August 1999, Riverport Amphitheater: R.E.M. returns to St. Louis, this time as a three-piece, in support of the divisive album Up. Opening the show is Wilco, a band with St. Louis ties that nevertheless fails to engage the crowd. In two years, with the recording of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and the subsequent ballyhoo over its release, Wilco would become the most critically adored band in America.
On the last two trips R.E.M. has made to St. Louis, the opening acts have had two things in common: 1) They have been roundly ignored by the audience, and 2) they have since gone on to become two of the most "important" bands, steeped in praise from the critics and the general public.
While this fact is certainly as attributable to St. Louis' "if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere" status as it is to R.E.M.'s fine taste in opening bands, one can't help feel that the pressure is on for Now It's Overhead, the Athens, Georgia-based popsters who will open for that other Athens, Georgia-based band at the Fox Theatre this week. NIO plays propulsive, melodic pop with an edge to it. It's good stuff. But don't wait for history to be the judge. If the trend holds, you'll be able to brag about this show in a few years. Better show up early.
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