These thirty nine songs are taken from REM's legendary rehearsal shows at Dublin's Olympia Theatre in 2007. Made up primarily of new material that would soon become the album, 'Accelerate', and filled out with lesser known album tracks from the rest of their career, Live at the Olympia does pretty much what it says on the tin.
Opening proceedings by announcing, 'This Is Not A Show', a later explanation clarifies 'We are R.E.M. and this is what we do when you're not looking. This is a rehearsal...it's not a tour, because this is not a show'. Certainly, the number of minor errors included seem to verify this statement, and, along with the band's self-effacing interaction with the crowd, add a touch of charm and likeability to the performance.
For a live performance, the quality of the recording is unfaultable. Though hardly a retrospective of their near three decade career, there does seem to be a hint of nostalgia here, with the majority of non-Accelerate tracks coming from the early part of the band's career. A substantial proportion is taken from their recently reissued 1984 sophomore album Reckoning, while four out of five tracks from their first ever EP, 1982's Chronic Town, offer some of the best moments here. The fast-paced simplicity and harmonised chorus of 'Carnival of Sorts (Boxcars)' make for a catchy treat, while the clear, snappy guitar riff of 'Wolves, Lower' is instantly inviting.
As a general rule, Live at the Olympia excels in its predominantly upbeat, rocky mood, but there are a few exceptions. These come in the form of some better known numbers such as New Adventures In Hi Fi's 'Electrolite' which feels warm and life affirming, and Automatic for the People's 'Drive', which opens disc number two with its murky and ominous tones.
Since this is neither a 'best of' style collection, nor a last stitch offering from a has-been band out of ideas (Accelerate has already proven the contrary), one can only deduce that Live at the Olympia is purely supplementary for hardcore fans. Still, if you are one, you won't be disappointed.