MSN Music Blog - Reverb

R.E.M. partially reunite in Athens

Singer Michael Stipe was present but opted out of performing during Peter Buck solo show

By MSN Music Partners Nov 18, 2013 10:06AM

By Ryan Reed
Rolling Stone


R.E.M. nearly reunited Nov. 14 during a Peter Buck solo show at the 40 Watt Club in Athens, Georgia. The guitarist was accompanied by two of his former bandmates, drummer Bill Berry and bassist Mike Mills, during a performance of the band's twangy 1984 track "(Don't Go Back to) Rockville."


Of course, this hometown gig doesn't qualify as a true reunion since it didn't include frontman Michael Stipe, who was spotted in the crowd watching his former bandmates, according to Slicing Up Eyeballs.


Bing: Find R.E.M. music, videos and more 


R.E.M.'s last album, Collapse Into Now, was released back in 2011. The band didn't tour behind the LP, and seven months after its release, they announced their breakup. "As lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band," they wrote in an official statement. "We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished."


Back in May, Mills spoke with Rolling Stone about the odds of a full-fledged R.E.M. reunion, and his forecast was decidedly cloudy. "We said we're done and we're done," he said. "If we honestly thought there was a chance of a reunion tour, we might have said so at the time."


However, he did mention that the break-up wasn't based on animosity, insisting that he and his former bandmates are still good friends. "There were no real factors other than deciding it was time to break up," he said. "There's no drug abuse. There's no in-fighting. There's no legal problems. It was time to break up. That's never really been done before. The idea of breaking up and not reforming for a reunion tour is kind of attractive to us. I doubt you'll see us touring as R.E.M. again."


While Mills remained bleak about the odds of a legitimate reunion tour, he did foreshadow the quasi-reunion that took place in Athens.


"On the other hand, I just played with Peter [Buck] in New York City the other night, so fun things do happen," he said.


More from Rolling Stone

See Where R.E.M. Ranked on Rolling Stone’s List of Greatest Artists
Rolling Stone’s Interview with Michael Stipe on the End of R.E.M. as We Know It
R.E.M. Reflect on 'Green' on the Album's 25th Anniversary
Rolling Stone’s List of the 500 Greatest Albums: ‘Document’
Rolling Stone’s List of the 100 Best Albums of the ‘80s

Nov 18, 2013 8:20PM
I have been a fan of R.E.M. since shortly after I got out of the Navy in '83 (we were at sea way too much for me to have heard of them earlier). A good friend had "Reckoning" on cassette, and didn't care for it, so he gave it to me to try-and I was hooked. Shortly before getting out, my LPO (Leading Petty Officer), who had gone to college (I joined the Navy out of high school), and was much more in the know about "alternative" music, let me try out a few cassettes he thought I might like- "Boy", and "October" (U2's first two albums). Although I still listened to a lot of Top40 music, I wanted more by U2 and R.E.M.. Living in the "sticks", 200 miles from Detroit, and working seven days a week, I didn't attend many concerts (still, I saw smaller bands like The Smithereens, Modern English, The Romantics, The B-52's and even The Cure) . Shortly afterward came my children, so concerts were limited to cheap and closer ones. Fast forward to today, I now attend concerts on a regular basis. At the top of my list of bands to see are U2, Tool, Toto and R.E.M. (Tool being the only one still together).
Nov 18, 2013 6:57PM

When most of The Band reunited to tour in the 80's, Robbie Robertson declined to join. "To come out a few years later (after "The Last Waltz") and say, 'Just kidding.'..I mean, that's my idea of horrible!" R.E.M. just called it quits. Stipe completing the quartet at this point in time would have been awkward. There should be occasional get-togethers down the line, but in R.E.M.'s case, if there's no point in going beyond that, so be it. It was noteworthy enough that Bill Berry was there.


I wonder if U2 will soon follow suit now that their longtime manager retired.


That was killer, alright. From when Peter Buck experimented with facial hair.

Nov 18, 2013 6:55PM
If Michael was there in Athens, he was planning on being on stage and it fell apart...don't let anyone try to tell you otherwise; he lives in NYC now so he didn't just "happen" to be at a show in Athens. Meanwhile, Peter Buck continues to do great work; I saw him with Robyn Hitchcock and with The Baseball Project a couple years ago and he sounded as great as ever...and Bill is back to playing drums - that's excellent news!
Nov 18, 2013 4:43PM
So REM's arm, leg and toes reunited? Ok.... Not really "REM" but whateva...
Nov 18, 2013 4:36PM
In related news, The Beatles almost reunited recently, except John and George weren't able to join Sir Paul Mac and Ringo.  Also, The Who claim to be reunited, but sadly the entire lineup of band members only includes Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend, which is not The Who but half of one of the world's once-greatest rock bands.  R.E.M's partially reuniting is only partially newsworthy, in other words, not so much!!!
Nov 18, 2013 4:35PM
I think the key phrase in all of that was "I doubt you'll see us touring <u>as R.E.M.</u> again." There's nothing stopping them from forming some other band, or getting together on another musical project and doing a tour.

Also, there are other bands that have amicably parted ways. The Country duo Brooks & Dunn parted ways amicably for the same reason. They had been together for a long time and decided that it was time to do other things.
Nov 18, 2013 4:15PM
Nice to see Bill playing drums onstage again
Nov 18, 2013 2:15PM
Refreshing to see that Mike Mills lost the sequins in retirement!
Nov 18, 2013 1:53PM
Thank God for the guy with the tambourine. 
Nov 18, 2013 1:36PM

Why would a band break up if they are still making money and getting along?  Why would Michael Stipe be in the audience and not even make a cameo appearance on stage?  REM obviously aren't 'Shiny Happy People' at all!

Nov 18, 2013 1:14PM
No Stipe. No REM.  Its as simple as that.
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