R.E.M. at the Bowl

R.E.M. played at the Hollywood Bowl this Thursday past. Fresh off the plane from the East Coast, P and I headed along with our ghetto “recycled” plastic bottles of wine. Yes, we resorted to pouring a bottle of wine into some “Honest Tea” drink bottles (irony intended) because this was a “lease event”, which meant no glass would be allowed, nor alcohol of any sort. Normally, the bottle of wine is what keeps us going from 2 hours before the concert all the way to the end of the 6 hour trip for us (the H’Bowl shuttle leaves SaMo 2h before; be on it or be stuck in traffic through the whole concert). I mixed up a lavender, honey and gin cocktail in another Honest Tea bottle because we have turned into right lushes from our week of lunchtime cocktails in D.C. that extended into late night drinking.

A brief review of the night is here on my last.fm page and copied below for the link-lazy.

Sticking my neck out here, but I think the show-stealers were The National. Their direct, un-fancy performance was befitting of a warm-up band, and they certainly got me in the mood for a night of rock. Finishing their set with
mr november was a stroke of genius. No doubt some non-fans finally cottoned on who they had been listening to.

I had low-to-middling expectations from Modest Mouse, and wasn’t entirely surprised when they didn’t sparkle. Don’t get me wrong; I think they make great music. But I think their talent lies in crafting perfect albums that need to be listened to in their entirety. Somehow, the experimental nature of their music is lost on a live stage, especially one as large as the Hollywood Bowl.

As for the headliners, R.E.M., my mistake was in not listening to their latest album, Accelerate, before the show. My bad. It was good, but since it was all new to me, not much sunk in. Of the older songs, I really enjoyed hearing Final Straw live. And I loved their super-fast take on Bad Day, possibly my favourite R.E.M. song, although that changes depending on my mood.

As a non-music aside, one of the big downers of the evening was the number of pot-smokers in the audience. Normally, at the Bowl, the smokers do us all a favour and smoke their stinky weed outside. This time, I had the misfortune to be sat behind 4 pot-heads, whose constant lighting up made my wine unpalatable and my evening a little sour. Talking through the performances also did not endear them to me. It’ll be an awful day should I ever stoop to reporting pot smokers to the equally unpleasant security people.

That aside, I enjoyed the music. Even if I didn’t know half the set-list. In fact, that was what made it better: that R.E.M. didn’t just play their best-known hits. Consummate professionals to the last man, they keep track of what they’ve played in each venue and try not to repeat songs over the years. Blimey, that’s organised!

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