Sunday, June 15, 2008


The Storm, It Came Up Strong

I originally hard a pretty hard time getting a decent ticket for R.E.M. at Jones Beach - this great amphitheater that sits right on the water up in Long Island, NY. I couldn't get anything decent through the fan club, and TM wasn't coming up with much better. After an hour or so of trying, Dinger was finally able to get me a ticket at the back of section D, way off to the left. Good, but not great - especially compared to the seats I had pulled for Raleigh and Merriweather. Still - New York can be a tough ticket, so I jumped on it. I arranged to stay with some old college friends, who live about 20 minutes from the venue. R.E.M. + a weekend with my old friends promised to be a good weekend, for sure.

So Friday comes along - the day before the show - and I'm still riding high off the buzz of the last 2 shows. However, I'm getting bummed about my ticket not being all that close. I'm getting spoiled. I start checking Ticketmaster. It looks like they already released decent seats, but mine was still better. Oh well. But I didn't give up. I kept checking throughout the day. Sure enough - mid-afternoon - they dropped. 2nd row center. Thank you ticket gods. I emailed my friend in NY and told him to go to TM right NOW. He scored. 2nd row for him and his wife, too, just one section to the left. Awesome. Of course, now I'm stuck with my original ticket. Oops. I ended up eating it. Oh well. It's worth it to be just a few feet from the stage, right in front of Michael. Don't tell Dinger.

One thing I didn't even consider was the weather. It's been sunny and hell-hot all week. I also didn't take into account that Jones Beach isn't a shed - it's a real amphitheater. It's not covered or protected from the elements at all. Accuweather said it might rain a little later in the evening, so my friends lent me a rain poncho - just in case.

Accuweather can suck it. During the last part of Modest Mouse's set the whole freaking sky opened up with an absolutely horrendous thunderstorm. We found shelter under a concessions tent that actually had "doors" (flaps, really) that closed and protected us for a while. It poured and poured and poured. Eventually, the water behind the concession stand got to be about 6-inches deep. The workers grabbed the cash registers and ran off, never to be seen again. It didn't appear to be letting up. Suddenly, there was a HUGE lightning strike, so close and loud that it caused most of the people in the tent to scream and duck down. I've heard that the top of the balcony of the theater got hit. Who knows. Too close for comfort. That's for sure. Flashbacks to the Tibetan Freedom gig at RFK 10 years ago - almost to the day. Scary stuff.

Most of the thunder and lightning slowed down a little after 9:00. At around 9:30 they announced that they'd try to get started by 10:10. The rain was still coming down pretty good, but the danger of imminent death seemed to have passed by then. We went to our seats at about 10:00. I'm not sure what time it was when they finally came on, but I guess the show was delayed by a little over an hour. Better than a cancellation. Fingers-crossed that the storm didn't return.

The torrential downpour finally slowed up. The rest of the night was just an annoying, steady rain. I had managed to stay dry in that tent, but 5 minutes in the rain and I was pretty much soaked - even with the poncho.

The band was set-back into the stage more than usual - for obvious reasons. Stipe came right out front though and the band jumped right into a cover of CCR's "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?" Nice. They've played this before, but it's really rare these days. I remember seeing it once on the Green tour, but haven't thought much about it since. The song was sloppy and fun - a theme that would continue throughout the night - and a nice acknowledgment of the mess we're all in. With barely a pause they went right into "So. Central Rain" next. Perfect. When they were done with that one, Stipe told us they had considered playing "I'll Take The Rain" next, but "'s 7-minutes long, slow and it just plods along. Nobody wants to hear that tonight." (I wish someone had told them that same thing when they were making Reveal, but I digress.)

The regular show picked up from there. Did I mention the rain? Yeah - still pouring. But Micheal stayed out front the whole time. Except for the occasional loose footing, he did his best to just pretend the rain wasn't an issue. Eventually, Mills came out, too - running around his side of the stage giving everyone a helluva show. Peter was a bit more tentative, but made his way up front a couple times.

Despite being in the second row, the rain made taking pictures difficult. I'm terrible in the best of conditions. The rain made it nearly impossible. Plus I didn't want to ruin my camera. Of the few pics I took, this is the only one that's even presentable. Note the guy behind Michael mopping the floor in the middle of the show.

Michael said he felt bad for some of the soaking wet people up front and decided to give out about a dozen t-shirts. Did I mention the rain? Still pouring. Did I mention that Stipe is endorsing Obama? Yeah - They were all Obama t-shirts.

We got "1,000,000" again. Amazing. I love that song. I could hear that every night. But for the most part, they played it safe with the setlist tonight. Something distracted Michael and he started laughing during the final "I'm out of here" during "Electrolite." Since that's the very end of the song, he just shook his head and laughed it off. Peter wasn't having any of that though. He made Michael go up to the mic and say it again. OK - "I'm out of here." I couldn't tell if Peter was mad or joking around. I love it when little breakdowns like that happen.

They soon got around to "Let Me In", using the same setup as the other cities. It was at that point it hit me. This is one of those songs that shows up in the same spot every night. They shouldn't be playing this until 4-5 songs from now. They're going to give us a short show. Sure enough - 3 more songs and they were done with the main set.

But after "I'm Gonna DJ" they just kind of stood around looking at each other. Michael eventually went over to talk to Peter and Scott. Everyone nodded their heads in agreement and Michael comes back to center stage, telling us that they're not going to do the encore-thing. Rather than make us stand in the rain while they run off-stage for a few minutes (Did I mention the rain? Yeah - Still pouring) they decided to just proceed. That is - as long as it's OK with Mike Mills. He said it was fine.

So Michael says to just pretend we've been applauding for a few minutes, that they've come back - looking all refreshed, with lots of drama in the air about what's left to come. The crowd cheers wildly, Michael says something like "Hey - Thanks - We're R.E.M. Here we go." and they jump right into "Supernatural Superserious". While Peter was getting his mandolin ready for "Losing My Religion", Michael takes his lyric sheets that he usually throws into the crowd, hands them to the guy in front of me and says "Here - just pass these around to everyone that didn't get an Obama t-shirt." The guy turned around and handed me the lyric sheet for "Losing My Religion". Finally. After years of being a few feet out-of-reach I got one of these things. Thanks, random front-row guy. I folded it up and put it in my rather soaked pocket, because (as you know) it was still raining. That explains why the page is such a mess.

"Losing My Religion" was fine, but then they stopped for another conference. Michael comes back and says (paraphrased) "OK - I swore I'd never do this again, but we're gonna try it. Keep in mind this really hasn't been rehearsed at all." One of them could be heard saying "How does it start?", which had the others laughing. Before you know it - they're playing "It's The End Of The World As We Know It". They get about 80% through it before there's some miscue (I'm not sure if it was Stipe or the drummer), and at that point the song completely fell apart. Peter throws his hands in the air and the song collapses. Awesome. Everyone seemed to think it was hilarious except for Peter, who looked annoyed as hell. I'm starting to think Peter's turning into a cranky old man. Lighten up.

"Fall On Me" and "Man On The Moon" (both with Marr) were good, as usual. I almost want them to start substituting these two with something else. They're almost becoming stale.

Did I mention the rain? Yeah - It finally stopped in the middle of "Man On The Moon".

So we got a short show by about 4-5 songs. But it was a rather unique one, to say the least. I still thought it was a blast, despite the rain. My friends were thrilled with it, too.

The band is taking a few days off. Philly is next - on Wednesday. Three shows left in the tour. I'm hitting them all.

Update: Here's a short clip of "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?". You can see how hard it's raining when they turn the lights up.

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