R.E.M. nearly reunited last night during a Peter Buck solo show at the 40 Watt Club in Athens, Georgia. The guitarist was accompanied by two of his former bandmates, drummer Bill Berry and bassist Mike Mills, during a performance of the band’s twangy 1984 track “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville.”
Of course, this hometown gig doesn’t qualify as a true reunion since it didn’t include frontman Michael Stipe, who was spotted in the crowd watching his former bandmates, according to Slicing Up Eyeballs.
R.E.M.’s last album, Collapse Into Now, was released back in 2011. The band didn’t tour behind the LP, and seven months after its release, they announced their breakup. “As lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band,” they wrote in an official statement. “We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished.”
Back in May, Mills spoke with Rolling Stone about the odds of a full-fledged R.E.M. reunion, and his forecast was decidedly cloudy. “We said we’re done and we’re done,” he said. “If we honestly thought there was a chance of a reunion tour, we might have said so at the time.”
However, he did mention that the break-up wasn’t based on animosity, insisting that he and his former bandmates are still good friends. “There were no real factors other than deciding it was time to break up,” he said. “There’s no drug abuse. There’s no in-fighting. There’s no legal problems. It was time to break up. That’s never really been done before. The idea of breaking up and not reforming for a reunion tour is kind of attractive to us. I doubt you’ll see us touring as R.E.M. again.”
While Mills remained bleak about the odds of a legitimate reunion tour, he did foreshadow the quasi-reunion that took place in Athens.
“On the other hand, I just played with Peter [Buck] in New York City the other night, so fun things do happen,” he said.