Editor's note: Collinsville High School graduate Michael Stipe, the lead singer of alt-rock band R.E.M., turns 60 on Jan. 4, 2020. In honor of the occasion we look back at our original review of the band's first headlining gig in St. Louis, we also share a Rocky Horror moment.
Oct. 8, 1984
The rock group R.E.M. gave a sold-out concert at Graham Chapel on the Washington University campus Saturday evening.
It was in top form and delivered all the energy, drama and musical quirks that its reputation and advance publicity promised.
From the first chiming chords of "Radio Free Europe" to the final encore of singer-composer Van Morrison's classic "Gloria," the entire audience was on its feet.
It is no wonder many believe R.E.M. to be America's best new band.
Song after song came bursting forth with musical hooks hidden between the carefully orchestrated arpeggios of bassist Mike Mills and guitarist Peter Buck. R.E.M.'s music is a rich blend of 1960s folk-rock sounds coupled to a tough sounding backbeat It sounded like a marriage of the psychedelic melodies of the Byrds to the grim monotone drones of Velvet Underground.
Whatever the musical roots of the material, there is no doubting the magic that this band works on a modern rock audience.
Singer Michael Stipe is a strangely charismatic fellow. His intense stares seem to penetrate the crowd as he sings. He favors an almost country-western delivery of the lyrics, and at times stretches the words beyond recognition as he stands clutching his microphone stand with both bands.
The DB's opened the show with their catchy tunes and lighthearted attitude toward pop sounds.
This was the band's second show In St. Louis in three months, and it seems to be picking up momentum with rock fans here.
The musicians also seem to have polished off some of the rough edges to their sound and have tightened up their vocal harmonies immensely.
Editor's note: Check out this clip from the early days of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" at the Varsity Theater. It features an interesting cast of characters... including Michael Stipe.