R.E.M. - review by : Ian Goldsworthy

Glastonbury Festival 1999

published: Wed 7th Jul 1999

Friday 25th to Sunday 27th June 1999
Worthy Farm, Pilton, nr Glastonbury, Somerset, England
last updated: Wed 7th Aug 2013

Pyramid Stage, Friday 25th June


Will there ever be, and has there ever been a performance quite like this. Michael Stipe was as charismatic as ever, but what really set REM apart from all the pretenders (Hole et al) was the stage pressence of Mike Mills, Peter Buck and the rest of the band. With so many of todays bands the show starts and stops with the frontman, but the connection that Michael Stipe formed with the audience ran right through the whole of REM. Standing stock still and beating out the hits wasn't enough for this band (take note Manic Street Preachers). No, whether it was a full rock out on Lotus, a sonic assault on Walk Unafraid or a soothing love song on At My Most Beautiful the band played the emotions and inflexions to perfection. Transcendental is a word that has been bandied about over this performance. Sounds about right to me.

Even before REM strode onto the stage and Michael Stipe yelled "So we finally made it to fucking Glastonbury" you knew it was going to be something special. The feeling of anticipation in the audience was electric. When we were told to move back or REM may be delayed it was astonishing the speed at which everyone retreated from the stage. People were so desperate for this gig to go well that they were even doing what security told them!!

The set and lighting weren't the most exciting things ever. The lighting of the main lights on the "FIRE" of The One I Love was perhaps the most predictable thing since England's early exit from the World Cup. But this didn't matter, the set was as it should be, a backdrop. The emotion and energy made them an incidental part of the experience.

The songs were a brilliant mix of the new material from UP and the old classics. Each one was crafted as a masterpiece but especially wondurful were the following:

  • Walk Unafraid - Michael Stipe running scared and battleing against the microphone whilst Mike Mills bashed the keyboard with his fists. Fantastic
  • Why Not Smile - Slimmed down to the two Michaels, an acoustic guitar and a spotlight. Truly magical.
  • Losing My Religion - That Mandolin. God, will we ever get tired of it?
  • Everybody Hurts - Surprisingly everyone sang along to this.
  • It's The End Of The World - Fantastic, energetic finale that sent the crowd crazy

At one point Michael Stipe stopped to push Patti Smith's upcoming performance. He asked "Have you people ever seen anything real?" and the answer was a resounding yes. We were seeing it before our very eyes. The illusions and grandeur of stadium rock were present but they weren't suffocating the emotion of the songs and the performance.

I cannot write anymore about what REM did on friday night. There comes a point when words cease to do any justice at all.

Friday 25th to Sunday 27th June 1999
Worthy Farm, Pilton, nr Glastonbury, Somerset, England
last updated: Wed 7th Aug 2013

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