R.E.M. Live in Burnaby – May 23, 2008


Friday, May 23rd, 2008

Deer Lake Park

Burnaby, BC  Canada


***Live Review & All Photos By Lord of The Wasteland

I’ll be the first to admit that, like many others, I had pretty much written off R.E.M. after the debacle of 1998’s UP.  The last ten years have seen the Athens, Georgia rockers mired in bizarre stage behavior (vocalist Michael Stipe’s penchant for wearing blue makeup and dresses, for example) and lackluster releases, so when I heard that their new album, ACCELERATE, was a “return to form,” my interest was once again piqued.  Indeed, ACCELERATE and the first single “Supernatural Superserious” does show some sign of life in the band, a first really since the departure of drummer Bill Berry in 1995.  In celebration of the new album which was recorded at Armoury Studios in Vancouver, R.E.M. chose to kick off their world tour at Burnaby’s outdoor Deer Lake Park amphitheatre.  On hand were about 7,000 fans aged 5 to 65 with everyone from hippies to hipsters standing shoulder to shoulder on a cloudy Friday evening.


Since Berry’s departure, R.E.M. has utilized former Ministry drummer, Bill Rieflin, behind the kit and with touring guitarist Scott McCaughey in tow, Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills remain from the band’s original foursome.  Considering it has been a quarter century since R.E.M. first broke on the scene with 1982’s CHRONIC TOWN E.P., Stipe’s nearly fifty-year old voice still sounds top-notch and just as crystal clear on “Gardening at Night” today as it did on said release.  Mills, the band’s secret weapon on backing harmony vocals, is also able to hit all the soaring high notes on the rarely-played (and last-minute addition) “Get Up,” as well.  Even the stoic Buck managed to twist off his trademark jangly riffs, while doing time on keyboards and mandolin. 


Fans hoping for a hits-filled set were sorely disappointed as R.E.M. dug deep, deep, deep into the vaults for this show.  Among the chestnuts dusted off included “Ignoreland” (played live for the first time ever according to Stipe), a stunning version of "Sweetness Follows," MURMUR’s “West of The Fields” and “Time After Time (annElise)” and “Second Guessing” from RECKONING among others.  Of course, “Losing My Religion,” “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?” and “Man On The Moon” were played to satisfy the more casual fans but others like “Everybody Hurts,” “Stand,” “Drive,” “It’s The End of The World As We Know It” and “So. Central Rain” were noticeably absent.  ACCELERATE was heavily featured with eight of its eleven tracks worked into the set and they all sat comfortably.  “Hollow Man” and “Supernatural Superserious” truly reinforce the statement that R.E.M. finally sounds like R.E.M. again, while “I’m Gonna DJ” infused a quick burst of frantic energy from Stipe during the encore.  Not afraid to experiment, the band tossed aside the feedback-laced original version of “Let Me In” from MONSTER and played acoustically while huddled around Buck on keyboards and Rieflin on guitar.  Whoever designed the band’s dynamic and innovative stage setup should be given an award, as well.  Brightly-lit video screens were hung curtain-like behind the band and throughout the set, various artwork, lyrics and other images were interspersed with footage from the stagefront video cameras.  Later, pink and green neon lights shone out just as the sun was setting during a perfectly-timed version of “Man on The Moon” to close the show.


Considering this was the first show of the tour, the usual problems and foul-ups that go along with working out the kinks were nowhere to be found.  The sound was truly phenomenal from anywhere on the grass and the aforementioned video displays nearly became another member of the band.  Considering R.E.M. has only scheduled sixteen North American dates before heading to Europe for the summer festivals, those fortunate enough to catch the band live should certainly do so.  R.E.M. is truly “back” and I heard one woman echo the thoughts of many in attendance on the way to the parking lot: “This was the best seventy bucks I’ve spent in a long time.” 



Living Well Is The Best Revenge

What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?


Second Guessing

Gardening at Night

Man-Sized Wreath

Disturbance at The Heron House

Hollow Man


West of The Fields



Losing My Religion

Time After Time (annElise)

Let Me In

Final Straw

The One I Love

Country Feedback

Bad Day

Walk Unafraid

Horse To Water


Supernatural Superserious

Sweetness Follows

Get Up

I’m Gonna DJ

Man on The Moon












***Thanks to Jessica at Live Nation for the press pass.

R.E.M.—Official Site




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