REM : London Brixton Academy

Two decades on, they are [i]still[/i] the kings...

Michael Stipe bounces around the stage like [a]Iggy Pop[/a]’s hyperactive nephew, pinches guitarist Peter Buck’s arse, tells the crowd that he now checks into hotel rooms as HRH and admits to nicking [a]Morrissey[/a] at the same venue in 1985. Ah, it’s good to have him back.

Stipe continues to make this remarkably durable band shine when many critics – and fans – felt the chemistry which made them so special dissolved on the departure of drummer and founding member Bill Berry in 1997.

Of course, it helps that REM are keeping things fresh by altering their set every night, thus showcasing what an unassailable collection of songs they have – ‘Pilgrimage’, ‘Get Up’, ‘Little America’ and a clutch of tunes from 1985’s ‘Fables Of The Reconstruction’ are so ageless and vital tonight that they stand shoulder to shoulder with anthems written by the classic bands they’ve inspired.

And, in new songs ‘Animal’ and ‘Bad Day’, REM prove they’ve got plenty of those kind of songs left in the locker, both recalling the band’s rockin’ mid-80s blossoming from cult outsiders to stadium titans with their piledriving guitars and classic harmonies.

However when the everyman anthems ‘Man On The Moon’ and storming closer ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)’ erupt into dazzling widescreen epics their position as emperors the tender anthem is confirmed. Chris, Thom and a host of pretenders: Kneel before them.

Stipe ends the set being tenderly carried offstage in Buck’s arms. He might be knackered, but, like everyone else here, he feels fine.

Alan ‘Woody’ Woodhouse