By Scott T. Sterling
While indie rock pioneers R.E.M. might have the reputation of being the kinder, gentler rock band, guitarist Peter Buck has revealed a story where the group made a point of baring its teeth and flexing some considerable rock star muscle.
The story came out during an interview with Portland’s Willamette Weekly, with Buck detailing a show where R.E.M. had to suffer the indignity of playing before psychedelic Brit-pop rockers The Verve, best known for the late-’90s single, “Bittersweet Symphony.”
“We opened for The Verve, and we left those guys with their tail between their legs,” Buck said. “We didn’t open for them, we got paid more, but we went on before them.
“Michael [Stipe]’s like, ‘This sucks.’ I said, ‘Well, if you want to make them look bad, let’s just do all of our hit singles. We’ve never done that before.’ So we played 90 minutes, and every song was a top 10 single somewhere. We walked off and went, ‘See ya, boys! Enjoy playing that unreleased new record of yours.’ Nice guys, too.”
Given R.E.M.’s penchant for often avoiding the band’s hits in lieu of more obscure tunes during live shows, there are surely plenty of fans who wished they’d had an opportunity to see the group open for the Verve at least once to witness that set list in action.