Saturday 24th January 2015
The Live Rooms, Chester
The great thing about tribute bands is the ability to witness music by defunct groups that you wouldn’t otherwise get to hear. Unfortunately REM have ceased to exist, so an evening with Stipe goes some way to filling a void. As the premier REM tribute band, they offer up authentic, exciting versions of songs that, nowadays, you can only hear on your music player of choice.
I’ve seen Stipe a few times before, always at Alexander’s in Chester, which is a much smaller and intimate venue. So it was going to be interesting to see how they fared in a larger venue like the Live Rooms. There was no need to worry: Stipe performed brilliantly, bringing their versions of classic alt rock tunes to an eager audience.
The set was split into two sections, enabling the band to delve into the REM back catalogue and dig out gems from across their career. It says a lot that Stipe are able to entertain both the more casual fan and the die-hard aficionado like my mate; he sang along with every single line, no matter how obscure.
Where this band succeeds is in the accuracy of the sound. Though the lead singer certainly looks the part, his voice is a fairly uncanny likeness of Michael Stipe’s. He may have the moves down to an impressive level, but the voice is what really works, especially on “Orange Crush” (with megaphone prop!) and “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?”
The other musicians also manage to create a brilliant rendition of the songs, fully convincing and delivered with confidence and enthusiasm. When they bring out a mandolin for “Losing My Religion”, it’s like welcoming an old friend who isn’t even on Facebook.
Any minus points? Well “Shiny Happy People” has never been a favourite of mine, and it gets a rare turn in the spotlight tonight. To be fair though, it’s a faithful version and I enjoyed it! It would also be nice to see a live keyboard player added to the line up again, so we’ll get to hear classics like “Nightswimming”.
All in all, it’s another success for the Live Rooms. No disrespect to other venues, but it’s nice to see Stipe doing so well in this larger environment. Stipe did not fail to deliver: they can be relied on to accurately recreate the sound of REM and entertain an audience. Close your eyes, and it could almost be the real thing. And that’s how a tribute band should be, right?
Let’s hope they’re back soon.
Stipe’s Facebook page is here.
Stipe’s website is here.
The Live Rooms website is here.