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Tour, album in the works for R.E.M.

March 29, 2003|Geoff Boucher

R.E.M. is returning to the road with its first North American tour in four years. It begins Sept. 1 in Seattle and includes a Sept. 10 stop at the Hollywood Bowl, the band's first performance at the venerable venue.

Twenty-two years removed from its debut single, "Radio Free Europe," and a trio since the retirement of drummer Bill Berry in 1997, R.E.M. finds itself a fire-tested veteran act with newfound energy, according to singer Michael Stipe. Its recent albums have not matched past commercial successes, but Stipe senses a change at Warner Bros. Records that could open its music to wider audiences.

"This time will be different," he said. "There's whole different bunch of people at the record company, and they have pulses and they love music. They know our songs. That's a very nice change from the last couple of years."

On Sept. 30, the band will release a best-of compilation of its Warner years, which began in 1988 with the album "Green." Stipe said that he, guitarist Peter Buck and bassist Mike Mills are well underway on material for a new album due next year. Much of the new work, which will be premiered on this summer's concert trail, is informed by the war in Iraq.

"A lot of the stuff I'm writing right now is about deception and loss of innocence," the 43-year-old Stipe said. "That's what our country is experiencing in a very big way -- a profound loss of innocence on an emotional level."

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