Saturday, November 06, 2004

The End of the World As We Know It

Michael Stipe and R.E.M. won't just be good little boys.

God, how I wish I was at this concert last night.

If you believe they put a dope in the White House.

"His name was never uttered - "Mr. Still-Not-My-President," the "Commander-and-Cheat." There was no need.

When R.E.M. opened its show with its traditional closer, the not-so-fond farewell to the Reagan era "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine,)" the crowd knew what was going on. When singer Michael Stipe would scream "I feel fine!," there was no mistake. This would be something special.

"Frankly, I had no idea what to say tonight," Stipe explained later from the stage. "I decided to let the music speak for itself. For me, music has been a great source of inspiration and epiphanies."

And so, in the spirit of downturned economies and making do with less, R.E.M. repurposed its sprawling catalog into a potent, two-hour message of defiance. "Let's begin again," Stipe sang, as Peter Buck's guitar snarled during "Begin the Begin."

"Welcome to the Occupation" was dusted off and given new meaning. So was the stately "Cuyahoga," where the line "Let's put our heads together and start a new country up" received one of the night's biggest ovations. That was followed by a lush, gorgeous "Sweetness Follows," where "Live your life filled with joy and thunder" became a call to arms.

"This is our 'State of the Union' address," Stipe said, as the band launched into a stirring version of the new album's "I Wanted to Be Wrong" that became the evening's centerpiece.

By the time R.E.M. reached the encores, especially the heartbreaking new single "Leaving New York" and the flashy new, punk anthem-to-be, "I'm Gonna DJ," the concert had moved beyond the disappointment of the election results toward the acceptance of the challenges ahead.

The extraordinary performance seemed even to cheer the band, to the point where a jubilant Stipe dropped his pants and hopped around in his boxers as he sang, "If you believed, they put a man on the moon." If you believe - and R.E.M. still clearly does - they'll put their man in the White House someday, too.

R.E.M. Post-election group therapy for broken-hearted Bush-bashers."

No comments: