24 August 1999 - Molson Amphitheatre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Absolutely mindblowing. Those are the two words that come to mind when I think about what happened last night. It was my first ever concert, by a group that I admit is not my all-time favourite, but those two words still ring true.

After the streetcar ride down with a friend of mine, and dinner at the CNE (a huge carnival held here for two weeks every year for about 130 years), it was a quick walk over the bridge to the Molson Amphitheatre. As we took our seats, Wilco kicked off, and I have to admit, they were not bad (I swear I saw Mike Mills fiddling around with his bass behind one of the amps throughout the set). The guitars were a little loud though, and their vocals got drowned out. At least it was an excuse to peruse the overpriced merchandise (if Michael Stipe condones some of the pricing, some might say he's a hypocrite...but I digress).

After Wilco did their thing, there was a long 30 minute delay. Then at 9:10, the lights went out, six shadowy figures took the stage, and then BOOM! That's how Lotus started with some absolutely fantastic flashing lights, screaming guitars, spectacular drumming and some beautifully manic dancing by the man himself, JMS (I thought after the Detroit show the night before, he would be a bit tired, but I was totally off).

During WTFK? the great lighting continued, flashing enough during the verse to cause and epileptic seizure (Hell, I would've gone out happy if it happened to me). And the bright orange and red lights going off during the "FIIIIIRRRE!!" part of The One I Love were a great touch.

Michael, in a bright yellow shirt and jeans (or grey cords according to someone who was closer), was in fine voice, both for songs and storytelling. He asked us how we were doing, if we were happy with the clothes we picked, and said that Peter had met Kim Basinger that afternoon (that came after his view that Hollywood is dead and that all the movie stars are in Toronto). He also found time to tell us about the inspiration for Daysleeper (the now familiar bull and bear "pissing all over some NAFTA country like Mexico").

During Man on the Moon, Michael must've broke something because before Find the River he stopped, sat down on a speaker and said something to the effect of, "While Bob fixes something I fucked up, I have time to tell a story." He then told us all about how he came up with the lyrical arrangement to the song (drinking/spilling his drink all the while..."What's this blue stuff on me? No, this is my lime..." I think the blue stuff was just his makeup).

About 2 min. after Losing My Religion finished (hearing 16,000 people singing along with the band was eerie and breathtaking at the same time), there was Michael, by himself, with a guitar, singing Hope. His playing was very basic, and there were no noticeable mistakes (he dedicated it to a Toronto songwriter, Mary Margaret O'Hara, after talking about how he was able to introduce Patti Smith and Vic Chestnutt in Detroit the night before). Crush With Eyeliner was brilliant and raucous, and finally it came to and end with ITEOTWAWKI (AIFF). All the neon lights they set up went on and started flashing all at once, Michael was jumping all around the stage (although it wasn't the 10 minute version I was expecting).

It was the greatest musical experience of my life, plain and simple.

"Goodnight, thanks for coming, we'll see you soon."--John Michael Stipe, Toronto, Aug. 24, 1999, 11:10 pm.

Back to the 1999 concert setlists