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Music

Watch the earliest known footage of R.E.M. performing live

At the very start of a brave new decade for music, four local friends based in Athens, Georgia, formed R.E.M in 1980, ushering in a new dawn for alternative music.

Drummer Bill Berry, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills, and lead vocalist Michael Stipe would go on to bond over a shared music taste after being introduced through friends of friends. While they didn’t know it at the time, the meeting of minds would fit together with almost freakish accuracy, each member adding their own element of unique skill into a melting pot that was beginning to bubble over with creativity.

Reflecting on their rise, Stipe once commented: “We went from being an Athens band to being a Georgia band to being a Southern band to being an American band from the East Coast to being an American band and now we’re kind of an international phenomenon.”

Detailing further, he added: “We just kind of created our own thing and that’s part of the beauty of Athens: is that it’s so off the map and there’s no way you could ever be the East Village or an L.A. scene or a San Francisco scene, that it just became its own thing.”

While Stipe later commented that “there was never any grand plan behind any of it” when the early foundations of R.E.M were being planted, they were doing so with an unrelenting ambition. Having connected over a shared love for artists such as The Velvet Underground, Patti Smith and Television, all four members decided it was time to bring their talents together.

After a few months of rehearsals together in what was described as a “deconsecrated Episcopal church in Athens”, the band would play their first-ever live show, supporting indie rock band the Side Effects on April 5th, 1980. Still without a name, the first taste of performing live had taken over. The next few months would be spent honing their sound, settling on the name ‘R.E.M.’ and building up enough material to perform live concerts with setlists largely consisting of their own creations.

In a fast-paced ascendence, we reach October 10th, 1982. The band, full of vigour a different level of self-confidence, took to the stage at the North Carolina’s Raleigh Underground in what is thought to be the earliest known footage of the group performing live. Playing 11 songs, including numbers such as ‘Laughing’, ‘West of the Fields’ and more, you can see the performance, below.

R.E.M., The Pier Setlist:

1. ‘Wolves, Lower’
2. ‘Laughing’
3. ‘1,000,000’
4. ‘Moral Kiosk’
5. ‘Catapult’
6. ‘West of the Fields’
7. ‘Radio Free Europe’
8. ‘Ages of You’
9. ‘We Walk’
10. ‘Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars)’
11. ‘Skank’