REM, St James's Church, Piccadilly, London
Finding my religion
Friday 17 September 2004
REM are no strangers to the "secret" show, having pioneered them back in the Eighties, when they would appear at places such as the tiny Borderline Club under amusing pseudonyms such as Bingo Hand Job. Tonight, however, the locale is the some- what more sedate surroundings of St James Church in Piccadilly, and the ClearChannel passes and the BBC pantechnicon parked round the back attest to the grander scheme in which they operate these days.
Tonight's show is being recorded for a BBC Radio 2 transmission as part of the promotional push for the forthcoming album Around the Sun, and accordingly features mainly tracks that few of the invitation-only audience can have heard yet. You might imagine they would ease us gently into the show with a few well-known numbers, but they opt to open with "Animal", a song only available on the In Time hits compilation, and one whose psychedelic-Beatles texture sounds a little muddy in these surroundings. But things improve rapidly with the brooding "Boy in the Well" and the pop-tastic bounce of "Wanderlust", one of the catchier new songs.
During "She Just Wants to Be", the nattily white-suited Michael Stipe appears to salute the audience, in some hangover from the days when his stage act involved many such hand gestures; but then you realise he's just shading his eyes to gaze around the packed balcony pews, as if searching for friends. The new tracks "Final Straw" and "I Wanted to be Wrong" recall an earlier, folk-rock REM, before Thom Yorke is invited up onstage to sing the Patti Smith part of "E-Bow the Letter". Unfortunately, Yorke fluffs his lines and they have to start the song over, Stipe asking the audience to help their guest by putting their hands up when he should come in. The second run through, Yorke nails it, wailing like a banshee.
"Around the Sun" itself cleaves to the eternal REM verities of arpeggiated chords and intriguing harmonies, with the organ adding an echo of early Traffic. "Aftermath" is less distinguished, but "Losing my Religion" brings a community-singalong mood to the church. A neat, short-haired Peter Buck laces an e-bow guitar line through "Walk Unafraid", which closes the set, before the band return for encores of "Leaving New York" - the strongest song on the new album, and its first single - and old favourites "Imitation of Life" and "Man on the Moon".
Despite the staid surroundings and Stipe's lectern, the mood throughout was less like a concert than a party with a few friends, Stipe screwing up his lyric sheets after each song and throwing them out to the crowd, personal souvenirs greedily snatched by punters like home-run baseballs. REM will be back over here in February for a full-blown arena tour, and on the strength of this show, their energies appear more focused now than they have been for some time.
Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors: 'I think as far as coloured actors go it gets really difficult in the UK'
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 3 UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
- 4 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 5 Warriors in ancient Iraq suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder more than 3,000 years ago, say researchers
Heavy metal producer's corpse to be mutilated by models as per his dying wish
Mr Selfridge series 3: Actress Kara Tointon says 'We're starting to see his demise'
Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors: 'I think as far as coloured actors go it gets really difficult in the UK'
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
V&A removes depiction of Prophet Mohamed from website amid 'severe security alert'
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd