Postcard From Cologne Revisited

As we look back on the release of Reveal 23 years ago this week, another milestone, the band’s free concert in Cologne, Germany, 🇩🇪 for an estimated 100,000 fans in the Roncalliplatz by the Kolner Dom, immediately came to mind. It was an incredible show broadcast live on MTVEurope, and we thought it would be fun to share @bertisdowns’ postcard from the road from that time…there were people from all over Europe and much of the world there on that special night— May of 2001, a different time that’s for sure.

POSTCARD FROM THE ROAD (THANKS to the Wayback Machine Internet Archive, handy for ancient posts like this!)

May 13th
Dateline North Atlantic (between Frankfurt & Atlanta)

Well the show was memorable to say the least; unlike anything we had ever done before, & between the setting, the people, the band, the music, even the weather, it was as close to perfect as we ever would hope for. I guess any attempt to describe the night would have to begin with the setting: the stage was just off to the side of the Dom, one of Europe’s oldest and largest cathedrals — its massiveness and verticality dominates the city from miles away, even more so from a few feet. The people started getting in position early and were surprised to have a soundcheck crowd of several thousand at 3 in the afternoon. Then when we re-arrived at 7:30, everywhere you could look was packed with people — all down the side streets, other squares nearby, one of which had a seventy foot screen to view the show, people on tops of buildings, leaning out of parking decks,— in truth it felt more than a little scary, but the mood and atmosphere was definitely one of peace and conviviality and enjoyment. The opening band Seeed (with 3 e’s) is a German ska band that we really enjoyed — they reminded me of the Specials and The Beat from the early days. It was just getting dark when R.E.M. went onstage and cranked into the Great Beyond, then Kenneth, on to Reno and they were off… and from the first notes it was a show high on intensity and energy— it had to be with that crowd and that place and the breezy dark night in the middle of a great city.

An hour and a half later, when the show had ended after a stunning set of R.E.M. music and we got no reports of any problems of safety, etc., we all felt so relieved and happy and ebullient. My favorite song of the night was Imitation of Life, partly because I just like it anyway, but also the way all those arms went up in the air immediately as if it was one of the classics– hey maybe it is. My favorite moment was looking up about halfway up the 400 foot high cathedral and seeing a dozen or so people standing safely by all appearances on a ledge taking it all in (someone later disputed the Vatican emissary theory with an alternative explanation that they had hidden in the church after closing, only to secure the ultimate vantage point from which to watch a special event unfold– whatever, it was amazing and if Dominic got it on film we will post it on the site) Another nice moment was afterwards talking to people who were there from Portugal, Bulgaria, Israel, Greece, Norway, Latvia… Anyway, it was fun, different, safe, powerful and free — not a bad combination. Can’t wait to see the tapes.


PS: the entire concert is available on the REMTV Box Set (find it where you can!)