R.E.M.: Live at the Olympia

Music Reviews R.E.M.
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R.E.M.: <em>Live at the Olympia</em>

Extended live lap through rarities and new ephemera

Measured in raw commercial reach, R.E.M.’s appeal may be getting more “selective,” as the euphemism goes, but on this new live double-disc their edge feels recently sharpened.

Staged across five nights in Dublin in advance of Accelerate, the set reels off sketches from the then-forthcoming album, including some that never ultimately made the cut. Juxtaposed with a subtle cherry-picking of their earlier work, it’s a coy but endearing alternative history of the band, who seem thoughtful curators. “New Test Leper,” “Cuyahoga” and “Electrolite” flow by as a gorgeous triplet, while the finale is a reverent take on “Gardening at Night.” While the recording and performance are at times a little ragged in voice and tone, the band’s earlier semi-punk instincts ring through and its taste remains impeccable.