Michael Stipe hasn’t made a ton of music since R.E.M. broke up in 2011, and when he talked to CBS This Morning earlier this month, he was noncommittal about the future of his music career: “I will sing again. […] Not soon … maybe … I don’t know.” Maybe he was just being coy; he’s already back to singing. Last night, Stipe’s friend Patti Smith played a show at New York’s Webster Hall, and Stipe was the surprise opener, as Wondering Sound points out. It was his first solo set since R.E.M. broke up, aside from a performance with Coldplay’s Chris Martin at 12-12-12: The Concert For Sandy Relief. Stipe had two musicians backing him up, including Smith’s daughter Jesse on keyboard, and he played only six songs, including two relatively obscure R.E.M. numbers: “New Test Leper,” from New Adventures In Hi-Fi, and “Saturn Return,” from Reveal. Four of the songs were covers, and the most intriguing of those was probably Stipe’s take on Perfume Genius’ 2012 single “Hood,” a cover I’d love to hear in full. He also sang Smith’s “Wing” and the standard “Theme From New York, New York,” a song most famously sung by Frank Sinatra. And Stipe opened his set with “Lucinda Williams,” a song by the late singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt. He told the audience he’d been living on Stephen Colbert’s shelf for the last three years. Below, we’ve got recordings of Stipe’s “New Test Leper” and “Saturn Return” performances and short videos of some of those covers.
01 “Lucinda Williams” (Vic Chesnutt cover)
02 “Theme From New York, New York” (Frank Sinatra/Liza Minnelli cover)
03 “Wing” (Patti Smith cover)
04 “Saturn Return”
05 “Hood” (Perfume Genius cover)
06 “New Test Leper”
Smith is playing Webster Hall again, and who knows, maybe Stipe will show up again. The show is sold out.
[Photo via instagram.com/suziemay212.]