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Music Review: R.E.M. – Live At The Olympia

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 A time long, long ago; before the gripping age of nu-metal and even before Nirvana turned the 90s into a teenage, plaid wearing mud pit. When everything we thought we knew about rock music was being strangled and defaced by an era of hair metal and spandex. A time toiled in the prospects of pre-grunge rage and a mid-music meltdown.There came about the most refreshing, and persevered band we are still fortunate to have today, R.E.M.

R.E.M. is in a lot of ways as influential to alternative music as The Beatles or The Rolling Stones were to Rock and Roll as a whole. In 2007 R.E.M. was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; this was a molding and a solidification that has been worked on, and well deserved by these guys for many, many years. Over the years they have done what not many other artists are capable of doing; first off they successfully stuck around, and second they never ceased to produce phenomenal grid-locking music.Throughout the years music has taken proverbial nose dive into a pile of steaming shit. Let’s face it, turn on your local Top 40 station and try not gagging through the pop repetitive, hip-hop relentless and screaming rock junk,bullshit we are all being exposed too. In a time when America is given the opportunity to choose its next musical icon on television shows, is it surprising we have no real new musical indulgences to praise as suggestively as R.E.M.?

So is it really an unforseen amazement that this band can put out a 2 disc live album of 39 songs quoted to be a so-called “experiment in terror”? As proven on their project album Live At The Olympia set to be released October 26, 2009. The album recorded and tested live over a 5-day camp-out in 2007. To a venue of fan club members, family, friends and R.E.M. fans from all over the world made up entirely of “working rehearsals” in the capitol city of Dublin, Ireland. A fearing concept not to be taken lightly by any fan, or musical enthusiast in the least. The music heard on Live At The Olympia was produced by Dublin native Jacknife Lee, who along with R.E.M. co-produced the album Accelerate in 2008. Many of songs off of Accelerate can be heard in different fashions within the rehearsal type workings of this two-CD set, which gives fans a pretty amazing glimpse into the beginning stages of development of that album.


Live At The Olympia will be a required collection piece to any R.E.M. enthusiast, and fans alike.The deal only gets sweeter as they have made this a special edition 2 CD &DVD set which contains a film of the Dublin shows shot by Vincent Moon and Jeremiah, whom previously worked on Ninety Nights, Six Days, and Supernatural Superserious. Everything that makes R.E.M. a timeless and celebrated piece of rock history can be heard and seen throughout this set. I can’t think of many other bands that can pull off a live album of rehearsals and collectively rigid pieces of their entire musical career; composite them all into a 39 track, two-cd set and have it come out as daringly defectless as this one has.

On another positive note, the sound and production qualityof these albums are superb. Its cleanliness allows you to get as close as youcould possibly wish to be; resembling the feeling you are right there at TheOlympia.

Singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, and bassist Mike Mills leave nothing out, they hit every thing any fan would hope for on a live album, rehearsals and all; even through Stipe’s mumbled, shaken vocals on some of the experimental pieces it’s clear that R.E.M. can prosper on and create a sound only to be appreciated by such treasured musicians.



Having many years to follow on, and obviously a lot of ground to cover I am quite happy to note I think they did a wonderful job at picking the songs for this album. They cover a lot of the older stuff, a majority of the songs rarely get a chance to be played live; a lot of which are derived from R.E.M.’s as we know it to be now, ‘the ancient IRS years’. I must say they did a nice job of steering away from some of the mainstream hits, you can clearly tell this album was built for the die hard fans. You may be pleasantly surprised to find you will not hear songs such as “Losing My Religion”, “Man on the Moon”, or “Everybody Hurts”. After all this is not a greatest hits album,this was somewhat a practice space for Accelerate.The song “Drive” did however find a nice spot as song #1 on Disc 2, having heard the anguish that’s relative in this little work of wonders I am really glad they didn’t leave that one out.

The track-listing for R.E.M. Live At The Olympiais as follows:

Disc 1:

Living Well Is the best Revenge/ Second Guessing/ Letter Never Sent/ Staring Down The Barrel of the Middle Distance/ Disturbance At the Heron House/ Mr. Richards/ New Test Leper/ Cuyahoga/ Electrolite/ Man-Sized Wreath/ So Central rain/ On The Fly/ Maps And Legends/ Sitting Still/ Driver 8/Horse To Water/ I’m Gonna DJ/ Circus Envy/ These Days


Disc 2:

Drive/ Feeling Gravity’s Pull/ Until The Day Is Done/Accelerate/ Auctioneer/ Little America/ 1,000/ Disguised/ Worst Joke Ever/ Welcome To the Occupation/ Carnival of Sorts/ Harbor Coat/ Wolves Lower/ I’ve Been High/ Kohoutek/ West of the Fields/ Pretty Persuasion/ Romance/ Gardening At Night

As most live albums go, you really get a chance to hear and feel the immense connection between R.E.M. and the crowd and the fact that this is a “working rehearsal” that becomes even more so through the trials and tribulations set in place throughout the entire recording. Live At The Olympia is really a one of kind up close and personal look into the makings and music of our most favored alternative rock band. In this day in age when great, time-tested music is a rarity, it is really a treasure to hear the organics of real music come out to us so genuine.

You can catch up on all information pertaining to R.E.M. and Live At The Olympia at the band' s headquarters.

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About Cindal Lee Heart

  • Eagle_flh

    Great Review . . of one of my best groups . . old school, when music was fun

  • anon

    Review copies of this haven’t gone out yet, so you reviewed a track listing and what is up on remdublin.com? Obvious that you haven’t heard it yet.

  • cindal lee heart

    Actually they have. Take your dispute up with Warner Bros. If they haven’t released your promo copy yet. I received mine last week. 🙂

  • box the box

    Great review! But it’s very disappointing that there won’t be “Starring Down The Barrel…” on the DVD!

  • It’s finally out today, but I am really not into it. There’s simply not enough material that I like. But I would see them in a heartbeat if they came through my town again.

  • Yeah I feel they could have put a few more of the ‘popular’ stuff on it. But all-in-all R.E.M does not really have to sell it with the singles (If you know what I mean). The one thing that really stuck out to me, was the mastering. The clarity of the albums is just amazing, for a live disc-set. Just Awesome!