R.E.M. rev up until everybody hurts
Convention and Exhibition Centre
One night only
R.E.M. transformed a subdued but packed Sunday crowd, peppered with soggy rugby shirts, into a pulsing mass that felt like a sweaty festival by its magnificent end.
The band, which emerged 25 years ago as a post-punk, edgy outfit before rising to the title of 'The Greatest Band in the World' in the early 1990s, came on stage like an unknown outfit. Maybe it was just a sign that this is the sixth month of an exhausting world tour. They appeared suddenly under an astounding light display and stormed through three of their edgier hits.
Enigmatic frontman Michael Stipe - dressed in a suit and red tie, with a blue stripe painted across his eyes like a comic robber - mumbled a humble 'thanks' after the third song. He paid tribute to the audience and R.E.M.'s only gig in Southeast Asia on this tour by reaching back to Seven Chinese Buddhists.
Then they raised the ante and started unleashing the hits. Animal turned the night around, electrifying the audience with storming bass from Mike Mills, with Stipe being almost hip hop in his delivery of the vocals. This ability to reinvent their repertoire showed the band's sheer musicianship. They continued with a mesmerising version of Drive, while Orange Crush got the entire hall on its feet.
At this point, Stipe ushered in the politics - 'We come from a strange and often confusing faraway place called the United States of America. These are two protest songs of our government' - and launched into chilling songs from their new album, Around the Sun.
After that they slammed back into the hits, finishing with a generous encore of anthems including a riotous What's the Frequency Kenneth and Everybody Hurts.
With the crowd now thoroughly at his mercy, Stipe urged the audience to pick up the Oxfam and Amnesty International leaflets in the hall and the band made their exit like rock stars.