In 1995 R.E.M. released an album of mostly crunching rock songs called "Monster". It was put together with the express intention of touring it as a full-blooded rock and roll band rather than the acoustic/electric songs on the previous albums "Out of Time" and "Automatic for the people" which the band had found difficult to tour with, even though the songs themselves were some of the finest they'd ever written. This concert movie is the record of that tour. Put together from three separate performances, it shows R.E.M. at the height of their powers. From the dark, stuttering crunch of the opening "I took your name" and the shimmering, flickering backdrop of images, the concert is a total performance. Meshing music, image and art - along with Michael Stipe's shape shifting presentation of himself as a performance artist. Some may find the editing of different performances into a single song awkward and jarring, but for me it adds to the art of the performance as a whole piece. Rather than a straight concert show we are given a work of art in itself. Ever changing, ever surprising, never boring. Then there's the music. The songs from "Monster" growl and rasp with heavily distorted guitars, sometimes shuddering with tremolo as on "Crush with eyeliner" or just over-driven to the max on "What's the frequency, Kenneth?" and "The Wake-up bomb". But the finest performance for me is the heartbreaking and yet sublimely uplifting "Everybody hurts". Michael Stipe's voice soars heavenwards as Peter Buck hits the power chords of the chorus. Watch out for the moment when the magnificently Nudie-suited Mike Mills - playing piano instead of bass - kicks away the stool and stands up to hammer the keyboard. A real rock and roll moment.
This is one of the great rock concert films, far superior to the later "Perfect Square". Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in music and movies.
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