We arrived at Jones Beach just in time for lightning to strike the building and shut down Modest Mouse’s set while they evacuated the audience. The rain began to pour forth from the sky and the lightning storm kept us at bay (literally in the tunnel underneath our seats) for ninety minutes. They waited for two waves of the storm to pass before we were allowed to our seats, by which point there were standing pools of water a couple inches deep in some rows. The crew kept themselves busy squeegeeing the stage and eventually, swapping out Modest Mouse for R.E.M. During the delay, Peter Buck spent the entire time on stage watching the storm and Michael Stipe made a brief appearance himself.
Some people brought umbrellas with them. Some jackets or slickers. A few ambitious souls (us) plucked down $5 for ponchos, an investment well spent because while the lightning eventually went north, the rain only got more fierce as the night went on. A few pour souls, teenagers by the looks of them, braved the weather in just the shirts on their backs. Well, what’s a little rain among friends?
R.E.M. put on a show, though, with little complaint (okay, Stipe had a few.) The band came on stage at 10:15, a little more than an hour after they were scheduled to start. Michael greeted us with the line “Welcome to R.E.M. Survivor 2008″ and he and Mike Mills launched into a cover of the Creedence song Have You Ever Seen the Rain. They were clearly toying with the idea of how many rain-themed songs they could fit in before they got down to their original set list, but gave up without playing I’ll Take the Rain because, as Michael said, “It’s 7 minutes long and nobody wants to sit through that.”
Maybe it was the storm, maybe it was just the late hour, but Michael’s usual chatter was minimal. As such, the politics were minimal too, though he did pass out 6 t-shirts with the word “Obama” printed on the front to audience members. The set still featured Ignoreland (hostage crisis) and Welcome to the Occupation (Oliver North) and Houston (Hurricane Katrina, with the line “If the storm doesn’t kill me the government will.”)
The triple threat of Living Well, What’s the Frequency and Man Sized Wreath set the tone for an electric hard rocking night that defied the rain delay and kept the audience jazzed. Most of the set alternated between artful balladry and their hard rocking numbers going at one point from the transcendent The One I Love with the audience howling FIRE at the top of their lungs to a stripped down, gorgeous rendition of Let Me In. Bad Day and Orange Crush were enormous songs, boosted by the open air acoustics, that pounded us just as the rain started to come down in waves.
Eschewing a traditional encore, the band stayed on the stage and just launched into Supernatural Superserious. The evening’s surprise was an unrehearsed, tacked on It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine) which had the entire audience going apeshit. As such, Fall on Me and Man on the Moon, with Modest Mouse’s Johnny Marr, were almost anti-climatic. Just as the last notes of Man on the Moon drifted off over the water, the rain stopped. Hoods came down, jackets were peeled off, soaking wet and gloriously satisfied, we wandered off to find our cars and get the hell out of Long Island, unless you were taking the L.I.E. which was flooded and at a complete standstill for hours to come.
Have You Ever Seen the Rain
So. Central Rain
Living Well is the Best Revenge
What’s the Frequency Kenneth
Man Sized Wreath
Welcome to the Occupation
Horse to Water
The One I Love
Let Me In
I’m Gonna DJ
Losing My Religion
It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)
Fall on Me (with Johnny Marr)
Man on the Moon (with Johnny Marr)
additional credit for this review goes to D.L. who braved the lightning, the rain, and some fishy herring to get there