Real Live Action

R.E.M. + Modest Mouse + The National


Deer Lake Park; May 23, 2008

Review By Adam Simpkins

While sprawled out on the lawn in the lush
surroundings of Deer Lake Park, mindlessly enjoying an overpriced strawberry ice cream cone and with one arm draped around my better-half, it suddenly dawned on me: this has to be the least rock ’n’ roll that I’ve been in a long, long time. It wasn’t really my fault, though, as there wasn’t anything remotely rock ’n’ roll about this late spring concert, boasting its lineup of adult-oriented rock bands with sights set on aging hipsters, soccer moms, young families and greying boomers.

Starting out the proceedings was the National, those perennially dull (and oddly over-hyped) Brooklynites. The band flaunted their wares to a few dedicated fans at the front, but ultimately served as a muffled soundtrack to arriving concertgoers and those waiting in line for beer tickets. Modest Mouse followed by delivering a set heavy on the last two albums, only once making a brief foray into their back-catalogue with Lonesome Crowded West’s “Trucker’s Atlas.” The crowd gave a big “I
recognize that riff” cheer for “Float On,” though most of the grownups probably only know it from their offspring’s Kidz Bop Kids album.

As for R.E.M., let’s just say that those in attendance tonight hoping for a hit parade would have been left fuming under their Tilly hats. However, for fans who can’t get enough of the band’s latest album, Accelerate, they would have had little to complain about since the band played the entire record (warts and all) over the course of the band’s two-hour set. Michael Stipe seemed a little stiff, but cordial, and gave us a collective blush with his glowing praise of Vancouver’s beauty and hospitality. In turn, he threw a few favourite oldies our way like “Losing My Religion,” “Get Up” and some surprises, such as the rarely if ever played “Ignoreland” and “Gardening at Night” from their debut 1982 EP.

And while it was a very controlled and reserved evening (how could it not be with a 5:30 p.m. start?), it couldn’t have been more pleasant, which is about as
suitable as an adjective as you can find for this show. There were no arrests, the first aid tent remained empty and most couples probably made it home in time to catch The National (on CBC, that is).