REM, Modest Mouse, & the National Jones Beach Theater 6.14.08
Some concerts are about the music and some are about performance but Saturday night was the REM experience. The gods must be big Michael Stipe fans because they attended in style pouring cold rain down for hours along with lightning bolts across the sky, but the crowd did not waver. The show began with the National, the local Brooklyn band with the characteristic Tom Waits style vocals. The crowd of empty seats and chatting people did not take a big interest in this indie newcomer as the skies began to foreshadow the night’s weather rollercoaster.
Shortly afterwards as dusk began to draw to a close Modest Mouse took the stage unassumingly and met an equally unenthusiastic audience. The crowd began to take notice as they started into “Fire it Up”, one of the songs off their newest album, but with the exception of a few hipsters and a small group of dancing teenage girls the audience’s attention was quickly focused elsewhere. The sound was lost in the large crowd although it did begin to gain momentum again with a passionate rendition of “Doin the Cockroach”. As lightning began to appear in the sky the band rounded out their set with a trio of songs including a great version of “Dashboard” and a funky mix of “Trailer Trash” As they began their final song lightning stuck the amphitheater and sparks few over the heads of the crowd (a great way to close).
The crowd was evacuated for over an hour as people jammed into cars and hallways with continual rain and lightning (one fan was even rushed to the hospital). After an announcement the crowd poured back into their wet seats as REM took the stage. They won the soaking crowd over instantly as they began with the Creedence classic “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” followed by “S. Central Rain”. The stage set was perfectly in tune to the caffeinated pace of the songs with cropped video monitors and lcd lights lending an artistic instant video feel to each song. They continued on with classics such as: “What’s The Frequency Kenneth”, “Orange Crush”, and “The One I Love” showing how tight they are after so many years on the road. The rain somehow seemed to amplify the experience and the band changing up the set list on stage gave it a great live feeling. Michael assisted wet fans by throwing out Obama t-shirts and when the time for the encore came he told the crowd “okay, this is the encore” asking them to imagine them leaving the stage and coming back looking tired.
The encore was amazing for the seasoned REM fan including: “Losing My Religion”, the last minute addition of “It’s the End of the World” which Michael said he swore he’d never play again, and “Fall on Me” for which they called out Johnny Marr. They closed the show with “Man on the Moon” around midnight and the wrinkled crowd seemed awed and satisfied even in their drenched clothes and ponchos.