Sunday 12 May 2024

R.E.M. by Stipe - Harlington Centre, Fleet - 11th May 2024

I would never claim to be a big R.E.M. fan, indeed at one time I disliked them, but over the years I came to appreciate and even enjoy them, tastes change, and when I saw Stipe, a well regarded tribute act to R.E.M., were coming to my closest venue, I quickly snapped up a ticket.

The Harlington Centre is in my hometown, so it was a 5 minute drive into town and a 5 minute walk from some free parking to the venue.

I arrived about 8:10, with an expected on stage time of 8:30, having watched the much delayed Spa 6 Hour race coverage first.

I grabbed a decent pint of beer at an affordable price (no exploitative O2 venue prices here!) and made my way to the, bizarrely picket fenced-in, standing area.

Most of the hall (I'm here most often to donate blood!) was set out as seats around tables, I guess reflecting the age of most of the audience, but a few of us are still mobile and energetic enough to stand for a couple of hours.

At 8:30, the band appeared, followed by a shaven headed man, looking not unlike Michael Stipe in latter years.

I must admit that most of the early tracks were not ones I was familiar with, but musically and vocally they did sound very like R.E.M.

The first song that I recognised was actually the 6th, "Reno" and the majority of the first set were tracks I was unfamiliar with. I do have a couple of compilation albums by R.E.M, but none of the early tracks I remembered (like "Radio Free Europe" and "Rockville") were there (with the exception of "So. Central Rain"), so I guess the set featured some lesser known tracks (looking at old setlists, they do seem to mix up the tracks they play a lot, which must be good for regular fans).

After about an hour (and 11 songs) the band took at 30 minute or so break.

When they returned, it was to a set of song I definitely did know, starting with "Orange Crush", "Cuyahogo" and "The One I Love".

These were easier to compare to the originals and, I'd say that, they do a very good job of sounding like R.E.M.

The set rounded out with more hits and ended on "Man On The Moon", by which time the audience were warmed up enough to loudly call for more.

Of course, they returned for 3 more hits, ending on the ironically bouncey "End Of The World".

If I want to find fault, I'd say the balance between guitars and vocals was wrong early on in the first set, with the former drowning out the latter, but it did seem to improve and I had no problem with the second set.

And, of course, there were personal favourites missing, notably "Night Swimming", but equally they didn't play "Shiney Happy People", which is the song that caused me to once dislike R.E.M, so it was swings and roundabouts. Judging from comments by the band, they switch the playlist around a fair bit, which would make another visit to a gig more rewarding.

The band play the songs well and the singer does a very passable job of sounding right, so I'd say, if you've even a casual interest in R.E.M., Stipe are worth searching out for an evening of live R.E.M songs which you'll probably never get a chance to hear from the originals, given that they recently denied any chance of a reunion.


Kindly provided by the band.

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