Live At the Olympia
According to guitarist Peter Buck, R.E.M.’s second live album is something of an “experiment in terror.” Recorded in 2007 at a pre-tour rehearsal at Dublin’s Olympia club, these 39 tunes capture a veteran band taking risks with newly written and long-neglected material, urged on by an enthusiastic crowd. R.E.M. discards the embellishments of their recent studio work to revisit the jangle-rock sound of their early years, drawing upon their debut EP and first three albums for much of the set list. Bracing versions of “Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars),” “Gardening At Night,” “Second Guessing” and “Pretty Persuasion” remind long-time fans of what made this group so spellbinding from the start. At key moments, singer Michael Stipe tells stories behind the songs and winks at the obscurity of his early lyrics. Twenty-five years ago, R.E.M. could be teasingly opaque — but their passion was always clear. Live At the Olympia finds them regaining this clarity with fervor and joy.