On Sunday my friend Dawn and I went down to Manchester to see REM play. We stayed at Jury's hotel which turned out to be the ideal place as it was close to good eating places and the tramline to where the gig was being held.
After getting sorted we went out to check where we would get the tram to the venue, it was very close to the hotel. As it was a Sunday the streets were relatively quiet and we admired the beautiful Victorian buildings that dominated this area. One had gorgeous decorative arches over the windows celebrating famous authors from the past.
We then looked for somewhere to eat. I knew that Deansgate Locks were close by and remembered the lovely meal Debbi and I had in the restaurant of The Comedy Store so we walked the short distance there. Unfortunately The Comedy Store was closed but various other bars and Restaurants at the Locks were open. We decided to go for The Pitcher and Piano and, as the weather was so lovely and warm sat outside on the boardwalk overlooking the canal. we both had fish and chips and I must say they were delicious! Dawn treated me to the meal as an early birthday/retirement present which was very kind of her. We just could not believe the weather, for weeks it has been rain, rain, rain and there we were eating al fresco in sunshine!
At 5pm we decided to head to the Lancashire County Cricket Club at Old Trafford where the gig was being held. We got on at the GMEX stop and it took less than ten minutes to get to Old Trafford. The LCCC is literally right beside the tram station, so it is very convenient, no long hikes today!
We got into the ground quickly and as it was all general admission could sit or stand. We decided to sit in the seats as Dawn had been at a wedding the night before and had sore feet from standing for a long time!
The cricket ground was round with some small stands that were completely open to the elements, luckily the weather was still sunny and warm. About one third of the place was cordoned off as they were replacing the turf. I looked around at the audience and they were much like a U2 crowd, very mixed ages across the generations.
My BIG complaint about the LCCC is the lack of women's toilets. I queued for 30 minutes then Dawn went shortly afterwards and was away for an hour! I was beginning to get worried about her but she'd been in the queue for the toilet all that time! That is ridiculous, Dawn missed most of The Editors set because she was in the queue.
The first support band was Guillimots who I had vaguely heard of but knew nothing of their music. I quite liked them, the singer had a good voice and I loved the strong drumming on many of the tracks played. Next support was Editors who I'd seen play at Glastonbury. I liked them too, again the singer had a strong voice, though as the set continued I was disapointed to find some of the songs rather samey.
REM came on at 8.30pm (there was an early curfew of 10.30pm hence the early start) opening with a blistering Living Well Is The Best Revenge. We were well back so relied on the two screens to each side of the stage. There were also a few smaller screens behind the band, very low key compared with U2 but that's ok, biggest is not necessarily the best!
The band were very together as you'd expect after almost 30 years of being together, there were also a lot of interactions between Bill, Mike and Michael which reminded me of U2. I have always liked REMs music as much as U2's (but I related to U2 more and so became a bigger fan of theirs) and the band were hot tonight. Some of the songs I did not know - I don't have all REM's albums, I didn't buy the last two albums before Accelerate for instance. But most were familiar, What's the Frequency Kenneth, Drive, Ignoreland, Electrolite (one of my favourites), Hollow Man. Pretty Persuasion was dedicated to the Gay Pride Festival that had been held in Manchester that weekend. There were a couple of rants from Michael against President Bush, he's certainly not REM's favourite person!
Michael seemed to be really enjoying himself, often doing wacky dancing - he can certainly move well! He asked the crowd to get out their "portable phones" and light the place up, it looked lovely.
For me the highlight of the show was when they played I've Been High and Let Me In. Both done almost acoustically, full of emotion and Michael's voice soaring in the latter song. Both songs really touched me and gave me goosebumps, gorgeous stuff and what a good concert is all about.
Orange Crush and Imitation of Life (another big fave of mine) got the crowd singing as loud as they could. The encore began with Supernatural Superserious. The show finished with the real crowd pleaser Man on the Moon which had everyone singing along and clapping, a great way to end the show. Unfortunately they did not play my two favourite songs Nightswimming and Find the River, but with a back catalogue as vast as REM's you are bound to miss out on some of your favourites they can't play everything!
I thoroughly enjoyed the gig, there was an intimate, friendly atmosphere and fantastic music. As with U2 there were fans from all over the country and beyond. I just love the gorgeous melodies so many of REM's songs have, the great musicianship and Michael's voice is totally unique, emotional and powerful. A brilliant night and I left on a high.
The Set List1. Living Well Is The Best Revenge 2. These Days 3. What's The Frequency, Kenneth?
4. Drive 5. Man-Sized Wreath 6. Fall On Me 7. Ignoreland 8. Walk Unafraid 9. Hollow Man 10. I’m Gonna DJ 11. Electrolite 12. Pretty Persuasion 13. The Great Beyond 14. So Fast, So Numb 15. 7 Chinese Bros. 16. The One I Love 17. I’ve Been High 18 Let Me In 19. Horse To Water 20. Bad Day 21. Orange Crush 22. Imitation Of Life 23. Supernatural Superserious 24. Losing My Religion 25. Mr. Richards 26. It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) 27. Man On The Moon
REM at the End of the Concert at Manchester 24th August 2008 (Accelerate Tour) - Photo by M J Gray
We left the cricket ground and the police and stewards had the dispersal of the thousands of fans well under control. Within 30 minutes of the concert finishing Dawn and I were back in the centre of Manchester. We were really hungry and found a Chinese restaurant, Tai Wu, still open so we decided to go in and have a meal. It was really busy in there - it's the first time I've eaten a Chinese at that hour of the night!
Back at the hotel we relaxed, had a bottle of wine and chatted. A wonderful way to finish a day full of great REM music, delicious food and good company.