IT was hard to believe it was on after all that rainfall, but come Hull or high water, REM would play outdoors in weather fit only for Noah.

Never mind the 18,000 crowd was 10,000 short of capacity; never mind that after 25 years REM are more history than mystery; they still rise and swell to exultation in concert.

They were in a rush at first, as if keen to avoid electrocution, speeding through apt opener Bad Day, What's The Frequency, Kenneth? and Orange Crush. By now Michael Stipe had removed his Yorkshire flat cap, all the better for seeing his mask of blue face paint (and no, it didn't run in the rain).

Ah, the rain. REM inevitably broke into the hymnal I'll Take The Rain; not so inevitably Stipe stopped mid-song to tell a story about Cher scratching marks in her shoes to avoid falling over on a slippery stage and then came lift-off.

"If it had to rain on us today to be beautiful in Hyde Park on Saturday, then so be it," he said, Live 8 alive again, as he broke into Credence Clearwater Revival's Have You Ever Seen The Rain?

REM skipped as many hits as they played and indulged in too much off last year's Around The Sun; the long-forgotten Seven Chinese Brothers and an impromptu Teenage Kicks were joyous surprises; Everybody Hurts still hurt; G8 and George Bush were sent reminders on Welcome To the Occupation and The Final Straw. Stipe earned his blue stripe once more. Still unique, still magnificent.

Updated: 11:02 Wednesday, July 06, 2005