I first saw R.E.M. on October 6, 1984 (I was just 3, haha) at Graham Chapel on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis. No I wouldn’t have remembered the date, but the internet can do some magical things, like provide this setlist:
Radio Free Europe
West Of The Fields
7 Chinese Bros.
So. Central Rain
(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville
Barney Miller Theme
Letter Never Sent
Gardening at Night
Old Man Kensey
Paint It Black
(The Rolling Stones cover)
In The Year 2525
(Zager & Evans cover)
Behind Closed Doors
(Charlie Rich cover) (Snippet)
(The Velvet Underground cover)
I Can Only Give You Everything
Sloop John B
(The Beach Boys cover) (with Peter Holsapple)
Born on the Bayou
(Creedence Clearwater Revival cover) (with Peter Holsapple)
(Van Morrison cover) (with Peter Holsapple)
Look at those encore numbers — extraordinary. I most vividly remember “Paint It Black.” I owned Murmur of course, and I played that album incessantly for a month or two — although I was always a little frustrated that the lyrics weren’t more distinct or at least printed inside.
I doubt there’s any good audio or video from that single obscure show, but here’s what the band looked like in those days:
I didn’t see R.E.M. live again until June 21, 2008, in a great show — one that frankly had a valedictory air — at Lakewood Amphitheater outside Atlanta.
As often with these YouTube videos, neither the video nor audio are great, but here’s a nice version of “Nightswimming” — one of my favorite of the more recent REM songs — from that June 21, 2008 concert:
I developed a keen respect for Michael Stipe — his intelligence, his artistry, and later his honesty and openness about being gay. While there was inexplicably a lot of press about him coming out in 2008, he said that he was gay in a Time interview in 2001 and his sexual orientation was public knowledge long before that.
Two of my favorite R.E.M. songs are also among the band’s best videos:
I’ll miss hearing new R.E.M. songs, but good for them for picking their own moment to call it quits officially. They’ve produced an incredible body of work, and they’re still pretty young. I’ll be excited to hear of future artistic projects, if there are any, but if lives were judged by how much they enrich others, these guys have already done more than their share.