Gig Review: R.E.M. @ Lancashire County Cricket Ground, 24th August 2008

R.E.M. @ Lancashire County Cricket Ground, 24th August 2008This was the third time in five years that R.E.M. had played Lancashire County Cricket Ground at Old Trafford and, with the news from Cardiff earlier in the month of the band having to scale down to a venue a tenth of the size of the Millennium Stadium, you could be forgiven for wondering if Manchester would turn up this time, especially as the band’s setlists had become a little tired and predictable on their previous couple of tours. Manchester did turn up in droves, however, even if a large part of the cricket ground was cordoned off making it seem even fuller than it was. Maybe it was the band’s return to form of sorts with the new album Accelerate after the dreary Around The Sun; or maybe the rarity of a warm and dry afternoon in what has been a quite abysmal summer.

The support acts were both bands we showed an initial interest in, buying their debut albums before growing bored well before their follow-ups were released. We always had high hopes for the Guillemots as they were such a good live band before they released any albums and before their live shows became weighed down in tedious self-indulgence. Things didn’t start too well with “Get Over It” sounding turgid and empty thanks to Fyfe Dangerfield’s anaemic guitar sound fighting a losing battle with the wind and only bass and pounding drums backing his vocals. They improved from thereon in, first with a couple of tunes we didn’t recognise that sounded pretty good, presumably they were from the latest album, and then with a succession of tunes we did recognise. “Trains To Brazil” and “Made Up Love Song #43” reminded us how good the Guillemots can be while “We’re Here”, given the setting, really should have been played with the full band and not just Fyfe on his own. It was a ponderous version that was quickly drowned out by the chatter of a bored crowd. They finished, as ever, with a 10 minute “Sao Paulo”, which, though it sounded good, left me thinking that they really haven’t moved on as much as they should have in the last couple of years.

Editors @ Lancashire County Cricket GroundI’m not sure what I ever saw in Editors. Opener, “Bones”, sounded ok but things got very boring very quickly. They are the post-Interpol Coldplay and while the succession of half-remembered singles from their debut album sauntered by I was playing Countdown with their backdrop. “Steroid” and “storied” for 7, Des. At least Tom Smith seems to have left his ridiculous arms-around-the back-of-the-neck emoting poses behind, instead choosing to clutch his microphone like he’s practicing his new golf grip. We left for beer and food well before the end.

R.E.M. @ Lancashire County Cricket Ground, 24th August 2008We saw R.E.M. at T In The Park last month and they certainly seem to be hugely re-energised on this tour, as evinced almost immediately with the tremendous opening salvo of “Living Well’s The Best Revenge”, “These Days” and “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth”. The fact that the new songs from Accelerate are invariably short-and-to-the-point rockers is a great help as it means that there is very little slack in the set, unlike last time around when their set was bogged down with the ponderous five minute plus dirges of Around The Sun. With the U.S. elections around the corner it was no surprise to hear some of the band’s more political works with “Drive”, “Man-Sized Wreath”  and the ever wonderful “Fall On Me” joining a rare and highly welcome outing for “Ignoreland” in close succession.

When Michael Stipe promised something special to mark Manchester’s Gay Pride celebrations, JustHipper immediately predicted “Pretty Persuasion” and she was spot on. It brought a tingle to the spine and it was as if time had stood still for 23 years, which is probably how long ago it was when I last saw them play it, so faithful it was to its original form. We hollered along with inane grins on our faces, as we did a couple of songs later when “7 Chinese Brothers” was dusted off, heads turning inquisitively in our direction as we yelped with delight on hearing Peter Buck’s opening refrain. Things slowed down a little with an unexpected “I’ve Been High” showing that Reveal wasn’t all bad, followed by a quiet, intimate “Let Me In” with the band gathering in a circle and the much of crowd, sadly, resorting to chatter.

R.E.M. @ Lancashire County Cricket Ground, 24th August 2008To be honest, the final third of the gig didn’t reach the heights of the opening hour or so as things got a bit more predictable. “Orange Crush” and “Bad Day” are now firmly entrenched in the R.E.M. setlist and, while both are fine songs, I wouldn’t be sorry to see the back of them for the next tour. “Imitation Of Life”, however, was a highlight at T In The Park and was just as good here as it closed out the main set. The encores included the inevitable “Losing My Religion” – cue groups of lads jumping up and down with their arms round each other’s shoulders – and “It’s The End Of The Work As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” and promised another surprise as Stipe introduced a song that “we don’t play very often”. Unfortunately it turned out to be “Mr. Richards”, which may be one of the better songs off Accelerate but it’s no “West Of The Fields”. At least they’ve finally dropped “Everybody Hurts” for this tour, which is especially good as JustHipper promised to buy me a cheap bottle of plonk to celebrate if they didn’t play it, though the ever-present set closer “Man On The Moon” must surely be up for review any year now. In all, though this performance wasn’t quite up there with T In The Park, it was close enough and I’d go as far as to say that this is probably the best R.E.M. tour since they toured Monster in 1995. Long may they run.

R.E.M. – Pretty Persuasion

R.E.M. – 7 Chinese Brothers

R.E.M. – Ignoreland

44 Responses to “Gig Review: R.E.M. @ Lancashire County Cricket Ground, 24th August 2008”

  • JustHipper Says:

    As good as they were, I have to add my £.02 that I’d enjoy seeing them anywhere smaller – even the arena – so I could *SEE* REM. It pretty much sucks ass going to “see” your favourite band and having the experience of watching people’s backs instead. I may as well stand in a crowd of people listening to old bootlegs as spend £40 on a ticket if they play LCCG again.

    Even when I could see the screens it was pointless as they were showing arty shite rather than the performance. I’m sure it looked great for the old folks sitting down, but it was utterly pointless for much of the crowd.

  • Pauly Says:

    This gig was great from start to finish, but that nay be because i was on the front row and wasn’t forced to watch the gig lurching behind idiots waving their arms and drinking too much.
    I agree, i want to see R.E.M. play in a more intimate setting, although it was amazing to hold Michael Stipe’s hand whilst he sang LOSING MY RELIGION.
    If a never get to see them again i will die a happy man.
    Gig was amazing.
    Would be nice to hear SO CENTRAL RAIN though.

  • Ami Says:

    I agree wholeheartedly, REM were fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed their performance – particularly the mix of earlier material from Life’s Rich Pageant and Reckoning with stuff from the new album.
    What I really didn’t enjoy was the animosity from sections of the crowd who wanted nothing more than to stand around with their arms folded and tutted and glared at anyone who wanted to dance, jump or sing. Yes I was one of those idiots dancing around – I was enjoying the gig – although too much beer I didn’t have – did you not see the length of the queues and all for Carling or some revolting make of cider/wine- yuk? I’m sure (hope) that these crowd monoliths were enjoying themselves too, but it didn’t lend itself to building a particularly happy atmosphere. I saw one respectable-looking, well-dressed woman physically lash out at someone for trying to – shock- move in front of her to move closer to the stage. What’s that all about?
    This is a big open air gig – what do you think the view is going to be like? Unless you’re 7ft tall (or at the front -lucky you) then you’re going to be behind a lot of people and not have a particularly good view – that’s what happens (I’m 5 foot tall so it always happens to me regardless of the size of the venue – but maybe that means I’ve just come to terms with poor visibility). I’d agree with Justhipper, if you don’t want to spend £40+ watching people’s backs and getting fleeting glimpses of the band on stage, stay at home and listen to old bootlegs.

  • Tony Says:

    An awesome gig. I never thought they would better the performance I saw them give at Huddersfield on the Monster Tour of 1995 but this was right up there with it. Thanks again for Fall on Me, guys — that’s my all-time favourite song.

  • Jonathan Says:

    It’s a shame that flat-as-a-pancake cricket fields only really appeal to the “over 6ft” demographic, but venue aside the show was wonderful.

    I salute the video director Blue Leach for producing one of the most stunning audiovisual rock spectacles I’ve ever seen – a cut above the band’s already impressive 2005 show. But every show needs a star, and Stipe was on top form: he combines flamboyant showmanship with emotional intensity like no one else in the world.

    Rejigged ballads “I’ve Been High” and “Let Me In” sounded superb. I’m amazed at this band’s ability to go back and improve their old songs. I was also seriously impressed by the new stuff, which sounded richer and more muscular than on the shittily-mastered CD.

  • Tony D Says:

    I totally agree about the negative viewing aspects of a cricket ground for those under six feet tall. My wife is less than 5ft 3in and she has reluctantly had to give up going to such events — especially at £50 a pop. I have been a Lancashire CCC member for over 25 years and think it is a daft place for such concerts, especially in the cricket season! But they keep coming, so what do I know?! The trouble is the people that makes these decisions never have to watch such events from the field. They are either in the boxes or back stage so if the people keep coming, the promoters/venue management are happy and nothing will change. You know where would be a great venue for a concert? Odsal Stadium in Bradford: a natural bowl with a very large capacity, about three quarters of it standing and just a few hundred yards from the motorway network. Imagine standing on the terraces there and watching REM. Now that would be an experience and people of all heights could enjoy it. It doesn’t work as well at soccer grounds now, as the only ones large enough are all seated.

  • JustHipper Says:

    I am 4’10” and if I were allowed on the disabled viewing platform it would be fine – there’s usually space. I am as good as disabled at these things – it’s often dangerous in the crowd for me – I get walked through, over and across, banged into, crashed into, elbowed, stepped on, smacked in the face and generally knocked from side to side because nobody looks where they’re going – even the folk I saw in wheelchairs were not subjected to any of that, people went around them. I should not be forced to sit in the cheap seats with the old folk and no atmosphere yet the choice is sit down; get there early, stand in the same place for 5 hours only to get crushed; or not see. At least at the MEN I can feasibly stand at the front without risking death.

    Woo woo about a great visual display – I’d rather just have a live feed of the band on the screen – I couldn’t even tell there was a stage but I could, intermittently, see part of one of the screens. LCCC is a terrible venue for these gigs – there are a number of natural amphitheatres about and anything with a hill would be better – think Temple Newsam – the views there are pretty good.

    I have, effectively, experienced a lot less of a gig than most of the people there because I only heard it – I saw nothing. It’s actually painful to see the pictures because it only emphasises the fact that my height means I miss out on a large portion of the experience and there’s not a damned thing I can do about it.

  • Anna Says:

    I thought they played an absolutely blinding set and I left the concert a very happy lady. Although I’m no longer the die-hard fanatic I was during my teens and early 20s, I still feel a huge sense of excitement seeing them live, especially when Stipe breaks into a huge grin and you know that he’s really up for it.

    I rejoiced at the return of ‘It’s the End of the World…’ to the set and really enjoyed the moving acoustic version of ‘Let Me In’. Wonderful to hear Pretty Persuasuion and 7 Chinese Brothers as well. I felt quite sad for those who have never seen REM before that they didn’t do ‘Everybody Hurts’. Yes, they’ve done it on every tour from Monster onwards, but it’s a bit of a snub to newer fans or those who just like the bigger hits.

    What annoyed me during the concert was those people who were just there to get drunk, talk (or rather, shout) to their friends during songs and generally show no interest in the music whatsoever. I don’t mind people dancing and singing along because at least they’re there to enjoy the music. I find it totally bewildering that some people would part with £45 to go to a gig and then not take any interest in it. I don’t get that at all.

  • The Ledge Says:

    Surely everyone’s sick of Everybody Hurts by now, even “newer” fans. Don’t feel sorry for them Anna, maybe they liked Pretty Persuasion and went out and bought Reckoning.

    I’ll be repeatedly kicked in the head by crack kickboxer JustHipper for saying this but I agree about the visual aspect of the show – it was stunning, probably the best I’ve seen as well.

  • Thrice @ Metro - Music Photography - Gig Photography Says:

    […] Gig Review: REM @ Lancashire County Cricket Ground, 24th August 2008 […]

  • The Indie Credential » Blog Archive » Justhipper’s Top 13 Gigs of 2008 Says:

    […] @ T in the Park – Again, we didn’t review this, but we did review the REM gig at LCCG on August […]

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  • carly Says:

    an absolute awesome gig,even though my mate fell asleep through loosing my religion haha

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