"How are you doin'," Michael Stipe said to R.E.M. drummer Bill Berry
during R.E.M.'s performance on May 15 at the Shoreline Amphitheater,
south of San Francisco. At which point Berry fell out of view, in a
mock collapse. It was the group's way of making light of the
life-threatening ruptured aneurysm that forced them to cut short their
European tour this past march. Earlier in the show, following the
third song ("Crush With Eyeliner"), Stipe had told the audience:
"Welcome to Aneurysm '95 tour. A big hand for Mr. Bill Berry."
Now, Berry popped back onto his seat and proceeded to drive the next
song with his forceful drummingfurther proof of his undiminished
abilities. The Shoreline show was the group's first US performance
in over five years. Additionally, it was the first post-brain surgery
show for the group, and specifically, for Berry. "I feel a big sigh of
relief," Berry told MTV after the show. "It hit me, you got through
it, my head doesn't hurt..."
Despite on-and-off torrential rains that doused the crowd in the lawn
"seats," R.E.M. left most of the fans (possibly all of them) happy and
satisfied. The two-hour set, like the shows in Australia reported on
by ATN this past January and February, was filled with material from
Monster and Automatic For The People, along with a
sprinkling of older numbers. "I thought we played pretty well," said a
happy Peter Buck after the show. "We didn't make any drastic errors,
and no one had any physical or mental collapses during the show."
The group rocked hard. And while it was clear that this was the first
night after three months of not performingthere were a few tempo
problems for instancethat's nit-picking. R.E.M. demonstrated that
neither Berry's illness nor a three month break has diluted their
rather amazing live show.
They kicked off the evening with "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?"
which was the same song they began their first Sydney, Australia show
with back in mid-January. From there, it was on to "Circus Envy,"
"Crush With Eyeliner," "South Central Rain" and on and on.
"This is a song we wrote last Thursday," said Stipe, introducing the
group's biggest hit, "Losing My Religion." "I hope you like it."
In addition to "Revolution," an unrecorded number debuted in
Australia, the one other new song was a hard rock anthem, "Departure,"
that sounded like an old Stooges song. "How do we sound?" Stipe asked
the audience at one point. "Are we sounding generally good? Or
Stipe's way of dealing with being Mr. MChe periodically commented
between songswas to make sarcastic and/or self-depreciating remarks.
To introduce "Departure" a song no one in the audience had ever
heardhe offered this: "You've probably heard this song a lot on the
radio. We feel obligated to play it because we're a big fucking rock
In addition to something less than 20,000 fansthe next two night's
shows had sold out (40,000 tickets total), but the Monday night
performance, put on sale last, was just short of a sell-outattending
the concert were Buck's and Stipe's parents, and Berry's mother. All
four band members were clearly elated after the show. Recalling the
period immediately following Berry's illness, Stipe said, "For a
couple of days we didn't know if our friend was going to live. We
didn't know if he was going to have all his faculties, mental or
physical.....We could not have performed without Bill." Then, summing
up the drummer's importance to the quartet, Stipe said simply, "There
would not be R.E.M."