R.E.M. Live At The Olympia

R.E.M. Live At The Olympia

Last year's Accelerate was precisely the long-overdue return to basics that diehard R.E.M. fans had been hoping for. But with a running time barely exceeding 30 minutes, it couldn't make up for a decade of underachievement. Live At The Olympia now provides a broader picture, capturing the band's 2007 "working rehearsals" in Dublin prior to the Accelerate sessions. With 39 tracks on two discs (along with a 19-song DVD), there's definitely a lot more to absorb, but it's worth the effort to hear the band spark their reinvention by digging deep into their catalogue. Untested songs like "Man-Sized Wreath" and "Horse To Water" fit perfectly into the parade of pre-Document nuggets such as "These Days" and "Pretty Persuasion." But even more fascinating is the emphasis on rarely played Reckoning- and Fables Of The Reconstruction-era tracks like "Letter Never Sent" and "Kohoutek." Peter Buck's extensive liner notes provide some insight into these choices, but the performances on their own, some of them gloriously ramshackle, provide sufficient proof of the band's desire to reconnect with their essence. Fans of the post-Document era may well beg to differ with that assessment, but Live At The Olympia is unique in showing R.E.M. facing a crossroads, and looking forward with confidence. (Warner)