R.E.M is Good
We got back today from Chicago after spending a few days there and seeing R.E.M in concert. The band was really good. I’ve seen a lot of concerts in my day (a lot!) but I never saw them until this time. I’ve seen bands who simply suck live, and these guys are not in that group. They are really good live. Stipe’s voice sounds great live, and I was very impressed by their sound system (I’ve seen some big band with shitty sound before — U2, 1994 for “Zooropa” possibly the worst ever). But what was coolest about the whole experience was the god-like feeling of having those “all access” passes around your neck. More below.
The “all access” pass is perfectly described. You can go anywhere. Literally anywhere. It’s the same pass that the band members have. I’ve been backstage before, but I’ve never had an all-access pass. It makes you feel — well, special. Frequently I left my front floor seat because, well, I felt like going backstage to have a beer. Or to have some roast beef and cake (all of which is provided backstage for the “all-access”-ers). You just leave your seat and walk backstage. It’s nuts. Security personnel just part like the Red Sea as you walk by. I can’t lie — it was a sweet feeling. In fact, we liked the side stage standing room (literally to the side of the stage, where the band members walk off) so we spend a lot of our time there, and took a lot of pictures.
The set list was really good. I’d say that the song they did that sounded best was “Bad Day” (rocked), but that’s tough, because they really were good all around. The one exception was the final encore — “Man on the Moon” — I didn’t think it sounded particularly good. They also did a great job with “Orange Crush.” I was worried they wouldn’t play it (it wasn’t on the set list for the previous show) but they put it in. I shouldn’t forget too that the opening band was great too — Modest Mouse. I’ve never been a big fan, but I am a huge fan of Johnny Marr (the guitarist from the Smiths) and he plays with them now. He also played a tune with REM that I have a short clip of.
After the concert we all got into Buck’s car and headed to their hotel (the Peninsula), where we had a reserved room and drank a lot of absurdly expensive alcohol and wine and argued about politics (mostly disagreements between the liberal, the really liberal, and the absurdly liberal — I’ll let you guess where Stipe is). Me and Peter Buck again had a “pessimist-optimist” difference (we had a similar disagreement at my house last year). He’s an optimist, I’m a pessimist. What can you do. Michael Stipe was there (sitting next to me), but pretty quiet. What shocked me the most about him was the fact that he ate a small cheeseburger. I thought the guy was a vegetarian! I felt like calling the “Smoking Gun” and turning him in. Shit, the guy won PETA’s 2008 award for best looking vegan. Yeah right In fact, it was a bit odd. He reached down, picked up the bun (not the patty), smelled it, put it down, slathered ketchup on the patty, and then ate it on its own.
I could go on (lots of interesting stories), but all in all, it was a great time. Buck was really great to us, and treated us well and graciously. He’s a very nice guy and generous to the max (two nights in a hotel free, free tickets, passes, food, alcohol — what else could we ask for?). I told him I’d send him an autographed copy of my upcoming Existentialism for Dummies book as a very partial “thank you.” I was joking, but he actually said he wanted a copy. Go figure.
Hopefully Buck and Christie’s friend will get married. I’d look forward to that wedding for sure!
At some point I’ll put up pictures and video — we’ve got plenty of them.