R.E.M. Live

It seems almost redundant for R.E.M. to release a live album since their transformation into a slick arena act following the departure of original drummer Bill Berry. That is, until you bother to go back to the studio albums they have made without him and remember how lifeless they are. So what we get with Live, recorded in Dublin in February 2005, are bulked up versions of largely that material, complete with a muddy mix (mostly due to the heavily echoed Michael Stipe vocals) and the prerequisite crowd pandemonium. It’s a bit easier to ignore these shortcomings when viewing the accompanying DVD but it’s impossible to ignore the stark differences in the older and newer song choices when arena rock tendencies ultimately handicapped the R.E.M. aesthetic. Unlike U2, they were never fully able to make that transition, unless one is able to listen to the overblown crowd chorus on "Everybody Hurts” and feel some kind of connection. I guess you had to be there but unfortunately, the closest Live puts you is in the back row. (Warner)