“We have seen Stipe numerous times over the past year, Alexander’s is a venue they play regularly, but this occasion was unusual being a Sunday rather than a Thursday night slot.
Although they have always put on an excellent performance, this was possibly the best we have seen yet - so it was worth the late night, even though I had to get up for work on Monday morning.
Of course Stipe are now also TV celebrities, having recently appeared on BBC1’s “The One Show” performing “It’s the End of The World As We Know It” in front of Michael Stipe. Maybe the extra boost from Michael’s endorsement has made a difference!
Rick (vocals) was looking particularly smart, in his suit and Michael Stipe-style striped shirt & tie. The set got off to a rousing start with “Living Well Is The Best Revenge”. It was the first time I had heard them play this opener from the current album “Accelerate”, and they certainly delivered the energy that really is essential for this song.
During the first couple of songs the audience was a little restrained, but after a bit of encouragement from Rick to come to the front, most people were up and dancing for the whole evening. The choice of songs kept up the momentum throughout the performance, just coming down to a gentler pace at the end of the first session as they finished with a beautiful rendition of “Country Feedback” followed by “Everybody Hurts”.
Like the “real” REM, the set list is never the same from one performance to the next – I’m not sure how many songs are in their full repertoire, but we have heard approximately 50 different ones being played, covering all albums right back to “Chronic Town”. They are certainly not predictable, and it isn’t uncommon for the set to be changed part way through depending on what requests are shouted out. On one occasion Tony adopted the novel approach of asking the audience to decide what should be played (each person got to choose one song) – this was done on a scrappy piece of paper just a few minutes before they were due on stage!
There is usually at least one oldie played – this time it was “Don’t Go Back To Rockville” which is also regularly featured in REM’s current live sets. However, to be in keeping with REM’s version it should really have been performed by Tony (aka Mike Mills) on lead vocals, wearing a cowboy hat.
The second part of the show contained the main crowd pleasers and by this time the atmosphere was really buzzing with everyone singing along and really having a good time.
“Accelerate” was well represented as they covered four songs with the encore including “Until The Day Is Done”, another song I hadn’t heard them play before, and it certainly sounded very much like the album version. It did get rather hot in the audience, so must have been worse for the guys on stage – especially for Paul, leaping about with his guitar. There was no sympathy from the crowd, who were shouting for more. Fortunately Alexander’s allowed them to play a bit longer, so they came back on for a second encore and gave us a further three songs. Bribery was being encouraged at this point, with Rick suggesting whoever bought them a beer could choose what was played next!
Sadly all good things have to come to an end and they finished a brilliant set with “Departure”, which I think is very appropriate for the last song of the evening - maybe it should become a regular fixture!
So, the big question – Are they as good as REM?
That’s up to you to decide, but you’ll only know once you have actually seen them perform. So check out the “dates” page on their web-site and go to see them as soon as you can.
First session After the break Encores
Living Well is The Best Revenge Supernatural Superserious Nightswimming
Animal Imitation of Life Until the Day is Done
The One I Love Bad Day What’s the Frequency
Strange Currencies The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite It’s The End of The World As We Know It
Lotus Losing My Religion
Walk Unafraid Orange Crush Leaving New York
Hollow Man Man on The Moon Daysleeper
The Great Beyond Departure
Don’t Go Back to Rockville
She Just Wants To Be
Review by: Liz H