Begin the Begin: R.E.M.’S Early Years by Robert Dean Lurie:
Stipe had more of a love/hate relationship with the road. He clearly didn’t mind it –after all, he’d elected to spend a significant amount of time in 1986 performing with the Golden Palominos—but there seemed to be a big difference between the low-pressure situation of chipping in with a pre-existing collective and fronting his own band. With R.E.M., it usually took him a few shows to regain his “loud shy” performing persona, and the transition phase could sometimes be awkward. At the band’s first show of the Pageantry tour, at Oak Mountain Amphitheatre in Pelham, Alabama, Stipe told the crowd, “If anybody’s read the back of the T-shirts that are up there, this is our first show, and we haven’t played in a bit of time, since, um . . . “—Berry broke this pause with an impatient tapping of his cymbal—“ . . . seems like about a hundred and fifty years. The, um . . . “—another pause—“I’ll tell you later.” Stipe had become adept at accentuating his awkwardness for humorous effect, but it was nevertheless clear that this was an off night for him. Later in the show he commented, “Everything’s kind of falling apart up here,” and, still later, “We’re hoping by next week that we’ll be able to keep the time between songs down to under five minutes . . . “—more impatient drum taps from Berry—“This is our showcase song for the evening, featuring the inimitable . . . Bill Berry!” Stipe gave an embarassed laugh; the song in question, “Superman,” featured lead vocals by a different member of the band. “I mean Mike Mills!” he yelled over Buck’s guitar intro.