Fans of college band turned stadium rockers REM enjoyed an evening of hits and deep cuts in Abingdon.

Stipe - named after singer Michael Stipe - was the latest tribute band to hit The Northcourt venue at Abingdon United Football Club.

Singer Rick Southern, who becomes Michael Stipe, relaunched his band in 2002 and it has been playing to appreciative audiences ever since.

Apparently Michael Stipe himself approves, and after watching the show I could see why.

Rick looks a little bit like the stadium singer who started out in Athens, Georgia, adopts some of his mannerisms, and most importantly can mimic Stipe's vocals so effectively that you can easily suspend disbelief for an evening and enjoy the tunes.

Herald Series: REM tribute band StipeAnd the songs just don't stop after Rick and his accomplished band take to the stage about 9pm. 

There are early numbers from when REM started out, with Gardening at Night from 1983 standing out, songs from those years on the IRS label when the band hadn't quite made it big - Disturbance at the Heron House and Cuyahoga - and the anthems that most people will have heard on the radio at some point in their lives - Losing My Religion, Everybody Hurts, Man on the Moon.

After playing for about an hour the band took a 20-minute drinks break and for some reason I thought the show would finish fairly soon after that - but no.

It was clear Rick was enjoying himself - the band too.

He bantered with the crowd, peppering the set with witty little asides.

Towards the end of the show he confided he had a 200-mile drive ahead of him, and didn't plan to take a shower until the morning. That's rock and roll I guess.

There was just so much to enjoy from the large number of songs selected.

Ok there was no Nightswimming or Shiny Happy People.

But I loved hearing Fall One Me, Strange Currencies and Imitation of Life and I walked out of The Northcourt clutching the setlist at about 11.45pm on Friday night.

The Northcourt is not a huge venue but it is perfectly formed to accommodate a band like Stipe and I look forward to seeing more tribute acts there in 2024.

Andy Ffrench

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

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