R.E.M. – In Concert at Milton Keynes Stadium – July 30, 1995 – Monster Tour – BBC Radio 1 –
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R.E.M. in concert tonight. From the 1995 UK Monster Tour, a set from their Milton Keynes Stadium gig and preserved for posterity by BBC Radio 1. This was the last date on the tour, playing two nights at Keynes Stadium – this one is from July 30,1995.
After piecing together two albums in the studio, R.E.M. decided to return to being a rock band with 1994s Monster. Though the record was conceived as a back-to-basics album, the recording of Monster was difficult and plagued with tension. Nevertheless, the album was a huge hit upon its fall release, entering the U.S. and U.K. charts at number one; furthermore, the album received accolades from a number of old-school critics who had been reluctant to praise the band, since they didn’t “rock” in conventional terms. Experiencing some of the strongest sales and reviews of their career, R.E.M. began their first tour since Green early in 1995. Two months into the tour, Bill Berry suffered a brain aneurysm while performing; he had surgery immediately and had fully recovered within a month. R.E.M. resumed their tour two months after Berrys aneurysm, but his illness was only the beginning of a series of problems that plagued the Monster tour. Mills had to undergo abdominal surgery to remove an intestinal tumor in July; a month later, Stipe had to have an emergency surgery for a hernia. Despite all the problems, the tour was an enormous financial success, and the group recorded the bulk of a new album. Before the record was released in the fall of 1996, R.E.M. parted ways with their longtime manager Jefferson Holt, allegedly due to sexual harassment charges levied against him; the groups lawyer, Bertis Downs, assumed managerial duties.
Monster is indeed R.E.M.s long-promised “rock” album; it just doesn’t rock in the way one might expect. Instead of R.E.M.s trademark anthemic bashers, Monster offers a set of murky sludge, powered by the heavily distorted and delayed guitar of Peter Buck. Michael Stipes vocals have been pushed to the back of the mix, along with Bill Berrys drums, which accentuates the muscular pulse of Bucks chords. From the androgynous sleaze of “Crush With Eyeliner” to the subtle, Eastern-tinged menace of “You,” most of the album sounds dense, dirty, and grimy, which makes the punchy guitars of “Whats the Frequency, Kenneth?” and the warped soul of “Tongue” all the more distinctive. Monster doesn’t have the conceptual unity or consistently brilliant songwriting of Automatic for the People, but it does offer a wide range of sonic textures that have never been heard on an R.E.M. album before.
Hit the Play button and dive in.