Been a while since a Friday music post. So here we are, in honour of a couple of Dave’s recent “Top Fives“.
I was at one of the shows on the ’94 tour, Milton Keynes Bowl. We saw Magnapop, then Belly, then Blur, then REM. It was one of the best days I ever had.
A few of us went along. We would’ve been 18 at the time and I remember REM’s Monster album had just come out. The press were a bit miffed that they’d so obviously departed from the Out of Time/Automatic trajectory but me, I loved it. The first single, What’s the Frequency, Kenneth? really blew me away in ways that I’m not sure I can understand now (it’s not that good!) but nevertheless the whole thing went round and round on my walkman. It’s a fairly repetitive album but I loved all the fuzziness, and in Strange Currencies they had their big gooey sinister ballad as well, which I dug. Also that bright orange cover! Tremendous.
Anyway, I guess there were four of us that made the trip to Milton Keynes that day. All REM fans to some degree or other (seemed like everyone was back then). It was a scorching day and we got there pretty early. I remember a longish walk from the car (whose car?) to the bowl. The bowl’s a big ol’ place, all open air and grass, and being young we ended up quite near the front. Magnapop came and went, Belly charmed the pants off us (listen to Feed the Tree again, wonderful pop), then came the Blur whirlwind. This was them just before Parklife came out I think, so they had all the songs but not yet the album. Anyway, Damon Albarn put on a hell of a show and we loved that, too, getting gradually more sunburned as we did.
Later, and time must have flown, we got the main event. I’m getting goosebumps just writing this now, but we had a good view and the sound was vast and the band rocked in that special way they had (this was their distortion phase). Stipe was (and perhaps still is) an absolute god to me and seeing him up there in the flesh was one of those moments that reduces self-conscious teenage boys to act like thirteen year old girls. He was excellent, and that voice still resonates now. They played a long set and a good number of old favourites. Particular highlights were massive versions of Country Feedback (see below), the encore of Let Me In (awesome) and exciting live interpretations of otherwise ordinary songs like Man on the Moon and Star 69. We got other stuff like Finest Worksong that allowed the keenos amongst us to beam knowingly at one another, too. South Central Rain is epic live, and Orange Crush and Undertow were beasts, too. It’s the End of the World was a fine closer, blasted out with the intensity you’d hope for.
Here’s the setlist in full:
I Took Your Name
What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?
Crush With Eyeliner
Try Not To Breathe
Bang And Blame
Welcome To The Occupation
Man on the Moon
Losing My Religion
Pop Song 89
Let Me In
So. Central Rain
It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
And here’s a version from around that time of Country Feedback, which was one of those f*ck me musical moments you get every so often if you’re very lucky.