R.E.M.

Live From Austin TX (New West)

DVDs

R.E.M.

Live From Austin TX (New West)

Studio 6A brought out something different from every artist that stepped into the historic home of Austin City Limits. The lights and cameras, the pin-drop clarity, and the unnerving intimacy could expose an unexpected vulnerability, a rare glimpse into the emotional struggle and weight behind the music. Filmed in March 2008, this reprieve from the hustle of South by Southwest was obviously relished by R.E.M., with frontman Michael Stipe offering colorful introductions to most of the material. "The new stuff is really brilliant," he jokes early on. "If you don't like it, most of the songs are like two-and-a-half minutes." From the opening salvo of "Living Well Is the Best Revenge" and "Man-Sized Wreath," the Athens, Ga., outfit attacks the material from its 14th studio album, Accelerate, which made up nearly half the set, with a lean, call-to-arms urgency that ripples through unexpected highlights "I'm Gonna DJ" and "Horse to Water" as well as a chilling "So. Central Rain" and greatest hit "Losing My Religion." While slightly expanded from the original hourlong broadcast, this doesn't offer the entire taping – it was a 19-song set by my count – but the 70-minute program manages to capture what it felt like to be in the room that Thursday afternoon, this close to greatness.

***

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