Sunday, April 10, 2011

R.E.M.: April 5, 1989

My one and only R.E.M. concert. I'd passed up an opportunity to see them at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor when Document came out. Stupid, stupid, stupid! This was the tour for Green, the band's first major-label album and the last one I could tolerate. (It seems like, just as with Bowie, each new R.E.M. album is heralded by some as a return to form... but it never is.) The opener was the Indigo Girls, also supporting their first major-label release.

I remember a few older songs in the set, like "So. Central Rain," and of course lots from Document and Green. This might have been the first time R.E.M. played arenas of such a large size, and there was really no connection with the crowd at all -- to be sure, it's a challenge in a huge venue, but it can be done. There was a screen behind the band with projections, and while I can't recall exactly what they said, I remember there was something toward the end of the show along the lines of, "You've been a lovely audience. Now it's time for you to go home." I'm sure it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but it just came off as assholish. I mean, R.E.M. is not Mark E. Smith on the best (or is it worst?) of days. I grumbled about it for what seemed like an eternity, first to my parents, who seemed amused. My dad seemed to particularly relish the couple of times I came home furious at a band (the other time being the Sugarcubes, which you will read about here at some point).

Although I haven't enjoyed any of R.E.M.'s post-Green music, I still love their '80s output. I realized all was pretty much forgiven when I saw Mike Mills at SXSW one year and he gave my stomach butterflies.

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