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The Late Movies: 13 Live R.E.M. Performances

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When I heard the news last week that R.E.M. had called it quits, I was a little sad -- but then I realized I had a great excuse for posting old R.E.M. performance videos! R.E.M. was my favorite band in high school, and I still treasure their early albums. Enjoy, and post your favorites in the comments.

"Radio Free Europe"

Live on Letterman, 1983. From Murmur, still my favorite R.E.M. album. Check out the dueling Rickenbackers!

"Sitting Still"

Another great song from Murmur, performed in 1984.

"Gardening at Night"

Chronic Town was so good, you guys. Live in 1984.

"So. Central Rain"

From Reckoning, also on Letterman in 1983, prior to the album's release and the song even having a name.

"I Believe"

From Lifes Rich Pageant, part of Tourfilm (performed during the Green tour, 1990) -- confused yet? Check out the recently re-released Lifes Rich Pageant, notable mostly for its second disc of demos and rarities.

"(Don't Go Back To) Rockville"

From Reckoning, 1984. Look how young they are!

"Driver 8"

From Fables of the Reconstruction, live in 1985. During Stipe's first blonde period.

"Fall On Me"

The best song on Lifes Rich Pageant, live on MTV's Unplugged. If you can find a bootleg of the Unplugged performance, it's great -- I wish they'd release an official CD. (Just before this video begins, Stipe says: "This may well be my favorite song in the R.E.M. catalogue.")

"Half a World Away"

One of my favorites from Out of Time, performed on Unplugged.

"Love is All Around"

Mike Mills takes the lead on this Troggs cover from their killer Unplugged set.

"Orange Crush"

Live in 1989, from Green. The audio's way overloaded, but check out the David Byrne-esque Stipe outfit! For comparison, here's the same song from 2003.

"Everybody Hurts"

A lot newer than the other songs in this collection, but emotional and worth a look. 2008?

"It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)"

The classic from Document, performed on Unplugged. I love the a capella breakdown starting at 3:10, and throughout, watching the joy on the band's faces as it all comes together. See also this version from Tourfilm.

Post Your Favorites

These guys have three decades of performance under their belts, much of it documented nicely on YouTube -- post your favorite links in the comments.

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between an Opera and a Musical?
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They both have narrative arcs set to song, so how are musicals different from operas?

For non-theater types, the word “musical” conjures up images of stylized Broadway performances—replete with high-kicks and punchy songs interspersed with dialogue—while operas are viewed as a musical's more melodramatic, highbrow cousin. That said, The New York Times chief classical music critic Anthony Tommasini argues that these loose categorizations don't get to the heart of the matter. For example, for every Kinky Boots, there’s a work like Les Misérables—a somber, sung-through show that elicits more audience tears than laughs. Meanwhile, operas can contain dancing and/or conversation, too, and they range in quality from lowbrow to highbrow to straight-up middlebrow.

According to Tommasini, the real distinguishing detail between a musical and an opera is that “in opera, music is the driving force; in musical theater, words come first.” While listening to an opera, it typically doesn’t matter what language it’s sung in, so long as you know the basic plot—but in musical theater, the nuance comes from the lyrics.

When it comes down to it, Tommasini’s explanation clarifies why opera stars often sing in a different style than Broadway performers do, why operas and musicals tend to have their trademark subject matters, and why musical composition and orchestration differ between the two disciplines.

That said, we live in a hybrid-crazy world in which we can order Chinese-Indian food, purchase combination jeans/leggings, and, yes, watch a Broadway musical—like 2010's Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark—that’s billed as “rock opera.” At the end of the day, the lack of hard, fast lines between opera and musical theater can lead composers from both camps to borrow from the other, thus blurring the line even further.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at

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Lost Gustav Holst Music Found in a New Zealand Symphony Archive
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English composer Gustav Holst became famous for his epic seven-piece suite "The Planets," but not all of his works were larger-than-life. Take "Folk Songs from Somerset," a collection of folk tunes composed by Holst in 1906 and largely forgotten in the decades since. Now, more than a century later, the music is finally attracting attention. As Atlas Obscura reports, manuscripts of the songs were rediscovered among a lost collection of sheet music handwritten by the musician.

The Holst originals were uncovered from the archives of a New Zealand symphony during a routine cleaning a few years ago. While throwing away old photocopies and other junk, the music director and the librarian of the Bay of Plenty (BOP) Symphonia came across two pieces of music by Holst. The scores were penned in the composer’s handwriting and labeled with his former address. Realizing the potential importance of their discovery, they stored the documents in a safe place, but it wasn't until recently that they were able to verify that the manuscripts were authentic.

For more than a century, the Holst works were thought to be lost for good. "These manuscripts are a remarkable find, particularly the ‘Folk Songs from Somerset’ which don’t exist elsewhere in this form," Colin Matthews of London's Holst Foundation said in a statement from the symphony.

How, exactly, the documents ended up in New Zealand remains a mystery. The BOP Symphonia suspects that the sheets were brought there by Stanley Farnsworth, a flutist who performed with an early version of the symphony in the 1960s. “We have clues that suggest the scores were used by Farnsworth,” orchestra member Bronya Dean said, “but we have no idea how Farnsworth came to have them, or what his connection was with Holst.”

The symphony plans to mark the discovery with a live show, including what will likely be the first performance of "Folk Songs from Somerset" in 100 years. Beyond that, BOP is considering finding a place for the artifacts in Holst’s home in England.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]


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