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“Hooray, we’re done”: The inside story behind R.E.M.’s disbandment

R.E.M.’s stature in modern music was celebrated on March 11, 2009, with a tribute concert in New York. There had been similar such events over the years, of course, including the one in 2006 in Athens where the trio had reunited with Bill Berry, but nothing on the level of this, at Carnegie Hall. With Calexico taking the reins as house band, the benefit concert (for children’s music education charities) featured a veritable who’s who of R.E.M.’s 1980s independent peers (the dB’s, Feelies, Throwing Muses), a healthy smattering of acclaimed newer acts (Kimya Dawson, Keren Ann, Guster), a couple of their Athens compatriots (Apples In Stereo, Vic Chestnut); it was closed out by their leading light, Patti Smith. Each act got to perform just the one song, and they ran the range of R.E.M.’s catalog, from ‘Sitting Still’ (Bob Mould) to ‘Supernatural Superserious’ (Marshall Crenshaw). After Patti Smith sang ‘New Test Leper,' Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe came out to join her for a finale of ‘E-Bow The Letter.' This was to be the last time that the three remaining founding members of R.E.M. performed together in public.

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