R.E.M. made a surprise appearance last night (March 11) at Carnegie Hall. The band was being honored with a tribute show that boasted 20 different performers interpreting R.E.M.’s vast catalog. Stipe was humbled by the depth and range of the evening, and proceeded to play “E-Bow The Letter” off of 1996’s “New Adventures in Hi-Fi.” Patti Smith accompanied Stipe on vocals, while Peter Buck and Mike Mills played in the background.
The evening was filled with memorable performances, drawing from a wide range of R.E.M. favorites, with many nods going to the band’s work from the 1980’s. Darius Rucker passionately delivered “I Believe” from “Life’s Rich Pageant,” Rhett Miller belted out “Driver 8” from “Fables of the Reconstruction,” and Guster performed a banjo heavy interpretation of “Shaking Through” from “Murmur.” The Frames and Swell Season frontman Glen Hasnard also performed a stark, intimate version of “Hairshirt” from “Green” for which he opted to sing microphone-free.
Tuscon based group Calexico served as the backing band for many of the evenings acts. Rachael Yamagata joined them on piano and vocals for “The Great Beyond,” a black-suited Bob Mould rocked on “Sitting Still” and songstress Keren Ann gave a chilling rendition of “Man on the Moon.”
Other highlights included The Feelies doing “Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars)” and Jolie Holland putting her country touch on “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville,” with Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio joining her on backing vocals. But the show stealer came in the form of Staten Island singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson, who performed “Nightswimming” alongside an upright bassist while running her voice through a series of filters and loops.
But it wouldn’t be a complete tribute to R.E.M. without an ode to the college town of Athens of which they were born. Long time residents Vic Chesnutt and Elf Power teamed up for a strained version of “Everybody Hurts” and Athens’ power-poppers Apples in Stereo delivered “South Central Rain,” a song described as changing lead singer Robert Schneider’s life.
This R.E.M. tribute follows in a series of tribute performances over the years produced by Michael Dorf, in which the money raised is used for various arts organizations.
Here is the set and performer list for the R.E.M. tribute:
“Fall On Me” (the dB’s)
“The Apologist” (Fink)
“Man on the Moon” (Keren Ann with Calexico)
“Wendell Gee” (Calexico)
“The Great Beyond” (Rachael Yamagata with Calexico)
“Sitting Still” (Bob Mould with Calexico)
“Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars)” (The Feelies)
“Nightswimming” (Ingrid Michaelson)
“Hairshirt” (Glen Hansard)
“South Central Rain” (Apples in Stereo)
“Shaking Through” (Guster)
“Supernatural Superserious” (Marshall Crenshaw with Calexico)
“Driver 8” (Rhett Miller with Calexico)
“World Leader Pretend” (Kimya Dawson)
“Everybody Hurts” (Vic Chesnutt with Elf Power)
“Perfect Circles” (Kristin Hersh and the Throwing Muses)
“At My Most Beautiful” (Dar Williams)
“(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville” (Jolie Holland with Calexico)
“I Believe” (Darius Rucker with Calexico)
“New Test Leper” (Patti Smith)
“E-Bow The Letter” (R.E.M.)