Regardless of your politics, for the sole fact that it brought together a collection of music’s biggest and most legendary names on one stage, in celebration of one historic event, yesterday’s We Are One concert will live in the memories of music fans forever.
But perhaps unbeknown to some, the event was not the first time two of yesterday’s biggest highlights, Bruce Springsteen and U2, appeared together. In fact, on September 25, 1987, the Boss and the legendary Irish outfit not only graced the same stage, unlike yesterday, they performed together on it at the same time. With Bono sidelined by a broken arm, U2 recruited a “local boy” to play guitar during the band’s rendition of “Stand By Me”.
“Would anybody else like to play my guitar?” Bono asks the crowd gathered in Philadelphia on that September night some 21 years ago. Within seconds, a figure emerges from the side, prompting the outfit’s legendary frontman to declare, “Bruce Springsteen would like to play my guitar!” What follows is a performance that can’t help but leave most in awe. Bruce, strumming away, almost nonchalantly, before taking to the mic to accompany Bono on the chorus. The passion and excitement in the air is infectious, as evident by the smiles on the performers’ faces throughout and Bono’s kid-in-a-candy-store-like question half-way though, asking Bruce if he had ever seen Edge play.
But it’s the last minute of the performance, that is perhaps most captivating. At this point, Springsteen is full-fledged preacher mode, and Bono, aware of the opportunity, quickly dislodges his microphone from the stand. It’s almost as if the two can read each others’ mind; as if, Bono knows that this slightest of actions will cause his counterpart to completely explode in both energy and creativity, resulting in an improvisational verse that not only captures both men’s passions, but also their love for the craft they would forever change.
Albeit only four minutes in length, U2 and Bruce Springsteen’s performance of “Stand By Me” on September 25, 1987 offers a brilliant representation of the power of music; that no matter the background, the style, or the beliefs of a performer, when the music is playing and the word are resonating, even the most different of people can come together to celebrate the hope and happiness that flows in between the rifts and beats. That’s what happened on September 25th in Philadelphia and yesterday, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. And no matter what lies ahead, the same will hold true in the future.