Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"This one goes out to the one I love..."

So in continuing my going to see act this year that have careers spanning decades (my third installment will come at the end of October with Madonna), on June 6th I went to the United Center with my friend Sam, his girlfriend Sara, and his friend Dave to see R.E.M. Sam and Dave are HUGE REM fans. So when Sam, who lives in Boston, called saying he was going to be in town for work (and what luck the show!) he asked if I wanted to go. I like R.E.M. and own a few of their albums, but I am hardly a super fan. But I knew they would put on a good show and they are an act that people give their right arm to see. I was excited for the show and what they would play.

The opening-opening act was The National. The first (and only time I saw them…we missed them due to flights being delayed…sad face) was when they opened for The Arcade Fire. We were all disappointed we arrived after their set.

The opening act was Modest Mouse. I was excited about seeing them, because for some reason I keep missing them when they come to town. However, they sounded off. I think the United Center (where the Bulls and the Blackhawks play) is entirely too large for their sound. Much of it was lost unfortunately. Also, they played many songs that were odd for a show in an arena with a crowd who probably only knows “Float On.” Well they didn’t play that one, instead they played “Satin In A Coffin,” “King Rat,” and “The Good Times Are Killing Me.” I was happy they played “Fire It Up” and “Fly Trapped In A Jar” even if the sound was bad.

I think we were all pretty eager by the time R.E.M. took the stage. Due to the amounts of super fans, I was able to find the set list online. Which is good because they played a lot from their new album, Accelerate, and I didn’t know much from it.

1. Living Well's the Best Revenge

2. These Days
3. Begin The Begin
4. What's the Frequency, Kenneth?

5. Pilgrimage
6. Hollow Man

7. Animal
8. Man-Sized Wreath

9. Ignoreland

10. The Great Beyond

11. Accelerate
12. Houston
13. Electrolite

14. The One I Love
15. Final Straw
16. Find The River

17. Let Me In

18. Walk Unafraid
19. Orange Crush

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

23. Supernatural Superserious

24. Pretty Persuasion
25. Losing My Religion
26. Fall On Me (with Johnny Marr)

27. Man On The Moon

I really liked R.E.M. live. I can respect any band that has the longevity and fan base that keeps them going for almost 30 years. They also did not shy away from banter and Michael Stipe definitely did a lot of candid talking in between songs. At one point he thanked the city of Chicago for giving the country Barack Obama and then put on a campaign button. He also spoke of moments that inspired songs or to point out where in the crowd in between seats you can see the bottom level and his dressing room.

The visual show was also pretty great. As you can see in the videos above they utilized large screens that showed each member from different angles and had different effects. Similar to Radiohead’s screens.

I was super glad that they played “Orange Crush” and both “The Great Beyond” and “Man On The Moon.” I would have really liked to have heard “Strange Currencies” or “Nightswimming.” But with a new album and a back catalogue that could go for days, I completely understand they couldn’t play it all. Of course, I think everyone who was there wouldn’t have minded them playing all night.


I saw that exact (almost) show at Red Rocks. However, I think the progression was in reverse. The National killed it in Colorado and had the fans roaring. Then, the fans were "too hip" to even sway or applaud Modest Mouse's amazing set. Finally, Stipe droned on too long on each of his political speeches and danced too space-agey for most in the crowd, including me. A rough night with a constant decrescendo...
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