The first clue came during the end of “Beautiful Day” when Bono sang a few lines of “Hungry Heart.” It lasted no more than six seconds, but it seemed to confirm rumors that had been flying around for weeks that Bruce Springsteen was going to come out for the final night of U2’s eight-show stand at Madison Square Garden. But nobody knew for sure Friday night until the end of “Where The Streets Have No Name” when an extra mic stand appeared and Bono began speaking about Springsteen’s profound influence on the band.
Needless to say, the capacity crowd erupted when Springsteen walked out with an acoustic guitar. “Earlier, when I busted myself up here in the city, we had a gig in Times Square for Red and this man showed up and delivered,” Bono said. “The chairman, the Boss. Mr. Bruce Springsteen.” They let the audience sing the first few verses of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” but Bono and Springsteen were soon trading lines on the tune just like they did at U2’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2005 and the HOF’s 25th anniversary concert in 2009. Last year, Springsteen sang it in Times Square with the band when he subbed in for an injured Bono.
When the song concluded, they went into “Stand By Me,” the same tune they did at at Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium on the 1987 Joshua Tree tour (which doubled as the first time they played together). “The kid’s a star!” Bono said as Springsteen walked off. “The kid’s a star! He can keep the guitar.”
Springsteen was just the latest of many surprise guests on U2’s tour. Previous shows have seen appearances by Lady Gaga, Jimmy Fallon and the Roots, Paul Simon, a Canadian U2 cover band, an Elvis impersonator and numerous random fans from the audience. Earlier this week, they flipped the script when the Edge and Adam Clayton came out during a club set by another U2 cover band in New York.
The cheers at Madison Square Garden on the final night began before U2 even took the stage when Bill and Hillary Clinton took their seats in the front row of the arena’s upper deck. Bill remained motionless throughout the night, but Hillary rocked her head back and forth during “Pride (In The Name of Love)” and, at an even faster pace, during “Where the Streets Have No Name.” When Springsteen appeared, the couple got on their feet and enthusiastically clapped along.
The other big moment of the night came during the E stage portion of the show, where the band performed 1982’s “Trash, Trampoline and the Party Girl” for the first time in six years. The song was the B-side to “A Celebration” and never appeared on a studio album, but it was a regular part of their setlist in the 1980s and remains a longtime fan favorite. They wrapped up the night with “40,” which they dedicated to their tour manager Dennis Sheehan, who suddenly passed away earlier in the tour.
Though the first U.S. leg of U2’s Innocence and Experience Tour is now over, the band has booked 34 European shows in the fall beginning September 4th in Torino, Italy.