These cheeky Liverpudlians really know how to take a rain drenched crowd and make them feel good.
"This one's for the people at the front and not the ones at the back [who were undercover]. "We really appreciate it", the singer chirped.
Ever so slightly crazy, the Zutons seemed to have great fun on stage. The singer screamed and played with his voice, the sassy saxophonist did madness-style, knees-out dancing.
The whole group clapped together, sang together, produced weird sounds and marvelous harmonies, broke into Frank Zappa-esq mad moments. All together they were brilliant musicians. With every tune I wanted to say ‘oooohhh, nice’ and nod in approval as another of their meaty hooks grabbed me.
Later, the main act, REM burst on stage. Michael Stipe seemingly climatised to the weather, singing "it's been a bad day", bearing a painted blue stripe from ear to ear and a flat cap.
I did wonder if this was a northern tribal fancy, but the blue stripe has been with him for the whole tour (darn, it does look good) and the cap was soon off. It was almost as if he had commanded the rain to stop by the time they launched straight into an energetic ‘What’s the Frequency Kenneth?’.
Stipe seems to be a sweet soul, as revealed in his spoken interludes. It was funny then, hearing him shout “shut up I'm talking” to one side of the crowd. He then proceeded to tell his story to the other side.
It was a back-stage recollection of Cher. Being the ‘consummate professional’ she was, she took REM’s warning of the slippery stage and so as to not "fall on her ass" took a big knife and started calving marks into the bottom of her boots. Stipe added “if anyone one slips on stage tonight, it’s because we're not consummate professionals”.
REM seem to have been made for stadium concerts. The band make a very full, constant, walled sound. The two guitarists flanking Stipe pull the wide-leg, stadium-rock stance.
For a band that have been touring since ’83 and with about 14 albums out, they have a huge repertoire to pick from. But they do not stray too much from the hits that the crowd seem most pleased to hear: Loosing My Religion, The One I Love and Everybody Hurts.
Fresh from their Live 8 appearance, they dabbled with a couple of protest songs one called ‘Welcome to the Occupation’ and another dedicated to their “strange vast country… to our government & their administration”.
Following their initial stage entrance, REM seemed to lag. It wasn't until the second part that they really started to warm up. I eagerly awaited some of the energy from their early days. How could one forget the dance on the ‘Loosing my Religion’ music video?!
Then it came, a glimpse into why REM have such a reputation as a live act.
Stipe is an entrancing performer. With an unusual voice powerful and fragile, he creates hypnotising movements with his hands and arms. Having gradually shed his jacket & shirt towards the end, he was bare skinned walking from one side of the stage, stretching like a giant still with this blue stripe. The image was striking.
Enigmatic act? There are still small glimpses of it. Consummate professionals? Most certainly yes. And no, they did not succumb once to the rainy stage and fall on their asses. Maybe we have Cher to thank for that.