REM, Hyde Park, LONDON

REM show flair, but lose mystery

Tracks about being alienated from humdrum society and mainstream thoughts were once what made REM unusual and marvellous.

They were never U2; the mysterious Stipe appeared to be Bono's polar opposite. However, "The Outsiders" is a song for a much younger band, not one that has been going for more than 20 years and has conquered the world. Lines such as "I'm scared of the storm/ the outsiders are gathering/ a new day is born" do Stipe little credit. The enigmatic singer's lyrics, at their finest, conjure an eerie swirl of balmy images and witty phrases. Such as on "E-Bow The Letter" (from the underrated album New Adventures in Hi-Fi): "I wore it like a badge of teenage film stars/ Hash bars, cherry mash and tinfoil tiaras/ Dreaming of Maria Callas/ Whoever she is."

As a treat, they played the mesmerising track this evening and invited the peerless Patti Smith on stage to duet on it. Clearly meant to be a highlight of the gig, it turned into a tender disaster. With her microphone stand far too high, poor Patti's voice was barely audible. It was a mild comedown, especially after Smith's highly successful term as curator of Meltdown last month. Nevertheless, Stipe sweetly held her close to his mike and they muddled through.

This was not a night for wallowing in the rich complexities and nuances of Stipe's eccentric lyrical universe. This was a moment for gargantuan screens flashing REM in red and blue neon and raising your beer aloft in a field. "It's the end of the tour as we know it", he quipped and this was an evening for singalong anthems. In this respect, REM did not disappoint.

After a rather lacklustre start with "Bad Day", Peter Buck unleashed some suitably distorted power chords for "What's the Frequency, Kenneth", the best rock song off their least intimate album, Monster. This was followed up by a faultless rendition of "The One I Love", which was blissfully and characteristically free of any embellishment and adhered simply and exquisitely to the recorded form. On "Drive" the fortysomethings were more playful, with Stipe adopting a Tom Waits-like croak, occasionally gargling the lyrics. Also his spindly body began to do its trademark jerking and twitching movements. Also sporting a splash of blue paint across his face, from ear to ear, covering his eyes, Stipe resembled a villain from a Marvel comic. It all played well on the big screens.

After a few choice words about George Bush, Stipe launched into one of the stronger and more heartfelt tracks on the new record, "Final Straw" - a tirade against his gormless leader. However, there is no mention, throughout the evening, of the London bomb attacks. An odd omission, especially given the gig had to be cancelled (previously scheduled for this previous Saturday) because of them. Perhaps Stipe's concern for London was implicit in the way he performed "Everybody Hurts". He appeared to apply special emphasis to "take comfort in your friends" and "you are not alone". Or is that clutching at straws?

Griping aside, this was still an exceptional performance. Stipe's voice was impeccable and Mills and Buck performed admirably. And there were some indisputable gems too. The gorgeous "Nightswimming"(from Automatic for the People) was part of the five-song encore. Stipe ended the beautiful lament by clambering on to Mills's piano, rubbing his stubbly skull and clapping at his fellow band member, before planting a kiss on him. The equally luscious "Electrolite" (New Adventures in Hi-Fi) was also surprisingly and joyfully wheeled out.

Ultimately, an accomplished performance from a band who have a lost a little of their mystery, but none of their expertise or flair.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits