“My kids have been asking me for the past couple of years, ‘When do we get to go back on the tour bus?’ So I am really excited about next summer and fall, especially that we get to play Warsaw and return to Glastonbury,” Peter Buck said.

Only European dates have been released right now. The schedule finds the band playing many festival gigs on the continent through the summer, as well as non-festival shows.

A North American leg is expected to be announced sometime after the first of the year. A post on the band’s Web site reads, “As for the other parts of the world… 2004 is a good guess.”

It’s no wonder they’re so eager to get back on the road. It’s been four years since R.E.M. last toured. “We have been locked up in the studio and are anxious to see the outside again,” Michael Stipe said. “So we will spend some of the next year on tour with other people who love music.”

R.E.M. know how to treat their Fan Club members. They’ll distribute a limited number of soundboard passes to members for access to the soundboard area during one of the European concerts in July. Check out R.E.M.’s official Web site, remhq.com, for details on how to get a pair of passes.

In addition to this long-awaited tour announcement, R.E.M. are also releasing an album that’s been a long time coming. Their “best of” compilation will hit shelves sometime next autumn.