- 30 Jun 20
13 years ago today, R.E.M. played the first of their five nights at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin. Recordings from the gigs, which included the live debuts of several tracks from Accelerate, were released as a live album in 2009. To mark the occasion, we're revisiting our original album review of Live at the Olympia.
“This is not a show! This is not a show!” shouts Mike Mills at the start of this live double album, expertly recorded by Jacknife Lee during R.E.M.’s now legendary five night “working rehearsal” at the Olympia in 2007. Continuing their longstanding love affair with Dublin, that same year Buck-Stipe-Mills released R.E.M. Live, recorded at the Point Theatre, which featured some of their greatest singalong smashes. This new collection is basically the B-side to that. While R.E.M. Live showcased their shiny, stadium-stuffing, €80 million side, Live At The Olympia focuses mainly on earlier, more obscure, fleapit material.
There are some newer numbers featured amongst the 39 tracks. The band were ostensibly rehearsing in preparation for the recording of 2008’s Accelerate, and eight songs from that fourteenth studio album make the cut here – albeit in more embryonic form (the single ‘Supernatural Superserious’ is listed under its original name ‘Disguised’). But for the most part this is R.E.M. tripping through their 1980s pre-Warners wires, and songs from Murmur, Reckoning and Fables Of The Reconstruction are all given an airing. They even play a batch of tracks from 1982’s Chronic Town EP.
This being a working rehearsal, there are occasional stops, starts and fuck-ups. As Stipe explains, “We’re R.E.M. – and this is what we do when you’re not looking.” Only one song from Automatic For The People is featured, and the singer manages to crash ‘Drive’ towards the end (“Oh whoops!”). Such moments only add to the specialness of this raw collection though, as do the enthusiastic crowd responses to newly dusted-off material.
Those who only jumped on R.E.M.’s bandwagon after Out Of Time may be somewhat bemused by some of the rarer aspects of their discography, but this is an absolute no-brainer for long time devotees of one of America’s most interesting and experimental rock acts. Stipe quips at the end of an electrifying ‘Feeling Gravity’s Pull’, “That deserves a pint!” The overall album deserves a keg.