Live Review: Michael Shannon & Jason Narducy And Friends Play R.E.M.’s “Murmur,” Ardmore, PA, Feb. 12, 2024

Michael Shannon doesn’t sing R.E.M. songs like he’s studying to play Michael Stipe in a movie; instead, he inhabits every phrase with the fervor of a fan who’s worn deep grooves into his brain with years of close listening.

At Ardmore Music Hall, as Shannon and an excellent band led by guitarist Jason Narducy wended their way through Murmur, it wasn’t the expressive frontman who commanded my attention—it was guitarist Dag Juhlin and his Rickenbacker, ringing out with the most glorious sound. As deeply as the original recordings are tattooed on my soul, it was pure pleasure to hear these songs close up in a hot, packed room.

For me, the apex was “Shaking Through” (sounding exquisite with four-part harmonies, but weren’t they all?), “West Of The Fields,” “Moral Kiosk,” “9-9” (which happened to start right at 9:09, a sort of serendipity that jolted me with a buzz of delight) and even “Perfect Circle” (ever so slightly imperfect with keyboardist Vijay Tellis-Nayak’s modern Nord standing in for the out-of-sync pianos at the heart of the album version).

After Murmur and swoonworthy b-side “There She Goes Again,” Shannon and Co. rolled back the clock a year to revisit Chronic Town, and the first side—“Wolves, Lower,” “Gardening At Night” and “Carnival Of Sorts (Boxcars)”—sounded even more magical than anything from Murmur.

The rest of the show was a wondrous grab bag, featuring half of Reckoning (“Harborcoat” and “Letter Never Sent” were particular highlights), a gorgeous rendition of “Driver 8” from Fables Of The Reconstruction (an album I saw Shannon play with a different band several years ago), a couple from Lifes Rich Pageant (the appropriately jittery “Just A Touch” and somber “Swan Swan H,” but not “Superman,” a word Shannon joked he’s heard shouted out as a request during this short tour more than he’d heard it on the set of Man Of Steel), one from Document (the mighty “Finest Worksong,” a birthday-week treat for Narducy) and—bypassing GreenOut Of Time outlier “Near Wild Heaven” (with Philly’s own Kurt Vile acquitting himself well on lead vocals and guitar).

I was bummed to skip out on my favorite Michael Shannon movie earlier this month when I wasn’t quite up to hosting a Groundhog Day party, but this was a show I’d happily relive again and again from different angles.

—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich