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06 July 2005: R.E.M. + The Zutons + Idlewild - City Ground, Nottingham, England, UK
Well this was a long time coming. The tickets were booked in September time and by Christmas I had almost forgotten that I was going. I was also convinced (when I remembered) that it was on a Saturday night. I probably misheard. Wednesday. Saturday. Sound similar? No. Thought not. Well, perhaps the last bit.
I parked up at about 7ish and made my way towards the City Ground with the sounds of Idlewild wafting across the River Trent towards me. I quite like Idlewild and have seen them once before, but I am not too familiar with their output.
Apparently, this was the first gig at this venue and it seemed well organised, apart from the fact that it said "Enter via gate B" on the tickets, which according to a steward meant gate any. I got issued with my wristband and entered the ground. The Stage was at the Bridgford end and the pitch had been covered with squares of tough plastic to protect the grass (you could just about see it peeking through the gaps).
Idlewild got the crowd going, but seemed to be fighting a bit of a losing battle, as, at this stage of the evening, it was a fairly sparse crowd. You should be able to see Idlewild’s setlist here.
After Idlewild left the stage, I went for a wander round. The merchandise stall was situated just about where the goal would be at the Trent end and appeared to be selling mainly REM merchandise. At about this time it started to rain. That cold, wet type of rain, that doesn’t appear to be doing much, but after about half an hour you realise you’re starting to freeze and your hairs soaked. Anyway, on went everyone’s wet weather kit and we all stood around looking like extras from the set of Waterworld.
The Zutons took to the stage and the mood inside the venue immediately brightened up. A band after my own heart (if you come on stage wearing the two greatest colours you will immediately get my support before you’ve played a note), The Zutons appeared resplendent in black and orange and proceeded to entertain us for the next hour and a bit. They certainly got the crowd going and judging by the number of their shirts about quite a few people had come along just to see them. It was quite a good set and included "Pressure Point", along with a number of others. At one point everyone who had bunked off work to attend (the gates opened at 16:00 hours) was asked to put their arms in the air. There was a muted response and The Zutons said "If this had been Liverpool, I’d have just seen a sea of hands". By the time The Zutons left the stage, it had started raining again.
The venue had begun to fill up, but even when REM had appeared it still seemed to be half empty. The Trent end was about 1/8th full, the Brian Clough Stand was about ¾ full, and the main stand was about ½ full. The amount of people on the pitch was about half what I expected, and barely stretched to the mixing desk, and it was fairly easy to move towards the front and get a good view.
I first wanted to see REM on the Green tour, just as they were becoming massive, having bought "Document", "Life’s Rich Pageant" and "Reckoning", but as Stipe said later, to a loud cheer. "The last time we were in Nottingham was at Rock City in November 1984" and I hadn’t made the effort to travel to see them anywhere since, so I was looking forward to it.
I think they started with "Bad Day", Michael Stipe with painted blue face stripe, visiting every corner of the stage and receiving the cheers of the crowd wherever he went. Next up was "What's the Frequency, Kenneth", but after this my memory is a little hazy (I think it was the cold).
REM certainly took a break after the third number, Michael Stipe sitting down on a monitor and explaining to us that we were witnessing an event that had never before occurred. Michael Stipe changing into trainers for his stage performance as, he explained, for once the crowd weren’t the only ones getting wet, as the rain was blowing straight onto the stage and his stage shoes were not going to keep him standing up. He told us an anecdote which was about Cher, professionalism and not falling on your arse on stage, but I missed a lot of it as my hood had gone up to prevent the wettest rain of the evening from running down my neck.
Later we were treated to the hilarious site of Stipe, dancing barefoot by this time, jumping from towel to towel that had been laid out on stage around his mike stand because the stage floor had become so saturated.
Other songs were "Outsiders" (introduced by Stipe saying "Ever since I was first born into the world I have felt like an outsider", cue crowd "Ahh", and Stipe "No, no, it’s ok, I’ve found my place now"), "Wanderlust", "Everybody Hurts, "Electron Blue" and "Leaving New York", which received a huge roar from the audience.
Next it was, in my opinion, the best part of the evening with (everyone knew what was next when the megaphone appeared) "Orange Crush", "One I Love" and "Losing My Religion", after which REM left the stage.
We knew they were coming back though and so the crowd sat back and watched the video screens show where the tour had been so far, flashing each cities name up in giant orange letters until we got to Nottingham, when a great cheer went up and the giant displays shone "Nottingham" out four times on each of the two screens set at each side of the stage, until the band came back on stage.
For the encore we got "Nightswimming" (which was excellent), a couple of others that escape me, and finally "DJ" and "Man On The Moon". I think we would probably have got "Teenage Kicks" as well as they apparently played this at Hull the previous evening, but for Stipe saying to us half way through the encore that we could either have two, and stay as wet as we were, or four more songs, and get even wetter. Of course we all cheered for four.
Unfortunately, after the next track, Stipe started to introduce the band, got interrupted by what sounded like thunder, said "Was that thunder? We’ll get a move on", rushed the band introductions and exited stage right after "DJ" and "Man On The Moon".
I can’t blame him really, as standing on a stage in a thunderstorm is one of the last places I’d want to be.
The thunderstorm thankfully never materialised, and I just had to walk back to the car in the cold, wet rain.
This was a great evening’s entertainment. REM were in great form, although I expect that they have had better nights, in better conditions and if they come my way again, I will definitely be buying a ticket.
It was just a shame for them that the gig seemed to be fairly sparsely attended and that the great British summer decided to produce a blast of arctic conditions at the wrong time.
Never mind, the weather was bearable and I’ve warmed up now.
And I would have felt even finer had they played it. right? Right.
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