I can check another thing off my "things to do before I die" list: I have finally, after 10 years of being a fan, seen REM live. Ten years ago I missed my only other chance to see them play, when they came through Portland on the Monster tour. I was only just getting into the band, but one of my best friends was a big fan and she and some other people went to the show. I didn't go because I was only in high school and I didn't want to spend that much money to see a band I hardly knew. I had one or two other semi-chances over time, like I could have gone up to Seattle for Bumbershoot to see them play, but that was just after I left again to go back to Europe. But finally it has happened, and by a stroke of good luck, I had decided last year to rejoin their fanclub after being a member a few years ago. Not long after I joined, the tour was announced and we were able to get tickets ahead of general sales, which came with wristbands for early entry. So last night O and I nervously made our way down to Rotterdam to get there before 6 when they'd let in the fanclub people. Fortunately the trains and metro all ran fine, and we had plenty of standing-about-in-the-cold time. Then someone lead our group of about 120 around to the back of the building opposite the main entrance. I'd never been to the Ahoy, so I didn't know how it was laid out so we were wondering if we were heading backstage, but instead we just entered into the seating area on the opposite side from everyone else. We got to be in a separate section at the front of the stage, with plenty of room for our group. O and I weren't set on being right at the front like some people, so we took advantage of the quiet to check our coats and go to the toilet. The rest of the audience was let in and some were allowed into the sectioned off area at the front. It still wasn't that crowded and we eventually sat on the floor since we had over an hour to wait until the openers, The Thrills. They actually came on early, and were introduced by Michael (yay!) and Peter Buck played mandolin on a song with them. Otherwise I really have nothing to say about them, I wasn't very impressed by them at all. I know it's hard to make a good judgement about a band you hardly know when you're just waiting for the main band you came to see, but their stuff just sounded very generic Brit-poppy.
The wait for REM after that wasn't too long. There was a lot of stage setting-up to be done. We watched two guys climb little rope ladders up to spotlights near the ceiling. People applauded them. =) There was space for photographers between the front of the crowd and the stage. The show was also filmed, so there were two large cameras that rolled back and forth in front of the stage, as well as a guy with a handheld camera who I saw a couple of times getting audience shots. On the big camera near us, there was a setlist taped to it, and people tried at every chance to look at what was on it (though it was folded up at first before the show).
And before long, the band came out and dove into Finest Worksong. Here is the setlist, by the way:
Boy in the Well
Maps and Legends
Hi Speed Train
My Most Beautiful
Wanted to be Wrong
Imitation of Life
One I Love
Losing My Religion
What's the Frequency Kenneth
Man on the Moon
The band were awesome and everything I expected, with all their energy put into every song. Michael did all of his typical posing and moves that I know from all their music videos. It was awesome to finally see them right in front of me.
And they were rather in front of us. With getting in early, we ended up only about 3 people back from the front barrier, so we were closer than we normally are even for shows at Paradiso or the Melkweg. We were slightly off to the left, so pretty much right in front of Mike. When we got in and saw how close we'd be to the stage, I was so excited we'd be that close to see REM. And the crowd around us was (for the most part) great. There was no shoving or pushing or people elbowing through to the front when the band started. The biggest negative was this group of people right behind me who had thick Dutch accents that even O couldn't understand and which he described as "Hick". The group was ok, but they were big on YELLING along to the songs, usually using the wrong words or coming in at the wrong time. At first I was really annoyed, I could hear the guy behind me way more than Michael, but later it was louder and everyone was singing, so it wasn't as noticable. There were 3 Extremely Tall Dutch Guys in front of me, of course, but I actually found a spot where I could see Michael in between two of them. Thank god, otherwise I would have been really pissed. And at first I thought they were bastards (probably just influenced by them being so damn tall) but they were actually rather nice-seeming geeky guys. In fact, during one song in the encore, the guy in front of me was bouncing about a bit and he stepped back onto my toe and immediately turned around and did a whole "oh my god, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean it!" gesture, and I gave a smile and "it's ok" gesture back while being utterly shocked at someone apologizing for stepping on my toe. One to note in the books. To O's left there was this older guy, probably in his late 40s/early 50s, dressed in a nice shirt and slacks and with an Elsevier magazine tucked under his arm. I looked over a couple of times to see him enjoying the show with us young 'uns, bopping and singing along. It rocked. Also to O's left was this 20-something girl who was so into it, dancing so much to all the songs. She was just really cute, and I dunno if she was Dutch, but if she was, she wasn't your average Dutch girl. The girl to my right was just very quiet and never moved along to the music or showed any sign of knowing any of the songs, she watched the whole thing like it was a sociology experiment, and then she would politely clap at the end of the song. Just a bit weird, but overall I liked our little section of crowd.
As for the band, Michael came out dressed in a three-piece suit of some hard-to-describe dark colour, with a splashy red tie on. It all slowly came apart though and he got rid of the vest, tie and jacket. And he had the makeup on that he's being wearing lately, some dark blue-green makeup all the way across his face from ear to ear. Mike had on some weird flowery shirt that was brown coloured. And white shoes. Kinda Miami Vice? Peter had on a satin-y ruffly tuxedo shirt, heh. The rest of the band was Ken Stringfellow, Scott McCaughey, and the drummer whose name I didn't catch. I didn't know who any of them were til Michael introduced them before the last song. Scott McCaughey was hilarious to watch as he ran from the keyboards to guitar and back again; with his wild hair and sunglasses, he looked like one of those Muppets in the Muppet Show band.
The set was simple but awesome with these florescent-looking light tubes hanging down at all different points above the stage and they did all sorts of colourful things. At the back were some reflective metallic sheets that reflected some wavy lights sometimes. It all added a great atmosphere to some songs.
I've never really been one to be all yelling and singing and everything at a show (though some bands always get me dancing) , but this time I was singing along (though not YELLING), clapping in the air, waving my arms around... I was so into it. =) And then Michael or Mike would stand over at our corner of the stage and they were RIGHT THERE and it was great. During Losing My Religion, Michael crouched down and looked at our part of the audience and I could see his blue eyes and long eyelashes... Mike looked like he was having fun and sometimes kind of chatted with people in the crowd and threw out a pick to us once and offered to throw out a beer. It was all just awesome, to finally see them play and have such a great time. I hope it's not 10 years again before the next one.