This past Wednesday, July 29, some members of U2 took a break from having special guests on their stage to surprise fans celebrating a U2 fan party at The Cutting Room in Manhattan by showing up as the surprise guests themselves.
The Edge and Adam Clayton joined the U2 tribute band Unforgettable Fire onstage at the event, where they played 2 songs for the delighted crowd of fans.
The party was a celebration of the U2 fan site auto.com, which was celebrating it’s 20th anniversary. No one involved with the event had any idea that any members of U2 would show up, and everyone was very obviously surprised.
The site’s founder, and the organizer of the party, Matt McGee, spoke about his own shock to Rolling Stone. “It was mind-boggling,” McGee said. “Our whole crew has been trading texts all morning saying, ‘Did that really happen?'”
The fan site’s crew had extended an invitation to the band and their entire team, but was told it was unlikely. The African well Fund, a non-profit group started by fans that works to build wells in Africa for Bono’s birthday each year, were even hoping to present their annual birthday card to Bono during the event. While that didn’t happen, fans still got a very welcome surprise.
“It was a million-to-one shot,” McGee said. “As late as yesterday [Tuesday] afternoon, we got an e-mail saying they had other commitments and couldn’t rearrange their schedules.”
The U2 representatives did say that members of the band’s management and publicity team might want to stop by. A large group of them showed up shortly after the party began and were given a detailed walk-through of the event, including a side door and VIP balcony.
“All of a sudden Edge’s guitar tech Dallas Schoo walked through the main entrance and stood at the check-in desk,” McGee said. “I saw they weren’t letting him in. I ran over and said, ‘He’s on the list! Let him in!'”
Schoo is a familiar site to U2 fans, who all know him as the guy who sets up the guitars before the shows. He has worked with U2 for decades. A crowd formed around him as McGee led him towards the stage.
“He said to me, ‘Listen, take me up the stage,'” McGee said. “‘I’m going to play a few songs with Unforgettable Fire.’ Looking back, I think his entrance was partially a planned distraction. It got the attention of all the fans, and Edge and Adam were able to slip in through a side door and up to the VIP area.”
They made their way to the side of the stage as Unforgettable Fire with very few even noticing. The few fans that did notice were so shocked, and it happened so fast, that they didn’t have a chance to say anything until after the performance.
“I literally didn’t see them until they were at the side of the stage,” McGee said. “I thought to myself, ‘Is this happening? Is this real? What are they doing here? What’s going to happen next?'”
When Unforgettable Fire finished their next song, Schoo walked onstage and began talking to their guitarist Mick Normoyle.
“He said to him, ‘What’s the setting on your rig for ‘Streets?,'” McGee said. “He then picked up the instrument and began tuning it. At this point, we’re still thinking Dallas is going to be the one playing.”
The sight of Dallas tuning a guitar was enough to make the crowd go nuts, but then Clayton and Edge walked onstage and took over for their doppelgängers as the half-real/half-fake U2 hybrid kicked into “Where The Streets Have No Name.” The crowd in the room all did double takes as they noticed that the guys onstage weren’t the tribute Edge and adam Clayton, but the real thing.
“Everyone erupted,” McGee said. “It was unforgettable and just insane. I was just numb. Tribute Edge was standing right behind Real Edge and Tribute Adam was standing right behind Real Adam. There was such joy in their faces. I’m almost in tears watching how happy they were.”
When the song ended, Edge and Clayton took off their instruments and posed for photos with the band.
“The crowd kept chanting ‘One more song,'” McGee said. “They then put their instruments back on and played ‘Out of Control.’ They took a group photo with the band and their security led them out through the side door. It was fantastic.”
McGee is still in a state of shock.
“They didn’t have to do that,” he said. It is a sentiment shared by many of the fans who were in attendance [myself included]. “It’s such an honor for the community of online fans. They did it to say thanks and share some recognition with folks that have been following them all these years.”
At the end of the night, McGee stood onstage with his fellow @U2 staffer Sherry Lawrence.
“I looked at her and said, ‘For the 25th, the only way we can top this is to have the whole band come,'” he says. “But really, there’s no way to top that. It’s the most fantastic thing they could have done.”
There are very few bands of any stature likely to make such a kind gesture to their fans, let alone bands of as a high a stature of U2, and from all the fans that were in attendance, we thank you for showing up and playing a couple songs for us!
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