The celeb Hollywood landmark, Hollywood Bowl, is the venue chosen by REM for their homecoming show in Los Angeles. It's an evocative place, up the Hollywood Hills with a little pit surrounded by a round catwalk before the stage and stadium seating.
Wilco opened the night with a powerful set including a special appearance by Peter Buck for the last song of their set. REM entered the stage around 9pm, Michael wearing a cowboy hat, sunglasses and a black suit. The show started with Begin the begin followed by So fast so numb.
Then Mr Stipe spoke out loud "What the fuck!" "Hello, we're REM and this is what we do. I've never been at the Hollywood Bowl, I always got stuck in the traffic on my way to come here. Peter has some stories about Hollywood Bowl, well he's gonna tell you later…"
Imitation of life showed up right away, Michael appeared a little embarrassed about singing "His own Hollywood song" into Hollywood heart and ended messing up the words. He sang "that's Hollywood" twice, missed "this lightning storm" and got some help from Mike Mills on "this avalanche". Later he would have said "Mike, hometown boy" to thank him.
"Here's another song that you love" introduced the classic "Drive". Sandwiched between the two new songs, Animal and Bad day, which radio stations started to program the day before the show, there was place for the first surprise of the evening. "This is a request from the website through...how do you say? E-mail? E-mail that's right. I was going to say 'I am'. So 'I am' 'email'! No you are 'I am' (pointing someone in the crowd) and you're 'email' and 'I am'...All, right we got this...(looking confused again) E-mail and it's a very great song. Hope you like it" An intense performance of the oldie Fall on me warmed fans hearts.
Then Stipe left the main spot for Mike who sang lead "Rockville". Michael kept for him the back vocals. He threw away his Cowboy hat to someone in the front who seemed willing to give it back to Michael. "You can keep it, it's a very good hat. Oh, you don't want it? Take it! Don't sell it on e-bay!" everybody laughed.
"The Full moon has just risen up on the left. There are two days of full moon, right? I think so...well I believe there are two days. If you look up at the full moon you can also spot Mars, it's not visible as some days ago but it's still there. This song is about Andy Kaufmann" talking about The Great Beyond.
The highlights of the show included Electrolite dedicated to Dean Martin "I recently read a book about him which is great. Well Peter read it. I didn't. But Peter talked about it to me" featuring the violin player Jesse Green who joined the band for this special occasion. The hit Losing my religion "This song belongs to you"
A touching moment for the audience and the band itself, who dedicated Find the River to their friend Warren Zevon, who died in L.A. just a couple of days before the show. Mike Mills barely managed to say Zevon's name.
Shortly after the beginning of Man on the moon, Tony Clifton (one of Andy Kaufmann's impersonations) appeared on stage for a duet with Michael Stipe. They sang some verses together but Tony got out of control soon, pushing over Stipe and letting him fall on his back. He threw water to all members of the band and argued with the security, which was trying to get him off the stage. Mills and Buck tried to defend themselves: Mike kicking him in the butt and Peter smashing his guitar on Tony's back. By the end of the song things did get out of hand and they all went out shouting at him. Michael, referring to Tony's performance, said "Welcome to Hollywood!" as he came back for the encore. "I would have liked to thank also my hero of the fifteens Tony Clifton. But I don't wanna do it anymore"
The appearance was clearly rehearsed in the afternoon, but whoever impersonated Tony Clifton went a little bit off the limits as he began fooling around with water.
During the encore Michael dedicated Finest Worksong "to our label company in Burbank" which is kinda ironic because they chose a song from the IRS catalog and not from Warner Bros'. Stipe thanked everyone for coming, people from New York; people who came from Athens, Georgia, their own office; the city of Los Angeles "That song that we played, Electrolite, which was dedicated and written about Los Angeles".
He introduced the band putting Ken in the spot "who got married just yesterday. I think He's 'crazy in love'. I like that one!" and joking about Peter's shirt "giving his back, in pois shirt, mr. Peter Buck"
Just the three of them played another new song, written early last spring, The Final Straw.
End of the world let Stipe running crazy on the round catwalk as his friend Bono from U2 was used to do on the "heart circle" during the Elevation tour. Lights on, everybody singing and end of this peculiar Hollywood night. On their way out Peter lifted Stipe up.
Back to the 2002/03 concert setlists