R.E.M. / Live At The Olympia


Live At The Olympia

Live at The Olympia is a live album[4] by American alternative rock band R.E.M.. It is a recording of five-night residency the band held at Dublin, Ireland’s Olympia Theatre between June 30 and July 5, 2007, and released on October 27, 2009.[5] In this series of “working rehearsals” many songs on Accelerate were debuted, with many of them still as works in progress.[6] The album is a twoCD release, and contains a total of 39 songs.[7] In addition, a DVD of the performance entitled This Is Not a Show directed by Vincent Moon is included. A special edition box set containing the album on 4 LPs as well as the two CDs and the DVD is also available.

To promote the album, R.E.M.’s Dublin website has full streaming clips of “Driver 8”, “I’ve Been High”, and “Harborcoat”, along with videos for “Living Well Is the Best Revenge” and clips from the Reckoning EP. The video for “Drive” is available on R.E.M.’s Myspace page. On October 22, 2009, National Public Radio began streaming the entire album for free.[8]

As with R.E.M.’s first live album—R.E.M. LiveLive at The Olympia was also recorded in Dublin, Ireland.

The Analysis:

Living Well Is The Best Revenge—-The first thing you notice about this live recording is the remarkable clarity and secondly the electricity that runs through the crowd. Opening the set with a remarkably electric and driving song, Stipe sounds better than I have heard in in ages…one believes that a live setting truly finds Stipe & Co. in their element. The gentle backdrop from Mills rounds out the song and makes it even more magnificent that the recorded version…a great start!

Second Guessing—-One of the many of my favorite R.E.M. tracks, this is transferred to a live setting with remarkable clarity [imagine that] , a huge crowd reaction and a freakin’ brilliant sound. The song has a nice raw feel to it, but Stipe actually sings every word and never manages a mumble through the entire thing…Mills only adds to the mastery of the whole damn thing…this is brilliant!

Letter Never Sent—-With that remarkable bass line intro transferred to a live setting with ease, Stipe sounds so damn clear and comfortable..I again almost prefer this over the original track. When Mills joins in on the vocal with Stipe it only solidifies my belief that this would not be the same band without him. This is tender, a bit more aggressive than the original and delivered with ease and practise.

Staring Down The Barrel Of The Middle Distance—-Let me just say, Ireland loves R.E.M.!!! There is nice banter between the band and the crowd and this makes the performance even better for me. This is not a favorite of mine, but it is delivered with the same passion of older songs and has a nice driving sound that makes it rather electric. Very Nice!!!

Disturbance At The Heron House—-Delivering that classic jangle that the band was known for in its earlier career, this is fantastic. The song sounds oddly familiar to me…like many songs that may have gone before it with similar chords and tones. Stipe delivers a spot on vocal and the instrumentation from Mills & Co. is just breathtaking. This is so well produced and delivered it has become one of my favorite of their releases!

Mr. Richards—-There is seldom a time when you hear the opening strands from this band and not instantly recognize who they are. this is a prime example…even though I’m not totally familiar with this song, there is never a doubt to whom is delivering it to you. There is a nice fuzzy tone to this song alongside some really great vocals from not only Stipe but the entire band as well….I have to look up the original.

Houston—-This is a new track that carries heavily the fuzzier and more feedback ridden material from Accelerate. This is a huge song though…the guitars are recognizable, but the song has a surprisingly Alt-coutry feel that is a bit out-of-place at this point in the set. None the less, the band and Stipe as well delivers the track with passion and conviction.

New Test Leper—-This is a golden track…full of history and a remarkable Alternative sound. This is brilliant…delivered with a nice tenderness and a nice nakedness. Even when the song really opens up, there is still a quiet tone to the whole damn thing that is hard to transpose in a live setting…this is wonderful.

Cuyahoga—- This is a gem of a song…recorded and delivered when the band was trying to make a name and were the Indie darlings of everyone who was in the know. this still plays fresh and is delivered with a new sense of purpose and dedication. One of my favorite releases from the band, this still is a favorite…after all of this time.

Electrolite—-The crowd erupts with fervor at the opening piano strains of this track. this is so smooth and so damn pleasant…I just sit here and shake my head at the mastery of it all. this transfers to a live recording wonderfully well…the melancholy of the song is a perfect fit and the crowd swallows this up. Just fantastic!

Man-Sized Wreath—-Introducing another ‘new-song’, the band insists that they are not sure when it will turn up on a record. This is aggressive, with loud and very present bass deliveries. This is rather fantastic…full of huge chords and a vocal that is understandable form the very first word. This is nice, but falls a bit flat in the realm of the set list…I guess this is practice?

So. Central Rain—-Pulling out a classic and another personal favorite, this rendition is spot on and delivered with practice and class. The vocal is remarkable…you catch words that you really never really knew existed. When Mills joins in on the chorus with Stipe, you are transported to a whole new place…sometimes it is really fucking fantastic to live in the past…such as this day!

On The Fly—-From the new record, this is brilliant. Layered with faux strings and a contemplative orchestration, this finds Stipe delivering one introspective sound after the other through vivid words and lyrics. Breathtaking in this live setting, I found it necessary to dig this out and listen to it…this is a far better rendition.

Maps And Legends—-Returning to the full-fledged Athens sound that helped make this band the Indie Golden Children for many years, this is a nice mix of Stipe and mills vocals that allows the song to sound much larger than you ever anticipated. This is brilliant…masterful and delivered with harmonies and melodies that are both stark and shimmering.

Sitting Still—-Gosh….this is just wonderful….delivering this classic track with a renewed energy and commitment, I am amazed how fresh this sounds to me. Stipe actually falls a bit back into his old ways…delivering a few sentences that could have been anything…but it comes off as quaint and charming. I love this…thus far, the highpoint of the release. This is just wonderful!!!

Driver 8—-Ahh Yes…yet another of those tracks that plays in my memory bank from time to time with no reason or rhyme. This comes across as fresh and invigorated in this live setting…Stipe seems driven and full of passion as he delivers this track with gusto and commitment. I am as happy as a pea in a pod….thanks guys!!!

Horse To Water—-Really not a favorite track of mine, this takes the quaint sound of the band and tries to create this huge arena sound that really never did much for me. I love the chorus, but that is mostly because I am in love with Mike Mills voice…I wish this guy would make a solo record. This is huge and bombastic and seems a bit out-of-place in this set for me…but that is just me?

I’m Gonna DJ—-This is one of those songs that has been kicked around for a number of years before finally actually ending up on the new record. For all intents and purposes, this song is about 5 years old. The delivery here is nice, but the guitars are a bit too fuzzy and the sound a bit too removed from the sound that this band has spent a career building. Nice….but…..

Circus Envy—-Letting the audience know that this song had not been performed for 12 years prior to this evening, the band manages to pull off a pretty damn accurate version of this classic track. This is so nice to hear…I love this…remarkable and full of the energy that defined the band in the formative years, this is fantastic…full of fuzz and aggression…Stipe sounds refreshed and like a new man!!!

These Days—-This is freakin’ brilliant…delivered with even more fervor than the original version, Stipe seems to embrace this dark period and wraps it around himself like a skin that he chosen this night to shed. This is climatic…Stipe sings with aggression and a power that propels him as forward as the music drives the song. The gentle backdrop that Mills provides allows this to be a different song…without his voice it would have an empty feel. This is the sound of a cohesive and committed band…remarkable!

Drive—-Delivering one of the bands biggest pot-modern hits, Stipe sounds a bit hoarse on this track…and the result is rather welcome. The gentle acoustic delivery of the music really allows you to hear every vocal nuance…as the song builds so does the excitement of the crowd. This is fantastic…I could never ask for more…except when the entire crowd begins to sing right along with Stipe…making this an experience for everyone.

Feeling Gravity’s Pull—-This goes back so far into the band’s career, proving that the old and the new can come together in a remarkable way…satisfying the nostalgia and allowing the future to plow ahead with new and exciting sounds as well. This is remarkable…this ancient song sounds so fresh and alive…and the crowd eats up this stuff. This is fantastic!

Until The Day Is Done—-Wow…just brilliant…from the first chord, this song exudes a warmth that wraps around you and makes you smile. The vocal is still a bit hoarse…making Stipe even more endearing to the crowd. This is emotive, genuine and full of emotions that are not just lyrical but transferred to the vocal delivery as well. Magnificent!

Accelerate—-This is delivered with a really nice fuzz to the guitars that makes me sit back and smile…I love the way Stipe manages to work his vocal around the noise and sound as comfortable as he does with the more laconic and mellow sounds…this is masterful. I eat this shit up…breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Auctioneer—-Wonderfully introduced by Stipe as a dedication to his Grandfather, this song moves at a really great pace. this is nice, but never really resonated with me…the song is aggressive and driving…you lose a lot of the vocal over the heavy drums and the fuzz of the guitar…but this is a piece of the band’s history none the less.

Little America—-Just freakin’ brilliant…I love this song…and never really knew that I loved it so much. I forget all of these titles…sometimes it all blends together. This is delivered with a remarkable aggression…Stipe delivers line after line that at the time if the release seemed like a foreign language…here it is clear and defining and solves even more mysteries of unintelligible lyrics…just fantastic!

1,000,000—-Also from Chronic Town, this has that early Alternative sound all over it…the remarkable thing…once again is that you are able to catch almost every single word….putting to rest many people’s beliefs and false impressions of the original song. This sounds remarkably fresh and new…despite the age of the song…such is the power of music!

Disguised—-With aggressive guitars and drums, this lead off single from the new release at the time was able to satisfy even the most jaded fan of the band…those who had given up hope and lost the promise that a new record could bring. This is a huge song…made even larger in this live setting. This is amazing!

The Worst Joke Ever—-This is so sedate…sometimes song placement in a live set really needs to be studied…to me this was a bad choice…the band lifts you so high up and then crashes you down with a track like this. This is beautiful, touching and poignant…but the feeling is lost because the listener is almost bewildered after the up of the last few songs.

Welcome To The Occupation—-This is nice…delivered with a nice energy and a remarkable vocal, I miss the injection of Mills vocals, but the nice rhythm of the guitars makes up for it…and when the end of the song nears and Stipe implores you to listen to me….it stays in your brain and you are hooked.

Carnival Of Sorts—-Although most people would not recognize the title of this track, the moment that you hear this you know that you know this song…without a doubt. This is delivered with the classic sounds of the early R.E.M. days…the guitars are unmistakable….the vocal is subtle and heartbreaking…taken from Chronic Town, the band started a whole movement with this little record…it still sounds as important and revolutionary today as it did then. A moment caught in time…enjoy!

Harborcoat—-Another of those songs that has always been a favorite of mine, just seeing the title of this song brings an instant smile to my face. This is layered with the sound that made Reckoning such a phenomenal record…the only thing that would please me more would be 7 Chinese Borothers….perhaps my favorite R.E.M. ever!!! This is a phenomenal song…leaving you with a remarkable good feeling in the pit of your stomach!

Wolves, Lower—-Wow….this is a song that I have not thought about in a very long time….somehow the band manages to make it sound remarkably fresh and brand new. Stipe delivers a vocal that is so full of passion and commitment that you catch your breath…when Mills joins in and sings along with Stipe you are struck by the beauty of the whole damn thing…this is amazing…really, for me, a highpoint of this release!

I’ve Been High—-Wonderfully sedate and delivered with a magic that seriously, takes my breath away. This is layered with a slight retro feel that reminds me of the doo-wop sounds of generations long ago…Stipe delivers a vocal that is capable of bringing instant tears if it catches you at the right moment. This is stellar…not to be missed!

Kohoutek—-This is one of those moments that makes me wish I were in Ireland for this recording…this is a moment caught in time where the band revisits its past and lives into it…accepts it and makes it a remarkable part of its present. This is freakin’ amazing! I could never ask for more…Stipe delivers a vocal like he was a 2o yr. old carefree guy still discovering himself…the magic of music…the power and the brilliance!

 West Of The Fields—-With a really nice drum intro that solidifies the R.E.M. sound on so many of their songs, the vocal enters and to me is a bit distant and less than committed. Only the backdrop singing from Mills makes this acceptable to me…but there will be some misses in a 39 track set!

Pretty Persuasion—-Another of those tracks that I could never live without, this was a formative song for me when I first became a member of the ‘Alternative” community. This is built upon classic R.E.M. melodies…delivered with a renewed energy and sounding even more important that I ever though it would be as it ingrained itself in my brain….this is freakin’ wonderful!

Romance—-Brilliant….right from the first guitar chords, you know how and why this band became one of the most important bands in the Alternative Community and eventually one of the biggest bands in the World. This has a remarkable melody that carries over and through the fuzz and the bombastic delivery…all through it all, Stipe is as he is…unpredictable and poignant..willing to bear his soul and unafraid to face the repercussions. Brilliant!

Gardening At Night—-A brilliant track at its inception and even more powerful delivered here in this live setting. The melody that the band managed to conjure up was simply amazing…the fact that there are actual lyrics that are put on clear display is another feat that is amazing. This sounds as fresh and new as the day it was ever heard by me in my little bedroom…this is fantastic….moving from obscure to huge but still as important!

***** out of 5 [!!!!!]

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