In some ways, this entire tour, comprising 99 shows so far (since last October), has seemed like a succession of highlightsâsome tremendous shows, wonderful places to visit, friends new and old. To me, this feels like the best R.E.M. tour ever in so many ways; But when we look back on the whole experience, it is unlikely we will think of a weekend to top the one we just hadâ¦a packed Old Trafford in Manchester, rightly venerated as a sports stadium and with the atmosphere of the worldâs biggest club for a rocking, fired-up R.E.M. set; Balloch Castle Park on a tree-specked hillside overlooking Loch Lomond, one of the most majestic lakeside vistas anywhere (and a, shall we say, spirited crowd whose enthusiasm propelled the band to an edgy, sparkling show); then last night north of Dublin, where R.E.M. played Ardgillan Castle, another gently sloping hillside with the stage set amidst the stunning castle above, a fuzzy 3/4 moon far above, set hard against the Irish Sea a few hundred yards below. And with rarely played classics like âFind the River,â â Sitting Still,â and âDisturbance at the Heron House,â finding their way into the set, all felt right with the worldâ¦at least in that tiny corner of if, for the moment. A better concert experience would be hard to imagine.
Highlights of the weekend for me had to be the exit from the stage at Loch Lomond, the only time the band has ever left by boat, and with the horns and cheers of others in the little bay that had been listening from the waterâ¦moments from leaving the stage, it was a surreal scene indeed. And last night the band dedicated part of the show to Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese leader whose 60th birthday it was. Michael displayed a poster-sized picture of her and gave a dignified dedication before the band played âThe Outsiders,â âFind the River,â and âWorld Leader Pretend.â It seemed appropriate and affirmative, and if it helps draw attention where necessary, we will be happy for that.
Today we proceed to Sweden and get to visit Gothenburg, another new city to us, and the next four shows are in Scandinavia. We are in the homestretch now, with Hyde Park less than 3 weeks away.
Happy Fatherâs Day,
P.S. David reminded me that the excellent compilation For the Lady is still available to support the U.S. Campaign for Burma, and includes tracks from R.E.M., â¦ and â¦., as well as a version of U2âs stellar Walk On, to which the band walked on to last night near Dublin. For info on purchasing For the Lady, please click here.