While Bono recovered from a recent bike accident, U2 played their previously booked World AIDS Day gig with Chris Martin and Bruce Springsteen filling the singer’s shoes. Still, the frontman and activist made his presence known, delivering a message through former President Bill Clinton, who opened the event with some salutatory remarks.
After nodding, perhaps pointedly, to the bipartisan drugs-for-AIDS bill passed under George W. Bush, Clinton read an email Bono had sent him earlier in the day: “Twenty-six years ago it wouldn’t have been possible to have a concert in Times Square on World AIDS Day because to be diagnosed with AIDS was a death sentence. A few years ago when Secretary of State Clinton said that we could end AIDS, a lot of people didn’t believe it. But this year, for the first time ever, more people were put on life-saving medicine than were diagnosed with AIDS. We are going to win this fight.”
The show also included a video message from President Obama, who urged the crowd to “keep fighting,” and performances by Carrie Underwood and Kanye West. The former played two songs, including current hit “Something in the Water,” and the latter moved quickly through “Power,” “Jesus Walks,” “Black Skinhead,” “Stronger” and “Testify,” falling to the floor and getting the crowd to jump in the air.
U2 Minus 1, as they were billed, bookended the 70-minute show. The Chris Martin set featured “Beautiful Day” and “With or Without You,” and the Springsteen set featured “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” With the latter, Springsteen returned the message: “Let’s send this one out to Bono in Ireland,” he said. “Be well, my friend.”