The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

REM rocks – Concert Review

R.E.M.-Live at Birmingham-

Jefferson Civic Center (★★★★★)

with Radiohead (★★★★) and

that guy sitting next to me

(-33 million ★’s)


Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking. I am such a big REM fan that I would probably give at least a three-star rating to a concert consisting of cardboard cutouts of the band sitting on stage with music playing in the background.


Okay, you might be right, but that doesn’t matter. This concert was so good, my five-star scale cannot even measure it. But I am getting ahead of myself …


Radiohead got things off to an energetic start with the title track off their sophomore effort, The Bends.


Although they only played through nine songs for the better part of an hour, Radiohead tried their hardest to put on a good show.


It’s hard to be an opening act for a band like REM because the fans are usually very impatient for REM to get on stage.


The audience naturally got into “Creep” and “Fake Plastic Trees,” but to me the standout track was “High ’n’ Dry,” in which Thom Yorke wailed like William Shatner overacts.


Although it would have been better in a smaller venue with more allotted time for their act, Radiohead put on a great show.


To keep this account of the concert from getting annoyingly scatter-shot, here are some of the highlights of what went down:


“I Took Your Name” – Mechael Stipe and company walked on stage nonchalantly, and it started in a wash of feedback. Michael had on a huge wig and wore a cool black suit.


Bassist Mike Mit shaking the nerd image, was decked out in a green, sequined bell bottom cowboy suit. Guitarist Peter Buck looked like a tall preacher in his all-white suit (like John Lennon from the “Abbey Road cover). I couldn’t really see Bill Berry, to tell the truth. The group was joined by two touring musicians, Nathan December and Scott McCoy, who stayed in the background. It is not exactly my favorite song, and it is a strange choice for a show opener, but it was still pretty good. It was kind of an overture, a preparatory tune. A big orange, light-bar thingy flashed underneath the drums.


“What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” – The REAL show opener. Although Michael didn’t move around a lot because of his recent hernia operation, the band became much more animated. It doesn’t matter. Instead of the manic Stipe we got the cool, crooning Stipe with more stage presence than any artist I can think of. The band really ripped through this one, and Buck conquered his arch-nemesis, the guitar solo.


“Crush with Eyeliner” – Laid back, but rocking, this song is the definition of cool. Mills’s “I’m the Real Thing” (handled on album by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth) came from somewhere deep down inside that most humans don’t know they have. Different nifty images were broadcast on a see-through video screen behind them.


“Wake Up Bomb”- A new one that grooved along with some mighty fine guitar riffs flying around. I can’t wait to hear more of this one.


“The One I Love” — Intense. The first time that REM played it live in six years.


“Bang and Blame” – The biggest it-grew-on-me song of ‘94. An excellent version of it. It was accompanied by a neat light show.


“Some new song about water or something” – With this song, I began to notice a trend with REM’s new stuff. Fairly dark, it was heavy like Monster, but not nearly as poppy. I want to hear more of this one.


“Strange Currencies” – The main star here was Stipe’s vocal performance where he rumbled through the lines like he really meant it. I have a feeling he did. This song is my favorite REM ballad save “Find the River” and “The Flowers of Guatemala.”


“Revolution” — A straight-ahead rock tune that reminds me of “Ignoreland.” This new one is pretty good.


“Tongue” — A disco ball lowered down and REM slipped into lounge mode. Stipe’s falsetto melded well with Mills’s piano and organ work.


“Man on the Moon” — I got sick of hearing this one on the radio and seeing it on MTV, but REM really breathed life into it. The crowd was more pumped for this one than they were for “The One I Love.” Everybody sang along and cheered when Stipe did his Elvis-like “hey, baby!” The most “classic” sounding song of their new stuff.


“Country Feedback” – Stipe declared that this was the band’s favorite song. This song was one of the emotional high points for me of the concert. It was extraordinarily raw and the mini-jam session at the end left me drained.


“Losing My Religion” – Couldn’t have been better. I was at overload at this point.


“Pop Song ’89” — Luckily, this one came along to lighten things up. The crowd did the “hi, hi’s” along with Stipe.


“Get Up” – Two fun ones from Green, the album that stopped them from touring. Really easy to bounce around to.


“Star 69” – The peppiness continued with this one, the show closer. Punctuated by strobe lights and blazing guitar work, this was one of the best songs they did by far. We screamed forever when it ended. They left.


Then came the encores.


“Let Me In” – The only Kurt Cobain tribute song that matters, this was a beautiful rendition of it. Mills played guitar and Buck played a tiny organ. Stipe sang wondrously off-key.


“Everybody Hurts” — Better than I expected, just like “Man on the Moon.” On the screen behind the band, X-rays of Mills, Berry and Stipe’s recent health problems floated past.


“South Central Rain” – Beautiful. That’s all I can say about it. The only pre-Document song played in the entire concert.


“It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” — Intensity exemplified. This is the most fun I’ve ever had at any one point in any concert. Stipe rattled through the lyrics like an anguished auctioneer. The band jumped around as if they had flubber under their shoes. My friend was so moved by this that he whipped out a harmonica and played an interesting accompaniment. After the concert, he yelled, “I played with REM!”


We staggered out of the concert haggard, but we were satisfied.


Overall, it was one of the top three concerts I’ve ever attended. Michael Stipe showed us his hernia surgery scar, and I got to sit next to a real-life Beavis, who declared that REM was the Led Zeppelin of the ’90s. I got to wave at Mike Mills after the show.


Gods do walk the earth, and their names are Berry, Buck, Mills and Stipe.


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REM rocks – Concert Review