Friday, June 26, 2009

Cymbal #12:: Unlikely Performances

There are great possibilities in discomfort and bad fits; something which forces the native genius out of a human being. Like watching Kobe Bryant at Rucker Park or Thierry Henry in a small enclosure with teeny goals. Under straitened circumstances, the polish and the varnish disappears, and substance stands revealed and naked. Frauds get exposed, and greatness shines bright.

REM - The One I Love - 2005

The story at this gig, I think, from the comments, is that it was canceled at the last minute and Stipe and Mills do a couple of quick songs. You've heard the song before, but have you heard it so bare? So stripped and cleansed of all the jingle jangle guitarwork.

It's an arena song, really, held up by a suspended bridge of basswork and drums. So when you remove everything but the melody, the ear magnifies it and suddenly it sounds larger, more contemplative. This song is about loss, unlike the one below (at a proper concert in Lithuania). Just listen to that melancholy "fire" explore the unknown night. Doesn't it beat the rallying cry below hollow?

REM - The One I Love - 2008

The second video I came across that raised the hair along the base of my neck (the "hairs", some would say), is this little carefully recorded sniplet of Galaxie 500, captured in staggering anonymity just minutes before they broke onto the scene and released the now-canon On Fire.

Galaxie 500 - When Will You Come Home - 1989

When you listen to On Fire, the sense of wonder comes from how a storm can sound so good, how atmosphere can be so hummable and tuneful. It's the same confusion as biting into haleem causes in the head - how can something soft become solid on biting into it?

The word I reach for is alchemy, because I know no better to convey the wonder at the transformation that takes place. This version leans towards just the melody, just the tune, without the eventual layering on of the guitars and the studio homework. And of course, one of the worst live acts I've ever asked anyone to watch. 

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