R.E.M. By MTV ★★½

Not a particularly good documentary — that’s what happens when you’re exclusively reliant on footage from a single source — but a huge rush of memories of my teenage years, and I wasn’t even a fan until 1996. Puts in plain sight how lucky we were to have them for the first sixteen years, how much they lost when Bill Berry left, and how completely the music business has changed since the peak of their powers. (Imagine MTV sending a video crew to Perth just because a guitar band’s tour was starting there.)

Unlike the film, the DVD boxed set actually lets you hear complete songs and live performances, including the beautiful 1998 Uplink show, which I watched and was entranced by when it aired, and happily it lives up to my memories — as close as TV can get to capturing the indescribable magic of live music in an intimate setting. (When I finally saw R.E.M., it was at a huge outdoor venue; they were great — and it was a pivotal night, when Bill unexpectedly came back and played on two songs — but the experience was so distant and detached like it always is in those places.)