R.E.M. Rock Out With Rarities In Europe

Launching first tour in four years, Georgia trio introduce a new song and pull out several surprises.

LISBON, Portugal -- In contrast to the intimate, experimental

nature of their last couple of albums, R.E.M. opened their first major

tour in four years Thursday with a raw, joyful, guitar-driven show.

As the Athens, Ga., rockers pulled rarely played songs such as "Pilgrimage"

-- from their first album, 1983's Murmur -- as well as "The One

I Love" and "Sweetness Follows" from their long catalog, singer Michael

Stipe joked, "In the last four years we've done only benefit concerts or

six-song shows, so we had to choose some old songs we don't know very

much. So sing along loud and well."

The band also unveiled a new, midtempo song, "The Great Beyond," during

the two-hour show at the Pavillao Atlantico, a large arena in the renewed

part of this capital city. The song is from the score the band has just

completed for the Milos Forman movie about the late comedian Andy Kaufman

that takes its name from R.E.M.'s 1993 hit "Man on the Moon." The

film, starring Jim Carrey, is due in October.

The tour, which is scheduled to reach the United States on Aug. 9 -- in

Los Angeles -- after moving through Europe, is R.E.M.'s first major

outing since the ill-fated Monster tour, during which drummer

Bill Berry suffered an aneurysm. Berry quit the band two years later,

leaving it to continue as a trio: Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck and bassist

Mike Mills.

R.E.M. have made spot live appearances since the Monster tour and

did a five-week series of low-key television appearances last year to

promote their most recent album, Up (1998). In Lisbon, they used

the same expanded lineup as on those appearances, with ex-Beck drummer

Joey Waronker and multi-instrumentalists from two Seattle pop bands:

Ken Stringfellow of the Posies and Scott McCaughey of the Young

Fresh Fellows.

R.E.M. took the stage at 10 p.m., following a set by British glam-rockers

Suede, and opened with three of their '90s hits -- "Lotus" (RealAudio

excerpt), from Up, "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?," from

Monster (1994) and "Losing My Religion" (RealAudio

excerpt) from the 1991 smash Out of Time.

During the opening song, a lotus-shaped neon sign flashed behind the

band, suggesting, perhaps, a desire to forget the hardships of the past

tour. Eating the fruit of the lotus plant, according to mythology, is

supposed to put one in an ecstatic fog.

The sign was one of about 50 that flashed on and off over the course of

the show. They were in the shapes of various objects and figures, some

suggesting specific songs -- such as the lotus -- and some echoing the

cover art of Up (1998). On one side of the stage was a large

reproduction of the yellow banana from the cover of '60s art-rockers the

Velvet Underground's debut album, The Velvet Underground and Nico,

which was designed by pop-art painter Andy Warhol.

Although the arena's acoustics were less than ideal, the crowd of 15,000

went wild. "I've been waiting to see them for quite a long time," said

22-year-old Cristina Marques, from Entroncamento, a town near Lisbon.

Mills wore a glittering, Nashville-styled suit similar to the one he

wore on the 1995 tour. Stipe, who frequently stared at the audience as

if he were relieved just to see live fans again, dressed in a simple,

unglamorous blue shirt and black pants, while Buck wore a black and

yellow shirt.

"Pilgrimage" was the set's first unexpected choice. "I think they hadn't

played that song since 1985 or something like that," the band's manager,

Bertis Downs, said after the show. "They ... chose some older, seldom-played

ones to make the show more interesting."

Other surprises, besides the rarely performed "The One I Love" -- the

band's first major pop hit, from 1987 -- and the never-before-played

"Sweetness Follows," from Automatic for the People (1982),

included "Life and How to Live It," from the 1985 album Fables of

the Reconstruction.

Stipe returned alone with an acoustic guitar for an encore version of

"I'm Not Over You." The band re-emerged to play another four songs,

ending with the sing-along anthem "It's the End of the World As We Know

It (and I Feel Fine)." Then a green sign reading "Thank You"

flashed for several minutes.

"I'm really glad they played some old songs, because this tour will be

the first chance for many fans like me to see them perform," Marques

said.