R.E.M. End World Tour On 'Up' Note

Final show of first outing in four years focuses on songs from rock band's '90s albums.

MANSFIELD, Mass. — R.E.M. finished their first tour in

four years Saturday, concentrating heavily on tunes from their most

recent albums and performing a new song from the upcoming Andy Kaufman

biopic "Man on the Moon."

"This is sort of like the end of summer camp," singer Michael Stipe

told an audience of 20,000 at the Tweeter Center for the Performing

Arts. "I wish it could go on and on."

It was the final night of a world tour that began four months ago in

Portugal. The concerts R.E.M. performed overseas were filled with

older nuggets, but Saturday's setlist drew heavily from Up, the

band's latest album, and other 1990s releases, such as Automatic

for the People (1992) and Monster (1994).

Opening with the Up track "Lotus," Stipe took the stage at the

Tweeter Center with glitter around his eyes and blue circles painted

near his temples. Stipe was dressed in layers: A long black tuxedo

jacket dangled over a white, pinstriped smock, which buttoned over a

multicolored Japanese kimono. Turning to address the crowd, he

accidentally smacked his head against the microphone.

Stipe quickly recovered, then stormed across the stage and launched

into "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" Guitarist Peter Buck and

bassist/keyboardist Mike Mills accompanied him with an economy of

motion, creating energy with their instruments' sound rather than a

lot of activity.

And create energy they did for almost all of the two-hour performance.

Even softer cuts, such as "Electrolite"

(RealAudio excerpt),

from New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996), and "The Apologist," from

Up, were supercharged with loud, electric riffs. Midtempo hits

such as "Man on the Moon" and the Up rocker "Walk Unafraid"

received extra attention from Mills and Buck. The latter song was

splattered with layers of keyboard noise and treble-charged feedback.

The crowd didn't seem to mind the extra decibels. During softer

moments, such as "Sweetness Follows" and "At My Most Beautiful"

(RealAudio excerpt)

most of the audience sang along. Arms waved, fists flared upward and a

chorus of echoes bounced through the amphitheater.

For older R.E.M. fans, Saturday's performance was a significant

departure from the once low-key Athens, Ga., rockers. A colorful stage

set featured three-dozen neon figures that blinked on and off

throughout the performance, ranging from a giant pink rabbit to

varying forms of the band's logo.

Stipe gave off some color, too. For someone who used to profess that

he detested touring — or even talking — the singer spent a

good chunk of the night addressing the audience.

"Because this is the last night of the tour, I can say anything I want,"

Stipe said. "We've been on tour for a few months now, on the road with

all of our friends and family members. This is sort of like the end of

summer camp." Buck's twin daughters, Zoe and Zelda, watched from the

stage-left wings. "I wish it could go on and on," Stipe said.

Stipe and company then performed a string of older songs. "The One I

Love" and "Wolves, Lower" (from 1982's Chronic Town EP) each

garnered healthy responses, while a rare performance of the band's

first single, 1981's "Radio Free Europe"

(RealAudio excerpt), brought the crowd to its feet.

But most of Saturday's selections came from more recent releases.

"Find the River," "Man on the Moon" and "Sweetness Follows" represented

Automatic for the People, while "Crush With Eyeliner," "Tongue" and

"What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" were Monster cuts.

The sole song from Out of Time (1991) was the hit "Losing My

Religion" (RealAudio excerpt),

while "So Fast, So Numb" and "Electrolite" came from

New Adventures.

"The Great Beyond," from the forthcoming "Man on the Moon" film, was

an uplifting number, with Stipe belting out the chorus: "I'm pushing an

elephant up the stairs/ I'm tossing up punch lines that were never

there."

For the encore, Stipe donned an acoustic guitar and delivered sweet

renditions of "Leave," "Hope" and "Why Not Smile." The rest of the

band — touring drummer Joey Waronker, Young Fresh Fellows multi-instrumentalist

Scott McCaughey and former Posies bassist Ken Stringfellow —

returned for "Crush With Eyeliner" and "Tongue." A resounding take on

"Radio Free Europe" followed, with Stipe commenting on some fans'

interpretations of the classic.

"I can't believe people on the Internet try to interpret different

words and syllables," he said. "Some things make sense and some things

don't. This ... does not."

Closing the night, R.E.M. ripped through their usual closer, "It's the

End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)." Stipe ran around

the stage, hugging his bandmates and singing "It's the end of the

tour as we know it" in the chorus. As the song ended, Waronker

and McCaughey trashed their instruments, while Buck stood by and shook

his head.

The audience, however, seemed pleased.

"This proves that R.E.M. is still one of the best rock bands around,"

Lea Moore, 24, said. "They've changed with the times, and they've

stayed true to themselves. That's the best kind of rock 'n' roll out

there."