Sunday, June 1, 2008
The animals how strange
Went to see R.E.M. last night at Berkeley's Greek Theatre. The Greek is a natural amphitheatre in the East Bay hills next to Memorial Stadium on the UC campus, easily accessible by BART, and a great place to see a show. It's fairly small by R.E.M. standards (with just over 8000 seats) so last night's show was completely sold out, with ticket buyers outnumbering sellers by a five to one margin.
The ticket said that the show started at 6pm, which I thought was when the doors opened, but when I arrived at 6:15, the first opening band (the National) had already started playing. Luckily I got to my seat in enough time to catch most of their set, including all my favorites ("Mistaken For Strangers","Slow Show","Abel","Start a War", there are very few National songs I don't like). I always feel for club bands who have to play outside in the daylight in front of a half-filled amphitheatre, but the National went over pretty well. They'll probably be headlining Greek-sized venues fairly soon.
After the National was Modest Mouse. Opinions seem to be divided on these guys, but I didn't know a whole lot about them, so I went in with an open mind and thought they were dreadful. They weren't really my thing, and just weren't very good. They seemed to go over really well with the younger kids who got dragged by Dad and/or Mom to see R.E.M., so maybe I just wasn't receiving what MM were transmitting.
After a long set by Modest Mouse and a half-hour break, R.E.M. took the stage at 9:00 sharp. In a two-hour set, they played 27 songs from all the albums in their back catalog (except Around The Sun, strangely enough), including most of the new album Accelerate.
Horse to Water
What's the Frequency, Kenneth?
Man Sized Wreath
Imitation of Life
West of the Fields
The One I Love
Find the River
Let Me In
Losing My Religion
Living Well is the Best Revenge
I'm Gonna DJ
Life and How to Live It
Man on the Moon
I usually get excited at R.E.M. shows when I hear something from Murmur or Reckoning. Last night, the second song was "Little America", and just after that they played "West of the Fields" and "Wolves, Lower". They also played "Driver 8" and "Life And How To Live It" (both from Fables) back to back during the encore, and a couple of AFTP songs ("Ignoreland" and "Find The River") that I'd never seen played live before. Another highlight was the stripped-down campfire singalong version of "Let Me In" with Peter Buck on keyboards, and three acoustic guitars by Bill Reiflin, Mike Mills, and Scott McCaughey.
There was a funny story where Michael Stipe cracked up during the chorus of "West of the Fields". He said when R.E.M. were rehearsing the song last summer in Dublin, he had to check the lyrics on the internet, and was amused to find out that the chorus listed as "The animals how strange. Try to stick it in". Then he said "I wrote some dodgy lyrics in my early twenties, but I'm pretty sure I never wrote the words 'the animals, how strange'!". And then Mike Mills asked him "Okay, what did you write then?" and Stipe replied "I don't have a fucking clue!". That makes all of us!
Michael dropped another f-word later when he said he was "so fucking proud!" of California for passing the same sex marriage initiative (it wasn't the voters, it was the legislature) and said "since we're playing in Berkeley, I can probably keep the political discourse to a minimum, but for anyone is curious, we're all voting for Barack Obama for President". Good to know, I guess.