CLUAS Album Reviews

R.E.M. Live

Nov 14

Written by:
Wednesday, November 14, 2007  RssIcon

REM live album coverA review of the album 'Live' by R.E.M.

Review Snapshot: I’ve never been a R.E.M. fan, and, after listening to this I don’t think anything is going to change. It’s a solid performance for the fans, and a lively best-of for the Christmas stocking and that, I’m afraid, is about it.

The Cluas Verdict? 5.5 out of 10

Full Review:
R.E.M. and I don’t really have a history. A long time ago, back when I was young and impressionable, and hormones were doing crazy things to my face, “Everybody Hurts” seemed to be a beautiful tune. But that was a long time ago and, like I said, strange things were happening.

I am not really a fan of live albums - Dylan and The Band being obvious exceptions - I usually prefer to watch the show. R.E.M. have their merits, though creativity and an infectious live pulse are hardly two of them, and so the prospect of a live album of theirs (and a double CD at that) didn’t really instil a sense of anticipation. It was with some weariness and a sense of purgatory that I loaded up the CD player, hit play, and headed off on the two hour trip to Dublin. 

“I Took Your Name” opens the set and, to be honest, it set me back a little. There was a growl, a touch of attitude, perhaps even a trace of charisma, in Michael Stipe’s voice. Had I been wrong, had REM been rediscovering themselves in my absence? Well, no. This is the sound of a working band, one who have found a formula and stuck to it. Religiously.

That’s not to say the band aren’t good, or on form, the songs are tight and well performed, and the emotion of what was clearly a good performance (by R.E.M. standards…), really carries through the set. If you like R.E.M., and are looking for a live album, then look no further. If you’re looking for the sound of a band in their stride, at the gig of a life time, then get The Last Waltz, because quite honestly Michael Stipe is drier than a dehydrated shite. “This is a song from Ohio,” “This is a song from New Jersey,” “This is a song from the beautiful state of…” yeah, yeah, yeah

R.E.M. Live has all the hits, it even has a guest appearance from those other stalwarts of excitement, The Thrills, and if that’s your thing, then this is your CD. If you’re looking for something else, something decent, something invigorating, fresh or challenging, well, keep on looking.

Dinner party comfort music… no wonder the middle classes are getting hooked on cocaine.

Daragh Murray 

 To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.

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12 comment(s) so far...

Re: R.E.M. Live

"Dinner party comfort music… no wonder the middle classes are getting hooked on cocaine"

Wow, harsh. Compared with Michael O'Hara's review of said live performance ( Maybe you just had to be there?

By Idiot Kid on   Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Re: R.E.M. Live

Harsh maybe, but have you sat through the album! :)

The performance may well have been good, (though its not the same one as in the review, the record is from 2 1/2 years ago in the point...) but as a live record, it is brutal.

There is no real engagement, nothing to sell it as anything other than a repackaged greatest hits with crowd noise to be honest.

By Daragh on   Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Re: R.E.M. Live

This 'review' is a crock of shit. Unblock your ears.

By Adrian on   Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Re: R.E.M. Live

Oh adrian! If your mother heard the words you are using. little scamp!

By Fancy Dancer on   Thursday, November 15, 2007

Re: R.E.M. Live

"If you’re looking for the sound of a band in their stride, at the gig of a life time, then get The Last Waltz, "

Oh the irony. The Last Waltz was later touched up in the studio within an inch of its life because the real live performance was so sloppy and coke fuelled. The Band were well past their sell-by date by 1976, thats why Robterson was packing it in.

By Peejay on   Thursday, November 15, 2007

Re: R.E.M. Live

Hi Peejay, where did you find out about the "touch ups"? i'm a huge Band fan. One of the reasons Robertson was packing it in was definitely from the partying and unreliability, but i would be interested to now how much you can actually touch up a record, cos in my opinion it sounds phenomenal.

Did they re-record tracks? that would seem pretty unbelievable. Also, though they were definitely on a downward slope, if Ophelia, or "It Makes No Difference" ('75) is the sound of a band well past their sell by date...

By Daragh on   Friday, November 16, 2007

Re: R.E.M. Live

Live albums back in the 70's (and onwards) were improved by at least a little overdubbing in the studio. Most of the time its a fairly simple process. The concert is recorded live at the mixing desk and then whatever sounds off is removed from the recording and simply overdubbed in the studio. You'd be surprised how easy it is to blend a studio recording. Tony Visconti admitted in his auto-biog that Live & Dangerous (one of the great "live" albums) is only about 60% live. Levon Helm himself claimed that EVERYTHING bar the drums was re-done in the studio for the Last Waltz. I think that's exaggerating it a bit, but I do have a bootleg of the real Last Waltz concert and you can tell that many of the songs are a little looser in reality. They attempted a medley towards the end of the concert which included Evangeline (written that day!) which fell to pieces it was so badly rehearsed.

" if Ophelia, or "It Makes No Difference" ('75) is the sound of a band well past their sell by date... "

Well, yeah, pretty much. A handful of great songs from the period is a far cry from the late 60's when they had more great songs than they knew what to do with them.
Plus their 70's records sounded awful - too smooth and overproduced.

By Peejay on   Friday, November 16, 2007

Re: R.E.M. Live

Wow, thats amazing isnt it? Where did you get the bootleg would love to hear it. have to read Levons book too, hes a new album out as well if thats your thing, havent heard it myself yet.

I'd agree with you that the records were overproduced in the seventies, even the difference betwen The Band and Stage Fright is quite large, despite there being a hell of a lot of good songs on stage fright. Actually, one of my favourite songs (Ever!!) is Shape Im In, and i think the live version of that, from the last waltz, is just amazing, then again any looseness in that tune, might just add to it!

What I meant by Ophelia, is that they were still producing the goods, if not in the same numbers. And even a handful of songs like that, is more than way too many bands can manage, bringing us neatly back to REM! :)

By Daragh on   Friday, November 16, 2007

Re: R.E.M. Live

Sure, I can sort out a copy of the Complete Last Waltz if you're interested.

By Peejay on   Friday, November 16, 2007

Re: R.E.M. Live

that'd be sound Peejay, much appreciated.

By Daragh on   Saturday, November 17, 2007

Re: R.E.M. Live

Can I ask... have you actually been to an R.E.M. gig? Or are you just basing your opinion of them through this dvd sitting at home? I know the review is of the the dvd/cd and not a review of being at an actual gig but when you start saying things like "good by REMs standards", I think you should actually have some experience of being at one of their gigs. The Point shows were incredible. Hence, the brilliant crowd reactions to be heard and seen on both the cd/dvd. In terms of Michael Stipe being 'boring'... Is he there to sing or there to do stand up?! I mean seriously, that's a pointless argument. You can't win with it. If your talking all the time like Bono it's, "Just shut up and sing", but if you don't and just actually sing, it's "be funnier". I know that interaction between audience and band is an important part of a live performance but if you were actually atthe gig/or looked at the dvd, you'd see how much Stipe does this. Through the music, not through talk.

Anyway, I really like the package. It's a warm up for greater things to come(judging by the summers dublin gigs which as mentioned earlier got a great review here). So roll on album 14.

By Peadar on   Sunday, November 18, 2007

Re: R.E.M. Live

nope never been to an REM gig, and dont plan on it after listening to this either. Good by REM standards, is pretty much meant exactly as you took it, there was great crowd reaction so it was clearly a good gig for those in attendance. Looking/listening to it (and so by my standards...), it didnt come across at all.

In terms of Michael Stipe, i was commenting on his lack of engagement with the crowd, he seemed quite removed. God knows you dont want Bono on the stage, but there is a quite cosy middle ground between the two... (and in terms of interacting through the music, well thats clearly debatable! :) )

By Daragh on   Monday, November 19, 2007

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