Tour ends on Up noteBy Ryan Ochylski
Nineteen-ninety-five marked the last time R.E.M. toured to support a record. Four years later, minus one drummer, they’ve decided to tour in support of their most recent album, Up. September 11th, at the Tweeter Center (formerly Great Woods), R.E.M. gave its last performance of the tour to a crowd of 20,000.
“Lotus,” the second single from Up, led off the show. Up songs remained the theme of the night -- Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Michael Stipe scattered songs from their ten previous full-length albums with nine of the fourteen tracks off the new album. Soon after “Lotus,” R.E.M. captured the audience with “What’s the Frequency Kenneth?,” the song that was written in response to the mugging of CBS news anchor Dan Rather.
Much of the early show featured songs that either never caught on as singles, or are strictly album cuts. When Stipe and company rolled out their first top ten hit “The One I Love,” the audience responded as expected with noticeably louder cheers.
As the show progressed, the audience began to grow more antsy for the popular hits R.E.M. is known for. When Stipe began talking about the comedian and wrestler Andy Kaufman, the crowd began to buzz, clearly expecting “Man On The Moon,” R.E.M.’s tribute to the late jack-of-all-trades. Instead, they gave the audience a taste of their score to an upcoming movie about Andy Kaufman with a song entitled “The Great Beyond.” The movie, also to be called “Man On The Moon,” is scheduled for a late autumn release.
As the show neared the end, the hits began to roll out. “Man On The Moon” immediately followed “Losing My Religion.” (The audience sang along not just to the choruses, but to both songs in their entirety.)
The concert “closed” with “Walk Unafraid” from Up, with Stipe providing an a capella introduction to the song. The obligatory encore soon followed. Stipe came out with only his guitar and proceeded to perform the first minute or so of New Adventures in Hi-Fi’s “Leave” a capella, as well. He then strummed the guitar in accompaniment to an excerpt from Up’s “Hope.” This acoustic medley ended as Mills walked out with his guitar for a full performance of “Why Not Smile?” another Up tune.
The distinctive feedback of Monster’s “Crush With Eyeliner” shattered the almost retrospective mood that had begun to form around the final encore of the final stop of this tour. This was quickly followed by another Monster cut, “Tongue.” Stipe then prefaced the next song by commenting on his wonderment that some fans have tried to transcribe the lyrics to his songs and post them on the Internet. Certainly, everyone in the Tweeter Center expected the next words out of Stipe’s mouth to be “That’s great, it starts with an earthquake ... ,” the opening to “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” Instead, R.E.M. surprised everyone by launching into their first-ever single, “Radio Free Europe.”
After “Radio Free Europe,” Stipe talked about what this tour meant to him. Then, for maybe the first time all night, the band did exactly what the audience expected -- they played “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It.” This rendition lasted about ten minutes. After the final verse, the refrain was repeated countless times, with Stipe throwing in the variation “It’s the end of the tour as we know it.”
Most outstanding about the show was how much the show rocked. Even traditionally softer songs like “Electrolite” took on a louder, more vibrant sound.
Notably left out from the show was “Everybody Hurts,” the ballad that many credited with convincing teenagers that suicide is not the answer. R.E.M. did not play “Stand” or anything else from their first major-label record Green. Also missing were songs from Reckoning and Fables of the Reconstruction.
The audience ranged in age from high school students to the middle-aged, in testament to R.E.M.’s long existence and wide appeal. Surely some were disappointed by the concert’s focus on post-Automatic For The People fare, whether it be because they came to hear the hits, or because they came to hear the old stuff. (One audience member was yelling for Murmur’s “Catapult” as the encore closed.) Just as surely, the energy present during “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” left the audience satisfied, nonetheless, and certain to cash in on Stipe’s promise to “See you again soon.”