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Live At the Olympia

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Editors’ Notes

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.

Customer Reviews

R.E.M. - Greatest band in the world

The best band in the world.

The concept is fantastic. Play songs you're in the process of writing along with some of your classics from the catalog LIVE, in front of screaming fans and see where that takes us !

Artists, yeah. But more importantly, a great rock band and a great LIVE rock band.

The energy of Harborcoat. A soaring Electrolte. A snarling Living Well... A frenetic Wolves, Lower.

So happy they shared this "experiment in terror" ( as Peter called it) with the world.

Long live R.E.M.

An amazing collection....

With the possible exception of the Beatles, there isn't a band out there that has meant more to me than REM. When bands get 20+ years into a career, it becomes a cliche to hail each release as a return to form. If Accelerate was the return to form for REM on record, then this is a return to form in terms of live recordings. Of course, much of the live recordings that exist of REM are unofficial bootlegs, so the sound on "Live at the Olympia" is infinitely better.

Most of the songs from Accelerate are present, and sound great in this setting. Its interesting to hear some different takes on these tunes -- Supernatural Superserious veers into a few unexpected directions. The unreleased tracks are all strong and would have fit well on Accelerate had the band decided to include them. As a long-time fan, though, it is the song selection that really jumps out -- and not so much the songs they play, but the way they play them. There is an energy to the presentation that I felt was missing from "REM Live"....I don't know if that's due to the shift from an arena to a smaller venue, or the abundance of chatter between the tracks. There is an informality to the proceedings, but the band sounds like they are feeding off the audience's excitement.

Casual fans should enjoy this -- it is a real representation of an REM show, not just "Greatest Hits Live". If you've written this band off as an old shell of their former selves, this might change you mind a bit. I saw them on the Accelerate tour, and it was better than my two previous shows (in support of Monster and Up, respectively). This has much the same feel that I remember from that show -- this is a band that is loving every minute of the performance.

Atonement for "REM Live"

Their first official live album was an exercise in tedium. Now, "REM Live at the Olympia" gets it right. Incredibly right. Blissfully right. Ecstatically right. To believe Peter Buck (and why shouldn't we), these are the shows that saved the band from breaking up -- convinced them that they still had something to offer, something to prove -- and the validation of that renewed self-worth is found in these staggering 39 tracks, culled from five nights of shows in Dublin. Digging deeper into their catalogue than they ever have, playing with passion and abandon, America's best band has created a document to stand with any in their storied career.

Who'd have believed the old boys still had so much blood in them?


Formed: 1980 in Athens, GA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

R.E.M. marked the point when post-punk turned into alternative rock. When their first single, "Radio Free Europe," was released in 1981, it sparked a back-to-the-garage movement in the American underground. While there were a number of hardcore and punk bands in the U.S. during the early '80s, R.E.M. brought guitar pop back into the underground lexicon. Combining ringing guitar hooks with mumbled, cryptic lyrics and a D.I.Y. aesthetic borrowed from post-punk, the band simultaneously sounded traditional...
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