A1 Great! Part lies, part heart, part truth, part garbage.

r.e.m. live review

Laid-Off Dad reminds us that November is NABLOPOMO, or the much-easier-to-remember ‘blop’. Yes, one post on the ol’ web log every day, November 1 through 30, just like last year. Most people I know who have websites of their own are already disqualified from participating, having missed day one. Ah well.

LOD also mentions the new R.E.M. Live CD and DVD set, which came out a couple weeks ago. It’s been met with a shrug by most critics, which is fine – it’s just a live release, not a real album, and the band’s last three discs haven’t exactly set the charts afire.

But it’s a good collection, especially for fans of the band, and those who thought the stuff on Around The Sun sounded a bit off. That album is an unfortunate mix of excellent tracks, great songs that didn’t come out right, and downright mediocre material. Having seen R.E.M. twice on their last tour, from which this Live disc springs, I know that the stage allowed those Around The Sun songs to breathe, to come alive, and to be exciting.

The tour shows that I saw in Ottawa and Montreal started with Begin The Begin, but Live kicks off with I Took Your Name, followed by So Fast So Numb, two excellent rock tracks that could have been released as singles, if rock radio played live cuts anymore. As I’ve mentioned, the Around The Sun stuff shines – Boy In The Well, I Wanted To Be Wrong and Final Straw gain a lot of energy here, energy that was not so evident from their studio takes.

And of course there’s crowd favorite stuff – Everybody Hurts, The One I Love, Losing My Religion, Man On The Moon, perhaps four of R.E.M.’s five biggest hits. And songs like Cuyahoga, and Bad Day, and Walk Unafraid, and Drive, sweet little gems for someone like me. (And let’s not forget Orange Crush, which might be the band’s best live track. I’ve never heard a disappointing take on OC.)

I really wish Life And How To Live It was included here, though. That was one unexpected song that popped up here and there in their sets through the tour, and it would have been nice to have it documented on disc.

So, you know, I guess I don’t necessarily recommend R.E.M. Live for people who are not already fans, but if you’re down with the group already, this is a fine review of their last worldwide jaunt, and a great way to re-live the live experience. If the band tours Canada again when their new studio disc is released next year, I’m going to have to follow them around Ontario and Quebec – two shows will not do, I’m sure.


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