Thursday, November 19, 2009

R.E.M. album review

Live at the Olympia
(Warner Bros.)

Flying without a net in concert is a scary proposition, even for a band that’s been together nearly 30 years. R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck called their working rehearsals in Ireland, where songs for 2008’s Accelerate initially got tested out, “an experiment in terror.” Barring a few minor flubs, you can’t really tell from this engaging two disc, 39-song collection.

Culled from a week-long run at Dublin’s Olympia Theater in July 2007 (the deluxe edition appends an hour-long concert film), early releases from the group’s first five years (Chronic Town, Reckoning, Fables of the Reconstruction) receive the bulk of attention amid entirely different sets.

Affable singer Michael Stipe tells a few stories, converses with the audience and reminds them that “this is not really a show” (as a taped message repeated at the start). It’s interesting to hear how tunes from Accelerate - the veteran Georgia band’s strongest in over a decade – evolved from stage to studio.

Hit single “Supernatural Superserious,” for example, is heard in an early version sans Mike Mills’ bright harmonies, under the title “Disguised.” Two other impressive unreleased numbers (“On the Fly,” “Staring Down the Barrel of the Middle Distance”) are included, but didn’t make the final studio cut. Filled with standouts such as “Cuyahoga,” “Pretty Persuasion,” “Electrolite,” “Disturbance at the Heron House,” “Driver 8” and the rarely played “Circus Envy,” this is a must buy for all R.E.M. fans.


Robert Kinsler said...

Thanks for the insightful review! I'm going to have to pick up this release for sure.

newwavegeo said...

Yeah, this is a really sharp live set. It was cool they played so many obscurities at those Dublin gigs.