R.E.M. Sign On For Bridge School Benefit Show

Athens, Ga., superstars are first to offer their services to Neil Young's concert to aid disabled children.

Much as they did with this year's Tibetan Freedom Concert, Athens, Ga.-bred

superstars R.E.M. have signed on early and eagerly to the 1998 edition of

folk-rocker Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit concert.

The group, one of the first to confirm for the 1998 TFC -- a benefit for the cause

of Tibet's freedom from China, held in Washington, D.C., in June -- was excited

and more than willing to offer its services to Young's annual all-acoustic, all-star

show to raise money for the school for disabled children, according to the

band's manager.

"We are major Neil Young fans and the guys have always wanted to do this

show," R.E.M. manager Bertis Downs said Tuesday.

Downs, who said he's been friends with Young's manager, Elliot Roberts, for

years, explained that there has been a standing invitation for R.E.M. to join the

annual event, but that circumstances this year finally fell into place where the

band could agree to do the show.

Also offered a slot on this year's show are Canadian pop band Barenaked

Ladies, who were said to be overjoyed to learn last week that Young wanted

them to perform at the concert this fall. Roberts spoke with the band just before

they hit the stage at the H.O.R.D.E. (Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere)

summer festival show at Jones Beach in New York last Wednesday.

According to Bill Bentley, a spokesman for the band's Reprise Records label,

the Ladies "have been asked, and are very close to confirming."

Big-name acts the Smashing Pumpkins, Lou Reed, Metallica, Alanis Morissette,

Neil Young, the Dave Matthews Band and Blues Traveler performed at last

year's 11th Bridge School Benefit concert. The all-acoustic show benefits the

school founded in 1986 by Neil Young and his wife, Pegi, for children with

severe physical and speech impairments. One of the Youngs' children, Ben,

attends the school. The concert has taken place every year since 1986, with the

exception of 1987.

Previous Bridge benefits have featured sets from other high-profile artists,

including Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, Sonic Youth, Willie Nelson, David

Bowie, Beck, Elvis Costello, Tracy Chapman, Patti Smith, Ministry, John Lee

Hooker, Bob Dylan and Mazzy Star.

Minda Gowen, a spokeswoman at Roberts' office, would neither confirm nor

deny the participation of either artist, saying that no announcements will be

made until the full lineup of the concert is set. Gowen did reveal, however, that

the show, which has traditionally taken place in late October at the Shoreline

Amphitheatre in Mountain View, Calif., in the San Francisco Bay Area, will take

place on Oct. 17-18.

"Our schedules just really worked out this year," Downs explained of R.E.M.'s

plans to release their 11th studio album, Up, on Oct. 27 -- their first

without original drummer Bill Berry, who quit the band last year. "We'll be

putting the album out and will be in gear-up mode and it's one of those things

that's been on the guys' list of things to accomplish."

The first-ever Bridge School Benefit album, The Bridge School Concerts:

Volume One, was released last November. The disc, an amalgam of

performances from the past 10 years of shows, includes songs by Tom Petty

("Shadow of a Doubt"), Tracy Chapman ("All That You Have is Your Soul"),

Bonnie Raitt ("The Road's My Middle Name"), David Bowie ("Heroes"), Beck

("It's All in Your Mind") and Pearl Jam ("Nothingman").