Sunday, June 15, 2008
R.E.M. @ Merriweather
I love Merriweather. I've been coming here since I was a kid. The transition since Seth took over is impressive. Anyone that thinks Merriweather is a dump or a terrible place for a show probably hasn't been to many sheds. Merriweather is a jewel and we're lucky to have it. Yes, Wolf Trap is nicer, but it has a different vibe to it and it's not really suited for a big rock show.
We heard Modest Mouse while wandering around. I don't care for them, but the kids seem to love them. shrug. Haven't made it to see The National yet, but I've seen them before. Great band, but I just don't like getting to shows that early.
We settled into our 5th row seats in plenty of time. Before we knew it, they were on-stage, Stipe still wearing that suit, blasting out "Finest Worksong". Not my favorite song on record, but it's a great opener live. That first chord hits you like a brick wall and says "We're not f--king around here". It gets every one off their asses, up and singing along. Being near DC, Michael, shockingly, had lots of political things to say throughout the evening. He started by telling us they were going to play 3 political songs in a row, to get them out of the way. The first was the "Ignoreland" I was hoping for. I had written this one off years ago. I was thrilled when I heard they were starting to play it live. Nice, angry song. That was followed by the not-often-played "Man-Sized Wreath" and "Little America", from Reckoning. Little America is one of those songs I never thought I'd see again. Holy cow. What a barn-burner of a song this is. I was jumping around like crazy. Interesting that Michael didn't bother to come up with a replacement for "Jefferson" in the lyrics. He just kind of mumble through it, sticking his tongue out and singing "blaughraugh I think we're lost!". Except for the final chorus when he said "Washington, I think we're lost!", which helped emphasize the political meaning of the song. One of the many highlights of this show.
"Houston" continues the political commentary, which seems to get more and more blatant as the night goes on. Stipe introducing this one as the administration's pathetic reaction to Katrina. Ouch. The mid-set highlight was easily "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville", with Mills singing lead, sporting a spiffy cowboy hat. A hit song, an old-favorite, referencing a local town made for perhaps the biggest sing-a-long of the night. Always fun to hear - even with the miscue that provided a few shaky musical moments near the end. Nobody cared. Mike got a huge reaction from the crowd at the end - probably the biggest applause of the evening.
"Pop Song 89" was next and was a huge surprise. The tour debut for this one. Michael dancing around like in the video, shimmying around and shaking it for us all - holding his nose during the "Should we talk about the government" line. I forgot to mention "Let Me In" in the Raleigh review. It's a staple on this tour, but it's beautifully done. Rather than the solo guitar onslaught we got on the Monster tour, they're now performing it with 3 acoustics and a piano. Michael sings with his back to the crowd, but the screens show him from the front. It's a simple, but impressive effect. This version focuses on how powerful the lyrics are, without getting overpowered by the guitars or directly focusing on what Michael's doing while singing. The song is about Kurt Cobain. In fact - the guitar used on the Monster tour belonged to Kurt. Having just finished reading Heavier Than Heaven, this one hits me a little more than I would have expected. Beautifully done.
Winding down the set - the one-two punch of "These Days" and "Orange Crush" was just amazing. "These Days" is one of their hardest-hitting, balls-out rockers. Following that immediately with "Orange Crush" had everyone jumping around, clapping and singing along in a big way. Wow. That may well have been the highlight of the show for me. It's the perfect example of how R.E.M. is still a kick-ass rock band.
The encore was nice, but nothing really special setlist-wise, with the exception of the not-played-often "Mr. Richards", which was dedicated to Dick Cheney. Johnny Marr sat-in on "Fall On Me" again, along with "Man On The Moon". He's been pretty much inaudible though, so there's not much to say about that.
Oh yeah - Stipe makes no secret of his endorsement of Obama. Tonight he made a dramatic display of putting an Obama pin on the lapel of his suit. A surprising amount of boos for that move.
Another fantastic show. Outside of the new stuff, it looks like anything goes. Can't wait for Jones Beach on Saturday.
Photos by Dinger.