R.E.M.’s stellar career the focus of ‘R.E.M. By MTV’ documentary

Group portrait of American band REM. Left to right are guitarist Peter Buck , singer Michael Stipe, drummer Bill Berry and bassist Mike Mills in Los Angeles, California in August1994. (Photo by Kevin Cummins/Getty Images)

‘R.E.M. By MTV’
(Rhino)
4.5 stars out of 5

R.E.M. have always — and will always — hold a special place in my heart. I came of age with the band in the early- to mid-1980s and because they hailed from Athens, Ga. (I grew up in Atlanta and eventually went to college in Athens), I’ve always felt a kinship with Michael Stipe, Mike Mills, Peter Buck and Bill Berry.

R.E.M. DVDThe band’s career arc — from their 1981 debut (the same year MTV went on the air) through their 2011 breakup — is the subject of fascinating new documentary “R.E.M. By MTV.” The film was part of last year’s “REMTV” six-DVD boxed set last fall and is available as a stand-alone DVD for the first time.

“Alexander Young’s documentary is a fine way to tell the story of R.E.M. through its various twists and turns, as captured in real time by MTV’s cameras,” notes longtime R.E.M. manager Bertis Downs. “It has some great funny bits too!”

This is a must for any R.E.M. fan (though I imagine the hardcore followers probably ponied up for the boxed set a few months back) as it features more than three decades worth of performances, interviews and never-before-seen footage. In addition, there are a host of deleted scenes and trailers for the stand-alone film and boxed set.

The real finds here are five bonus live performances that capture R.E.M. in all their on-stage glory. Those performances include “Find the River” (Live in Cologne, May 12, 2001), “Imitation of Life” (Rock AM Ring, June 3, 2005), “Bad Day” (Live at Rolling Stone, Milan, March 18, 2008), “Man-Sized Wreath” (Live at Oxygen Festival, July 12, 2008) and “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville” (R.E.M. Live in Athens, Greece, Oct. 5, 2008).

This is a fantastic career overview of one of the most influential — and flat-out awesome — bands of the past 35 years. Kudos to everyone involved. (Jeffrey Sisk)

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