R.E.M played their first concert on UK soil for three years last night (Sunday October 25) for a special Radio 1 broadcast – but the US supergroup nearly didn’t make it into England alive.
The band, whose 11th studio album ‘Up’ is released today, flew into London on Saturday night. Michael Stipe said the aircraft bounced up and down on landing and skidded to the left. He made light of the incident during the concert, saying he was uninjured because he had worn his seatbelt “like a ’90s hippie guy”.
The hour-long radio broadcast, played live-to-air in front of 200 invited guests at BBC Broadcasting House in central London, was part of REM’s limited ‘touring’ for their new album. Like 1996’s album, ‘New Adventures In Hi-Fi’, the band are not touring to support the release. REM have not staged major gigs since 1995, apart from apperances at June’s Freedom concert in Washington D.C and in New York last year, and this month’s Bridge School Concerts with Neil Young in San Francisco.
It was the first concert the band have played in Europe since last year’s deaprture of drummer and founding member Bill Berry.
The core trio of Michael Stipe, in black long-sleeve T-shirt and jeans, Mike Mills in a black and white shirt and dark trousers, and Peter Buck, suited and with a Hawaiian shirt were joined by sometime-Beck drummer Joey Waronker and multi-instrumentalists Scott McCaughey and ken Stringfellow. the band opened with ‘Losing My Religion’ off the band’s breakthrough album ‘Out Of Time’. The audience immediately leapt to their feet. Stipe said “now that we’ve got your attention” before the band played the first of the night’s new songs, ‘New Test Leper’, one of the tracks off ‘New Adventures…”
The vast majority of the set was from the band’s two newest albums. The full setlist was: ‘Losing My Religion’, ‘New Test Leper’, ‘Lotus’, ‘Parakeet’ (both off the new album ‘Up’), ‘Perfect Circle (a Bill Berry-penned track off the first album, ‘Murmur’), ‘The Apologist’, ‘Daysleeper’ (where the band were joined by pedal-steel player and recent Verve recruit BJ Cole), ‘Country Feedback’, ‘At My Most Beautiful’, ‘Walk Unafraid’ and ‘Man In the Moon’.
The band were all in make-up despite the fact the apperance was for radio and not television. Stipe appeared jovial during the show, walking into the crowd, dancing around his microphone and laughing. At the end of the 60-minute set, the band trooped off stage. There were no encores or extra tracks for the studio audience.
The band will be doing press and television apperances in London for the next week, before they head off to mainland Europe do similar promotional dates.