R.E.M. are the headliner of the Street Scene Festival in San Diego, located between downtown's buildings. The festival is celebrating its 20 years anniversary and REM seems the best choice. Around 7pm the guys from Georgia, Mills, Stipe and Buck take the stage. Michael is wearing a black leather jacket and a pair of sunglasses, which he's supposed to lose as soon as the show get started. I'm in the first row, holding a little sign made during the afternoon, which say "I believe in REM From Italy". Mills notices my sign as soon as he enters the stage, thanks to the sunlight. He seems surprised but glad and smiles at my friends and me.
The show kicks off with The Finest Worksong, immediately followed by WTF Kenneth, an energetic rock tune, perfect for a great start. It's time to greet the crowd: "This is where we want to be. Tonite. San Diego, Street Scene." "Thank you Macy- Fucking -Gray... I like Macy Gray, I like R.E.M. also" and to introduce the next song as "This is Drive". Animal, one of the new songs of the upcoming Best Of, follows along to The Great Beyond. Michael introduces this song talking about the moon "Turn around, Look up to the full moon...this song is about Andy Kauffman"
Stipe jumps, dances and plays his own moves holding the audience in his hands, looking at the people everytime he stands on the little platform before the stage. Then comes the first surprise, a rarely played Exhuming McCarthy shows up in the setlist while Stipe takes a little tape recorder to the microphone to let the people hear a brief part from the President's speech.
"This next song is a request from the website, it's a new song but it has been requested a lot" introduces the current single Bad Day, the other new song. During the performance Michael plays harmonica and throw it towards the crowd as the song ends. Then takes a towel, covers his mouth and goes "I cut my lips, you got a little of michael stipe's blood on that thing... Do you wanna these towels too? My blood?" As he seems to launch the towel to the guys in the front he passes it on the back "Let's give them to Scott. They're clean, don't worry".
They then launch into The one I love, electric and powerful as always. "I'm starvin but maybe you don't wanna know about that, you just wanna hear the next song" comes right before an emotional performance of Daysleeper.
"This is also a request from our website, actually the next three songs are Peter's request..." in the meantime Mr. Buck, who has noticed our sign, murmurs something in Michael's ear about some Italian guys standing in the front row. "Yes I know..." he looks towards Mills, who already knows since the beginning "There are some Italian guys here. They came all the way from Italy to hear us tonite in San Diego and of course we got for them a place in the front row" "Who are...? You three! You're not understanding a word of what I'm saying, are you?" We assure you we understand every word. "Yeah I know, just kidding. By now you should know that I can't speak Italian. But Mike Mills speaks Italian very well." Mills tries to hide himself, but Stipe prompts him "C'mon Mike!" The brave Mills approaches the microphone and says "Buonanotte" three times in a perfect Italian. So they play Driver 8, Orange crush, I believe all in a row. I've been waiting for this moment for ten years. The performance of Orange Crush is simply amazing and Michael keeps shouting in the megaphone "1-2-3-4". Before playing I believe he emphasizes "This was also an Italian request. We play this song without leaving room for me to breathe so you guys have to carry me on this one...at least you Italian guys!"
It is time for Losing my religion, after a personal moment which made us part of history, it's right that the show goes back to everyone again. "This song is not ours anymore, it belongs to you." Stipe turns the lyrics-sheets-stand towards the crowd, jumps off the stage and sings the song standing on the left barricade in front of the people. Then come a very intimate moment as the band perform Find the river and Electrolite.
Stipe pauses before going on "You don't know but this balloon figure is actually freakin me out" He's referring to a giant balloon human-a-like standing and being moved by the wind just on the back of the mixer "It looks like a bad b-movie or something" Then he adds "I remember the first time we played here in San Diego. There were 17 people instead of the hundreds of tonite." Before launching in She just wants to be he dedicates the song to Wilco "because we like them" The performance includes a Peter Buck guitar solo and a "bull against bull fighter game" between Stipe and Mills.
Michael starts Walk Unafraid breathing hard and singing the refrain a cappella. As the song ends a giant pizza for Mr Stipe is delivered to the stage, a grateful gift from someone of the fans. "Oh that's so sweet!" goes Michael "We're gonna go out after this song so you don't mind if I eat it while you do some noise to calling us back?"
"This song is about Andy Kauffman" and Man on the moon ends the regular set.
A no-more hungry Michael caressing his stomach walks into the stage for the encore. A touching performance of Everybody Hurts embraces the people. Stipe drinks a glass of wine and then spits right away "It's very bad for singing"
"Imitation of life, here it is" Michael keeps prompting Mike to sing the chorus with him during "No one can see you cry - No one can see you" verse. They all leave the stage again but Mike on the piano and Michael standing before him "Mr. Mills!" "Mr. Stipe" Mike answers, launching in one amazing performance of Nightswimming, what a pleasing surprise.
We're getting close to the end "Let me introduce the band, on the 6 strings Scott. On the drums, facing Peter Buck (giving his back), Bill. Put a light on him, ok, again Bill. On the keyboards Ken Stringfellow. A light please? It's not difficult, you know. On my immediate right (smiling at the jokes the light engineer is playing on him) put the light on Mike Mills. Ok, now back on me, c'mon! Whatever are you guys havin right now? I want some! Anyway I'm the guy in the middle, on the guitar Peter… turn back. Peter… oh c'mon! We're gonna play a couple of more songs. I'm gonna take off my shirt cause I like to." Get up followed by End of the world end an unforgettable show. Michael jumps off the stage for the second time and comes towards me and all the other people around me, to let us sing the chorus of End of the world.
"Thank You". Stipe acts like the winner as seen in the "Road movie" tape. "See you real soon!" The Athens Guys rocked again, they're greater than ever.
Back to the 2002/03 concert setlists