Thursday, March 13, 2008

First night: REM at SXSW

They had a new album to push - an album so modern, it's being streamed online, if you can imagine such a science-fiction concept. So, how did REM go down in Austin?

Like Elliot Spitzer at a Catholic Mother's Meeting.

Village Voice tried to be kind, but:

The songs are a bit louder, brasher, angrier, but still exploding into that sunny, boppy sort of R.E.M. chorus that's simultaneously recognizable and forgettable. The song bitching about Barbara Bush's post-Katrina Superdome quips is half-finished at best; "I'm Gonna DJ" is half-clever at worst. Michael Stipe these days is prone to corny non-sequitur exclamations -- "Hey!" "Whoa!" "Yeah!" -- amid his typical half-loopy, half-preachy banter: anti-war, pro-Obama (called that one), etc. He's endearing, but the band's flaccid, and the crowd is even worse, beaten down by New One after New One and barely perking up when the dudes deign to toss out "Drive" or "Fall on Me" or "Man on the Moon."

Austin360 couldn't even work out why they'd show up to a new band fest. Then it got it:
SXSW has become a recognizable youth culture brand. It's where old bands go to be young again.

Or to try, anyway. Did it work? MTV News' YouAreHere blogger Aaron Pinkston seemed impressed, charmed but not quite convinced:
I came to the show not being a huge fan of the band, just because they weren’t really part of my generation. However, with that said, leaving the show I definitely understand why the line to get in went for a mile down Red River Street. I was highly impressed by R.E.M.’s performance and definitely hope to one day see them perform again!

WNYC's Soundcheck blog liked what it heard, but...
R.E.M. bit into mostly new stuff, with an opener that was, well, heaven. I haven’t heard anything on the new album besides the single — and that’s a lot, mind you — but that first song sounded wonderful. New songs kept on coming, and I can’t wait to hear the new record. Sigh … I leave midway through the set to catch a ride, as we have another big Soundcheck on tap tomorrow.

... if it was that good, wouldn't you have stayed to the end?

The concert blog lists the set as played, while the merest glimpse of the band live has turned up on the YouTube:


4 comments:

thirtyfivewest said...

Hey, now! Soundcheck had a show to do today. Don't knock the workin' man! (Thanks for the post.) --Joel

Indie_dinosaur said...

I saw all the SXSW parties that the Filter crew hit last night... the OMNI bar looked crazy, Mike Mills from REM was there really?? *faints* You can watch them all over Austin too with Loopt... check it out here: http://blog.filter-mag.com/filter/2008/03/get-loopt-in-du.html It's the next best thing to being there!!

Chance said...

"an album so modern, it's being streamed online, if you can imagine such a science-fiction concept."

Bands have been making album streams available to people who pre-order for years.

simon h b said...

@Chance
Yes. That's kind of the point.

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