"Children of the Spotted Owl, good evening."
2. The One I Love
3. South Cent ral Rain
4. Turn You Inside Out
6. These Days
7. Good Advices
8. Orange Crush
9. Exhuming McCarthy
10. Feeling Gravity's Pull
12. World Leader Pretend
13. I Believe
14. I Remember California
15. Get Up
16. Life and How to Live It
17. It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
18. Pop Song '89 (problems)
19. Fall on Me (problems)
20. You Are the Everything (lesser problems)
22. Begin the Begin
23. King of Birds
24. See No Evil
26. Finest Worksong
27. Perfect Circle
28. Dark Globe
29. After Hours w/ Radar Love, Ghost Rider, Word Up, Born to Run (slight cut along the way)
This torrent features the fourth of five concerts R.E.M. played in the Pacific Northwest in the fall of 1989. The band was playing a revamped, high-energy set with different songs than shows on the spring tour. Many of these didn't appear again for at least another 10 years: when R.E.M. returned to the road in 1995, perhaps having taken a page from the U2 playbook circa 1992, they had mothballed much of their '80s catalog. So this was a farewell of sorts to some old favorites.
Memorial Coliseum felt deserted on this damp Friday evening, its upper tiers empty--an anomaly given the band's popularity and the fact that they hadn't played in Portland in three years. Now signed to a major label, R.E.M. was an established arena act touring behind a platinum-selling album.
No longer ambivalent about playing their more popular numbers, they came out of the gate with two songs that had been in the top 10 of Billboard's Hot 100, "Stand" and "The One I Love." In a nod to its indie past, "South Central Rain" came third, played again in its familiar album arrangement. After that, song selection varied each night, drawing primarily from the three most-recent LPs. But there were surprises, too.
New, unrecorded songs had always been a part of the band's repertoire, from "Hyena" in 1984 and "The One I Love" in 1986 to "Orange Crush" and "Pop Song '89" in 1987. No such preview happened in the spring, but now the set had two premieres, "Belong" and "Low." Both were recorded in arrangements nearly identical to these for Out of Time.
On this evening, the number that resonated most was "I Remember California," which sounded intricate and seemed to interest the band the most. Michael Stipe appeared particularly dramatic and agitated on this, as if he were trying to exorcise the source of considerable discomfort. "Get Up" and "Pop Song '89" featured the band at its most animated, and "You Are the Everything" sounded sweet and earnest toward the end of the night.
But the most beloved song had to be "Good Advices," a track from the third album that hadn't appeared in the set since 1985. We called it a revival; many nights, Michael Stipe introduced it as "a present." The band played it at a slightly faster clip than they had before, and it had a bit more heft thanks to guest musician Peter Holsapple (of the dB's) playing guitar alongside Peter Buck. It was truly a great call, one that R.E.M. fans remember fondly 20 years later. With "Life and How to Live It" appearing in the spot where "Auctioneer" had in the spring, it seemed that the band had extended an olive branch to Fables of the Reconstruction.
The morning of the show, Michael Stipe reached out to one of the region's leading environmental groups and asked for a briefing on the campaign to save Opal Creek. It's a beautiful area east of Salem, and the largest contiguous stretch of ancient forest in the Northwest. That night, Stipe dedicated "King of Birds" to "the defenders of Opal Creek" and met briefly with one of the group's interns. (The intern, coincidentally, happened to be a huge fan. When the staffer who'd taken the call asked whether he could assemble a package on Opal Creek for a "Mr. Stripe," who was in town with his band "the REMs," he was briefly under the impression that someone was trying to "punk" him.)
After enjoying second-generation cassettes for years, I inquired about making digital files straight from the masters. Doc ran a D6 from about row 12 and walked out with a nice recording. There is some warble, however, marring a few songs in the second half. This was a problem when you ran extra long tapes (like TDK MX110s) in a D6 and didn't hold the deck flat.
I thought Portland smoked: the band sounded particularly energized, the set was front-loaded with a lot of upbeat songs, and the first hour or so rocked hard. My friends Butterking, A, and Doc would probably give the nod to Seattle two nights earlier, which was also excellent and featured more spontaneity. Regardless, Portland was a superb gig, and remains my favorite of the seven I saw in 1989. Recordings from this leg aren't common in the torrent world, so I'm particularly glad to share one we remember fondly for many reasons, the music chief among them. Thanks as always to my good friends at JEMS and to A, too. Hope you enjoy it.