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ROCK giants R.E.M. are to perform at Ipswich Town's Portman Road stadium next summer, it has been confirmed.Blues chief executive Derek Bowden announced the club's latest signing yesterday - and revealed it was close to finalising a concert deal for another "legend".

By Jonathan Barnes

ROCK giants R.E.M. are to perform at Ipswich Town's Portman Road stadium next summer, it has been confirmed.

Blues chief executive Derek Bowden announced the club's latest signing yesterday - and revealed it was close to finalising a concert deal for another "legend".

The U.S. rockers, whose career has spanned nearly 25 years and featured 28 top 40 hits, are to play in front of 28,000 fans at the football stadium on July 8 as part of their world tour.


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Mr Bowden said the deal was another step towards making the stadium "the number one venue in Suffolk" for live entertainment.

It follows Sir Elton John's gig at Portman Road in July, which was the first live music concert staged at the stadium in 12 years.

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"We are absolutely delighted to have R.E.M. coming to play here in Suffolk – they are a world class act and we hope fans will come along in their droves," said Mr Bowden.

He added the club was "on the final strokes of the contract" with another major artist – who he described as "a legend" – and also in talks with a third act.

"We want to appeal to broad range of ages and tastes and we are talking about three different types of artist.

"We hope to be able to announce a deal next week and another one within a couple of weeks."

Mr Bowden said it was unclear how much money the concerts would raise for the football club but pledged funds would be made available to strengthen the team.

"It's not a pot of gold and margins are tight. But the club hosts events to support the team and money raised will be given to support Joe [Royle] and the squad," he said.

Following the R.E.M. show, the Portman Road pitch will be ripped up and replaced for the start of the 2005/06 season. The turf is already being grown at a secret location in Ipswich.

R.E.M. were formed in 1980, with a line-up of singer Michael Stipe, Peter Buck on guitar, Mike Mills on bass and drummer Bill Berry.

Their popularity grew across the U.S. and had spread to Europe by the end of the decade, after the release of their major label debut album, Green, in 1988.

The Georgia-based band's best-known hits include Losing My Religion, Shiny Happy People, Man on the Moon and Everybody Hurts, while their albums Out Of Time and Automatic For The People became international best-sellers.

Berry left the group in 1997 but the band continued as a three-piece, using session drummers to fill his role. Their world tour arrives in Britain next summer, also featuring shows at Hull City's KC Stadium and Nottingham Forest's City Ground, the Millennium Arena in Cardiff and Hyde Park in London.

Tickets for the R.E.M.'s Portman Road concert are on sale now, priced from £35, £40 and £45 (plus booking fee).

They can be bought by telephone on 0870 143 2204 or 0870 145 1114 or online at www.seetickets.com or www.ticketmaster.co.uk.

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