Here’s a thing – this is Stipe

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This is Stipe, as I first saw them,

Sometime, 2012.

I’m trying to catch a moment; one evening.

My aim is honesty; a soul rattling self-demand of how was it? Did I gloss over it along the way? Add stuff that wasn’t there? And this is a tribute; imitation as the sincerest form of flattery.

My birthday is not long past and I feel good. I spent time at the weekend with my extended family and it really is nice to meet people other than at funerals.

But this evening is mine, in a venue that means much to me; lazy summer walks, optimism, creativity in a vacuum. We stash coats and umbrellas, it’s warm inside. Already I could not ask for more; my boots hold my feet but the floor only lightly.

There’s a gig tonight – it’s a large part of why we are here. I can see the musicians, on the edge of my awareness. Routine seems to fill them.

We carry on. Talk, food, a few drinks. A good party. There’s someone happy to take silly, lovely photos. Time passes in bursts, like the camera flash. It carries us faster as we begin to move again. Waiters clear tables. Someone buys me a drink. Recorded music plays and the choices sit easily with the R.E.M. covers that should follow.

And they walk past. The band. Led now by a memory of Michael Stipe, stepping from the near past. There is an ease to them, a suggestion of belief.

A guitar line stands poised as a question. Begins an answer but “Burn bright through the night, two pockets lead the way” the singer answers. He has a voice that reaches into you, completely alive in the music.

That line. “What’s next? A song.” A perfect working together of parts. A musical image that hides the work that ever stands beneath such magic. As the set list builds our faces ache as we smile more.

Guitar lines branch and recombine: elegance. Accurate, complex, vital percussion as counterweight. Each weaves its part into life. It all holds me. Some songs step beyond the physical space to the reality that only live music ever occupies. “I don’t know why you’re mean to me, when I call on the telephone” and “Follow me, don’t follow me”.

Moments of perfect reinvention. I don’t care who else ever sang this song; “Yeah all those stars drip down like butter”; it will never now belong to anyone else.

The best things in life are the ones that you didn’t see coming.

More than usual, I don’t want to go home, don’t want it to end.

On the taxi roof rain adds to the drumming in my ears.

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