The first time that I saw them was actually the first time I had been to a real rock concert. I couldn't have picked a better one. The concert was on December 2nd, 1985 in Raleigh, North Carolina at the Civic Center. The civic center's concert hall isn't very big and doesn't sound that great, but I was happy to have been able to see them in a smaller venue because the band became very popular the next year and moved on to bigger locales.
The opening band was The Minutemen and it was one of their last shows (The guitarist D. Boon died in January '86). I had heard about The Minutemen, but had never heard their music before. I remember being totally blown away by them. They were great! George Hurley, the drummer, had these long bangs that he was just thrashing up and down during every song. I loved D. Boon's style on guitar because one minute he'd be thrashing away and the next he'd be plucking a country tune. He really influenced me as a guitarist. His style just said,"Anything goes..." I remember Mike Watt looked like Castro at that point. He had on this khaki jumpsuit and had a Castro-like beard. His bass playing has awesome. I was really impressed when, after he broke a string, he told a story while re-stringing the bass himself. It really kept the spontanaeity of the concert going and they were back to playing in no time.
After the Minutemen finished their blistering set, the lights dimmed. The low, rumbling sound of a train engine passing and a loud report of it's horn was piped through the PA. It sounded like it was going through the building. Four silhouettes got up on the stage. The opening strains of "Feeling Gravity's Pull" started up, the lights came on, and the show was under way. Michael Stipe came out singing from behind the drum riser in a gray trenchcoat and what looked like a tricorn hat. He dragged the mike stand as he trudged around the stage during the opening number. The rest of the set was just one great song after another. I was impressed at how really "loose" the band was. Peter Buck was jumping and kicking his leg out to one side. Mike Mills, not as geeky in concert as I had imagined him to be from just the photographs, was rocking and nailing the back-up vocals. Bill Berry was Mr. Cool on the drums. I remember someone bombing the stage with toilet paper at one point and Michael threw it back saying, "Let's keep the ass-wipe in the audience..." I actually met the toilet-paper thrower years later. He said he had only come to see The Minutemen. There was one point where Michael did some rambling story he had taped onto a music stand about "Green Eggs and Ham". It led into a song, but I can't remember which one. Overall, it was one of the best shows I had ever seen. Although I hear now that that time was a very difficult one for the band (they almost broke up). They sure as hell fooled me. All I saw was a great band playing great songs with a lot of youthful energy and, to me, it looked like they were having a great time doing it. I was an arm's length away from one of the world's greaest bands. I'll never forget that show. I wish I could see them in a small place like that again.
Back to the 1985 concert setlists