Entertainment Music

R.E.M live in Johannesburg, 10 March 2005

Brilliant. Yep. That is the word that best describes the entire R.E.M. experience. Sure there were downsides and upsides, but it averages out to brilliant.

My first coup of the evening was getting my camera in. If I pay R370 for a ticket I’d like to be able to take a couple of snaps. So I smuggled it in. The photos will be up here soon. Brad almost outclassed me by nearly getting a six pack of beers into the dome, but was caught out at the last minute.

The act opened with Michael Stipe introducing Arno Carstens & New Porn to much applause. Thinking back to Arno’s performance, it can said that it was solid, and there is no doubt that he and the new band are very talented. However I did feel that Arno managed to alienate most of the audience, partly through the choice of music, but more so because his stage presence was missing. Thinking back to the few times I saw Arno with Springbok Nude Girls, perhaps there is a pattern showing itself here. So my advice to Arno – keep playing and writing, but talk to the audience, let them feel more involved, don’t just stand up and perform in front of everyone as if you were a music video. To quote something I heard “Concentrate a bit less on the hair and a bit more on the performance”.

Once I had finished dashing to the bathrooms and queueing at the beer counter I dashed back through the crowd in the golden circle, balancing four beers and spilling very little, to where Brad and Nadia and Co. were standing, arriving just in time to jam to “Bad Day”, the second song of the set.

From here R.E.M. took us on a musical journey with stunning visual effects, candy for our eyes. The whole repertoire was in there, from new to old. Each and every song prompting the crowd to sing along where they knew the lyrics or cheer at the end when they didn’t.

I was disappointed in the audience. I don’t believe they gave it their all and were as enthusiastic as they could have been. By and large this statement excludes the patrons of the Golden Circle who were vocal and trying to work the crowd from within. Although there was a large amount of singing along to songs people knew, there was no enthusiasm for clapping along to beats and there was little dancing or jumping around. Ok, except for us few crazies.

Michael Stipe was subtle yet brilliant, from singing through a megaphone to simply standing and nodding or crouching on stage. He can still perform equally alongside all the twenty year olds learning about rock nowadays. He was wearing his trademark Mask of Zorro – in blue this time, and I was surprised that nobody else had cottoned on to his masked performance thing, and strangely I was the only one that I saw who mimiced this with a mask of my own. Thank goodness it was in blue too – I think a lot of people must have seen me and wondered, only to be pleasantly surprised when Michael walked on stage.

In the end, after two hours of great music, the trademark closing “Man on the Moon” was spectacularly performed, with everyone making the most of the final minutes of a real treat of a show.

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