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"
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"
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
"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
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
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