Former R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe made a surprise return to the stage on Monday (29Dec14) when he served as the opening act for Patti Smith in New York.

The Losing My Religion singer has not performed a live set in almost four years, although he had a cameo appearance alongside Chris Martin in 2012 as part of the 12-12-12 benefit concert at Madison Square Garden.

However, his stage hiatus came to an end this week when Stipe stepped into the spotlight at Manhattan's Webster Hall venue ahead of Smith's main set.

The unexpected gig, which also marked his debut as a solo artist, saw Stipe perform six songs, including R.E.M. tracks and a cover of Vic Chesnutt's Lucinda Williams, much to fans' delight.