In his first performance since REM split in 2011, Michael Stipe played a surprise solo show in New York on December 29.
Stipe was there as the unannounced support for Patti Smith, for her Webster Hall show. According to NME, Stipe performed six songs during his set, with two backing musicians. He also played keyboards, which had always been rare for him to play live with REM.
The REM tracks he sang were “New Test Leper” and “Saturn Return.” In addition, he sang four cover songs: Vic Chestnutt’s “Lucinda Williams,” Patti Smith’s “Wing,” Perfume Genius’ “Hood,” and the appropriate Frank Sinatra standard “New York, New York.”
REM broke up in fall of 2011, after having formed in 1980. They announced the split on their website. In an interview on CNN, Stipe insisted the band would not reunite, saying, “There’s no point. I love those guys very much. I respect them hugely as musicians and songwriters, but I just don’t want to do that thing that people do. I despise nostalgia. I’m not good at looking back.”
Earlier in 2014, REM announced a limited edition release of the songs they performed on MTV’s Unplugged for Record Store Day. Stipe has also been busy with other interests, including joining the fight for net neutrality and bidding farewell to Stephen Colbert’s Comedy Central show.