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Michael Stipe Makes Surprise Live Return At Patti Smith Concert

Almost four years after disbanding R.E.M, Michael Stipe has made a surprise return to the stage.

The 54-year-old singer was an unannounced opening act for the first of Patti Smith’s two shows at Webster Hall, New York City on Monday night (Dec. 29). 

Joined by two other musicians, Stipe delighted unsuspecting fans with a six-song set that included a stripped back version of R.E.M.’s “New Test Leper,” from 1996’s New Adventures in Hi-Fi, and a spirited run through “Saturn Return,” which featured on the band’s 2001’s Reveal album. 

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According to reports, the singer also performed covers of Vic Chesnut’s “Lucinda Williams” and Smith’s “Wing,” as well as renditions of “New York, New York” and Perfume Genius’ “Hood.”   

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The set represented Stipe’s first major solo performance since R.E.M disbanded in 2011 and comes a few weeks after he told CBS This Morning that he would “sing again soon.” 

“I love my voice and I think it actually got better as I got older,” Stipe told host Anthony Mason during the interview in which he admitted to maintaining his vocal chops by singing in shower. ”And I’m not bad. You would be surprised at my play list,” joked the singer. 

However, fans anticipating a R.E.M. reunion to happen any time soon shouldn’t hold their breath.  

“There’s no point,” Stipe said. “I love those guys very much and I respect them hugely as musicians and as songwriters and everything. But I just don’t want to do that thing that people do. Total respect for those that do it. [But] I despise nostalgia.”