.
CapeTownJunk 2008/02/07 2:34 PM
The burning issue So Jean, what's it going to be? Are you going to burn yourself, or revise your opinion of Monster? :)
Galamatias 2008/02/07 2:42 PM
At least get the title right Just a trainspotters point: The collection is called "And I Feel Fine - The IRS years". If you're going to diss a band at least know the titles. REM are one of the cleverest bands around. They have made a career out of selling simple folk/rock/pop tunes that seem more profound than they are. Though managing to skate carefully on the edge of being a Emperor's-New-Suit band (a la Radiohead) they have the knack of puncturing their own pretension - review Mike Mills' "hat song" or the silly Beastie Boys pastiche of "I'm Gonna DJ". Uncle Thom would never dare allow an audience to seem him doing something silly, now would he? Long may the chicken dance and so what if it's only for the fans? At least there are plenty of them.
Jean 2008/02/07 2:56 PM
CTJunk and Galamatias G, re. I feel fine > You're right. i'd chalk it up to a technical error two years ago when I reviewed it. CTJunk> No need to burn myself. I'm very clumsy and likely to die in self inflicted accident in the next few years. Failing that, I'll just post my address on the internet underneath my latest review and wait for the Celine Dion fans to arrive with their torches.
Michael 2008/02/07 6:10 PM
Impending new review.... Hi Jean, thanks, will send the full text through. BTW, new REM album "ACCELERATE" due for release 1 April 2008. 30sec clip available for streaming on remhq.com - sounds BRILLIANT!
coda 2008/02/08 4:26 PM
Uh huh They're called "R.E.M." not REM. Show some respect. If you can't even get that right then perhaps you should stick to reviewing Avril Lavigne.
coda 2008/02/08 4:32 PM
Where do you get your info? For the record Monster is one of the most critically acclaimed albums to come out of the 90s, if you weren't there to enjoy it then that's your loss.
Dude 2008/02/11 9:59 AM
It's good enough for the band so... As a response for uh huh, the new album cover for accelerate has REM with no dots so there really is no disrespect huh? Monster may be flawed but it is still better than Around the Sun imo. 3 stars is pretty much right for the live cd, and I am the biggest fan! Accelerate rocks btw and non of this will matter on April 1!!! Supernatural Superserious, wow!
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