Our intrepid man in London, Bertis E Downs, IV, checked in from London, UK, with the following report from last nite’s big benefit show:

The band played a “surprize” but heavily rumoured show whilst in London. The charity Oxfam was doing a Make Trade Fair live event at the Hammersmith Apollo (Editor’s note: This gig marked the first time R.E.M. has played the “Apollo” since its days as the Odeon. The exact date was September 12, 1987, 17 years ago, with 10,000 Maniacs as support) and R.E.M. had a great time closing out a night with a great lineup of contemporary mostly British talent from Razorlight to Jamelia to Minnie Driver to a wonderful set by The Thrills whose new album Let’s Bottle Bohemia is just out–plus that Ricky Gervais guy did a few minutes before R.E.M. appeared. They played some classics like “Losing My Religion” and “Man on the Moon” and “Walk Unafraid” and “Bad Day’: Also newbys “I Wanted to be Wrong,” “Leaving New York,” and “Boy in the Well.” Chris Martin, (who with his band Coldplay has done a lot to popularize the trade equity issue for the past several years) guested on the final verse and choruses of “Man on the Moon,” and a grand time was had by all— first time the band had been on a stage together in 11 months and a nice warmup for the special tiny show they are doing tonight. After all the interviews and talking of the past 10 days, they seemed to have a good time being musicians playing the new and old songs. Just enough to whet everyone’s appetite. October 1 can’t get here fast enough…. As we post, the band is in the midst of a blistering set at St. James Church in London for a crowd of appreciative fan clubbers and BBC Radio 2 listeners. Thom Yorke of Radiohead just jumped on stage to do Patti’s part on E-Bow the Letter. More when we have it…