We all have a little Fathers Day break to rest up for the Big Week ahead–the mad dash through North America is almost over with shows later this week in Philadelphia, New York and Atlanta. Peter and Scott go on Letterman tonight with the Steve Wynn-led Baseball Project ; Michael and David Belisle had another successful book signing last night for Hello! the book of R.E.M. tour photos from the last few years. The Philly show at Mann Music Center is about sold out and ought to be fun in one of the country’s classiest outdoor venues; then, on Thursday, the Garden ought to rock (and be nice and dry after the travails of the weekend out on that stormy peninsula known as Jones Beach; the final show of this run comes Saturday night in ATL at a venue R.E.M.’s never played before: Lakewood Amphitheatre where there are some lawn seats left and where we saw the raging Radiohead show a month ago. SO three stellar shows this week before we all get 10 days to catch our breath to then launch into Europe and festivals and city squares and spicy food and more…as usual going by faster than you’d ideally like. I am already looking forward to the first week over there: Amsterdam July 2nd (the night after Radiohead is at the same venue); the band’s 7th time playing Rock Werchter on July 3rd; our first trip to Bilbao on July 5th and then a festival over in the extreme northeastern corner of Spain near Girona on the 6th. And from there into provincial France and 2 big festivals in Ireland and Scotland; And that’s just the first week or so…

It feels like the guys are enjoying this tour more than anything in recent memory, and the crowds haven’t been this exuberant or joyful as far back as I can remember–the ACCELERATE material goes over great every night and the older and mid-period tunes the guys keep pulling out continue to delight and surprise everyone in the house–including importantly, the band themselves (click here for setlists). And with the wealth of catalog of R.E.M. songs over the years, it is no surprise that they can continualy pull new/old things into the setlist on a nightly basis–a half-dozen different songs have been the opener on a show this tour and so far they have included something not yet played on the tour. I am hoping they keep that up, and it is one reason I don’t ever look at setists before or during the shows–I like to be surprised too.

Anyway, enough for now. Come see a show wherever you can.

And be on the lookout for the Apple Store EP to be released on iTunes in the next couple of weeks. That was a fun night on Regent Street in London for the Fan Clubbers and we are pleased to see a great mix of it (thanks Sam Bell) coming out SOON! Just in time for those European shows.

Finally,if you haven’t already done so, check out the TOURSITE and follow all the action from wherever you are, or help create the coverage if you are there and taking pictures/posting comments/suggesting songs to be played/blogging or twittering…sort of like the old remdublin site from last year, this one is designed to give the R.E.M. community an outlet for all manner of discussion and media-sharing for all the shows on the 2008 tour. So far, so good and a pleasure to see it grow and spread.

The support bands, Modest Mouse and The National, have both been outstanding. Each has a big following in all the places we have played and the shows have been perfect for exposing the various fanbases to the other bands’ music. Both bands have deep catalogs of great songs and a keen ability to play the songs live in whatever conditions. Many of the shows have had 80-90 full houses at the stroke of 6:30 when the National goes on– R.E.M. knows from its opening days (Gang of Four, the English Beat and The Police being the 1981–1983 tours I remember best from that era) the challenges of playing to a crowd not necessarily there just for your band, and I can safely say that this bill of these 3 bands has been good for all of them. And as a music fan, it is awesome to have two favorite new bands to seek out and find all their material and get to know their music better. Michael gives a big shout-out or two every night to both bands, and they deserve it and all that lies down the road for them. May all the summer bills work as well as this one has. (Be sure to check out this fantastic photo blog by Pat Graham of Modest Mouse’s camp.

Happy Summer everybody, and see you at a show or 5.


PS: if you haven’t seen any reviews of the shows, be sure to visit the toursite referenced above. In the meantime, here is a fair sampling:

Boston Globe

9 Giant Steps

Illinois Entertainer

Mercury News