For anyone unfamiliar with Red Rocks, it is quite an amphitheater. Set in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains just outside Denver, CO, Red Rocks has an excellent stadium seating type arrangement and wonderful acoustics. I was excited to see REM here for many reasons, the least of which the last time I saw them was at Fiddler's Green, an evil place. Attending a concert at Fiddler's is like trying to watch the TV in your living room from your kitchen. The seating arrangement is terrible, and the sound is even worse thanks to the constant complaining of the surrounding neighbors.
The seats my girlfriend and I had were in the reserved fan club area, a roped off general admission section four rows back center stage. As soon as we got there, I noticed Mike Mills off to stage left chatting and watching the crowd. Someone who I am almost positive was Bertis Downs was talking with a large group of fans and occasionally signing things and on at least one occasion took something to Mike to be signed (which he did). Also, there was a young boy running around on the stage and occasionally waving at the crowd. The crowd (at least those in front who could see him) would clap wildly at everything he did. Later this boy's identity would be revealed. . .
Mercury Rev came on and did a fine job, receiving a subdued but polite response from the crowd. Then . . .
Lights down. Airportman. REM is here.
Lotus and WTF, Kenneth? were amazing, really tight. I couldn't believe the band's level of energy. Mike Mills played right at the lip of the stage, pressed up against the fans. After The Wake Bomb, Michael greeted the audience and said "We're REM, this is what we do."
Before Fall on Me, Michael introduced the song as being "as old as these beautiful rocks that surround us." Peter would whisper in Michael's ear between songs and Michael would say "Peter just reminded me," or "Peter told me to tell you" and then make some comment. Among the things that Peter communicated via Michael, REM were last at Red Rocks in 1983 (not last in Denver which has been incorrectly reported on remhq.com) opening for Bow Wow Wow. The crowd laughed, and Peter and Joey played the first few milliseconds of "I Want Candy." Midway through the show, Michael also related what Carol Burnett said about performing at Red Rocks: It's great, except for the moths that fly into your mouth. (Peter points to some moths flying toward the stage lights.) Michael then said that he had a friend who was paid to show celebrities where to put art in their homes and that Carol Burnett had "some glass thing with carvings in front of her fireplace." The crowd laughed at the insignificance of this story.
R.E.M. played almost all of their numbers with the same mind-bending intensity that they started with. The slower "Suspicion" was a surprise early on but it sounded fine. After a while, Mike Mills moved from bass to keyboard and they played "Daysleeper," "Electrolite," and "At My Most Beautiful." Michael was conspicuously absent during the first verse of this song. After it was completed, he explained he had to pee, and usually he just uses a trash can but couldn't find one, so he went downstairs. (Presumably in a bathroom of some kind). The band started again, so he could sing the first verse. Perhaps my only disappointment at this show was the harmonies in this song didn't sound quite right; but that is a very minor and understandable criticism.
R.E.M. continued to nail each song in their set, right up till the end of their first set, "Man on the Moon." They really extended this one; I didn't think they would ever stop singing at the end.
It wasn't long before Michael came back to the stage, alone, with an acoustic guitar. He then launched into a rendering of "Hope" which was very surprising. It was a gentle version, different, but well received. People laughed out loud at the line about "wanting to cross your DNA with something reptile." Mike Mills then came out and introduced the boy who had been running around the stage before Mercury Rev as his "beautiful son Julian." "He just wanted to say hi . . ." After a fatherly kiss, Julian left and Mike and Michael played "Why Not Smile." Then Mike and Michael shared a similar kiss and the rest of the band came on stage for "Crush With Eyeliner," followed quickly by "Tongue." ("this song's got tits"). After these songs Mike launched into a monologue about how sometimes you have a really bad week, through no fault of your own. I can't remember who this related to but the next song, "Gardening At Night," was dedicated to the man who had this bad week. "Gardening At Night," was again just incredible. Definite highlight. After "Driver 8" Michael started his poem (I remember a different sequence of events than is posted on this website) and then "End of the World . . ." They kept playing this and playing it, but after a while they stopped and left into the night.
So there you go. A tight, enthusiastic, energetic show. Thank you!
Back to the 1999 concert setlists