Alicia, my sister, performed with Bono. The following are her words describing the experience.
The end of the story:
At 11:30 pm on Tuesday night, I stood in the rain on the corner of Westland and Mass Ave, Achtung Baby in hand, dazed. The No.1 bus passed by, and I didn’t want to wait on the corner for fifteen minutes for another one, so I started walking slowly towards Cambridge. I felt very odd; kind of sad, kind of embarrassed, kind of frustrated, definitely overwhelmed, and hungry.
Armed with my camera, my CD, and way too much adrenaline, I made my way to Symphony Hall at 1:30pm, an hour before rehearsal. Some random people were standing around the stage door; I assumed they were waiting for his approach. I selfishly smiled to myself as I walked inside, thinking, “You may have to just stand outside, but I? I get to rehearse with the man.”
That man would be Bono, pretty much the biggest rock star alive. “So how big is this guy?” asked Lynn later that day.
“Huge.” I said. “The hugest.”
“Bigger than Paul McCartney?”
“Well, um,” Hmmm. Maybe not. “I guess it’s a generational thing,” I reasoned.
As I would discover, most of the orchestra didn’t know or didn’t care who Bono was. But I certainly did. When I walked on stage to set up my instruments and warm up, he had made it past the small throng outside the stage door and was striding into the hall, leaving a small entourage of official people on stage left. He came to the front of the stage to sing a few words in Italian, ostensibly from an opera, opening his arms to the empty room.
Bono! Bono. I hung back in the wings, watching as he shook hands with the rhythm section and the timpanist. I congratulated myself on my prediction that he would be wearing sunglasses — these particular ones were clear with a slight blue iridescence. Bono. The man. In person.
He was really quite short.
The small ensemble began rehearsing “Pride”, and I made my way to my seat to unpack and look sort of official, like I belonged there, listening to Bono sing five feet away from me. I couldn’t stop smiling (and thinking to myself, Alicia! Stop smiling like an idiot!). And thenâ€¦ he turned to me and smiled and winked. Bono, in all dark blue denim, bedecked in rings and earrings and studs and frayed edges, smiled at me. And winked!!
Read the above paragraph again, because that was my moment with Bono.
John Williams and Yo Yo Ma arrived and the three of them went over “The Hands That Built America.” I remained rooted to my seat, watching Bono’s every move. Whitney slid into the chair next to me and whispered, “So is that the guy Bono?”
“Yeah!” I said. “I’m so excited I’m numb. I need to focus.”
I was fidgety and couldn’t warm up, so I went to say hello to Rob. “So isn’t this cool?” I asked him, indicating Bono behind me.
“Yeah,” Rob answered. “This is really the only rock band I listen to besides Enya.”
“I’m so excited,” I trilled. “It’s Bono!”
“Yeah, but you know,” said Rob, “I was listening to this tape of the Dalai Lama in the car on the way here, and really, everyone is just a person. So I’m not really that excited.”
“Oh, I’m beyond excited,” I said.
“Starstruck! Boom!” said Rob.
I returned to my seat. Fenwick walked in right before the rehearsal began, sat down and looked at the program order and said, “Boh noh?”
“Nope, Bono,” I corrected him.
“So it’s not like the Latin,” he pointed out.
“Well, not pronounced, but I think he took it from some Latin phraseâ€¦” but Fenwick had stopped listening to me.
In the middle of the rehearsal, I turned to Whitney. “I think this is possibly the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” I sighed. Whitney laughed. Only ten feet in front of me, Bono stood, singing, and I, Alicia, was playing Edge’s silvery guitar riffs with the flutes and oboes. Okay, perhaps it wasn’t meant for my instrument, but it was still very cool. I felt a little like the Edge. Playin’ the riffs, lookin’ at Bono. Playin’ with Bono. Andrew, who apparently didn’t feel the same kinship with U2, said, “It sounds like maybe we have a wrong note. We have C sharps but the chord it’s over has a C.”
“Nope, it’s the right note,”I said.
“You know this song?” he asked.
Bono left after he was done practicing with us, and since we still had an hour or so of rehearsal, I knew my efforts to obtain an autograph and photo would have to wait until the evening. I went home and got ready for the concert; it didn’t take too much time, as I had dressed that morning as if I were going on a date. I mean, if you’re going to potentially meet Bono, you have to look as good as possible.
When I returned to the hall, I passed Ben, one of the youngest members of the orchestra, in the basement corridor and grabbed him. “Ben! Ben! Dude, are you going to try to meet Bono?”
“Oh, I don’t know, nah, probably not,” said Ben. He had a sandwichfrom Au Bon Pain in his hand.
“Really? Why? Aren’t you excited?”
“Well yeah, I guess it’s cool, but I’d really rather meet him over anice dinner or something.”
Incredulous, I asked, “But Ben, when is that going to happen?”
“Oh you never know!” laughed Ben.
“Well, I suppose you don’t,” I said, “but I’m going to try.”
Since I had arrived way early in order to try to meet Bono, I had a lot of time, and nothing to do. Lynn gave me encouragement every time I would pass him as I wandered aimlessly through the halls. “You go girl!” he would say. Or, “Did you meet him yet?” I went up to the electric guitarist in the rhythm section. “Man, this must be one of the best moments of your life, playing with Bono,” I said.
“Am I supposed to say yes?” he asked.
I stood there blankly. “Um…”
“Well, it’s alright,” he said. “I guess it’s cool.”
WHAT WAS WRONG WITH EVERYONE? I went out to hang out with my favorite people in the orchestra: the smokers.
“Hey Ian,” I said, relieved to be away from the frantic BSO Pops directors running all over the place. “Everyone’s hectic up there and I needed a break. I’m trying to figure out how to meet Bono.”
“You shoulda talked to him at the rehearsal,” said Ian. “He was cool, you know, hanging out. He was alright. That was your chance. He’s gonna be whisked right out of here after the concert.”
“Yeah, man, I know,” I said, bummed. “I should have just gone up to him. Now he’s got a million security around him and I think you need a green wristband to get anywhere near him.”
“You should talk to Dennis,” said Ian. “He’s cool. He’ll do something for ya.”
“Good idea!” I had renewed vigor and headed back inside. “I’m going to meet Bono!”
“And he’s a short guy!” grinned Ian. “I like short guys.”
Fifteen minutes before the concert, I met a violist named Joan. “You know,” said Joan, “my daughter is working for Jana, and if you give her your CD, she may be able to get Bono to sign it.”
How fortuitous! I went with Joan to the stairwell in front of Bono’s dressing room, and gave my CD to Joan’s daughter. And while I was there, I ran into Dennis. “Dennis!” I called. “What do you think: is there any possibility of me meeting Bono?”
Dennis thought for a second. “Well, probably not… but hang around. You never know.”
Hang around! Okay, I could do that. Then I looked at the clock. Oh. Nope, I couldn’t do that. I went back on stage to warm up, and then the concert began.
Glenn Close was hosting. Now, on a normal day, I would have beenpretty psyched to see any sort of star, as I am not a person who has regular encounters with celebrities. Once, when I lived in Miami, a prime star-sighting locale, I walked by a photo shoot and recognized Yamila, the Victoria’s Secret model, but that was it. (She was surprisingly short, by the way.) My friends, however, would regularly come back from Lincoln Road or Ocean Drive regaling me with tales of George Clooney, Ed Norton, and Jennifer Lopez. So, if it hadn’t been the day when I was performing with Bono, I would have said, “Hey! I saw Glenn Close!” But she seemed so B-list compared with the biggest rock star imaginable.
The performance with Bono was incredible. Hearing the crowd go wild from the vantage of the stage was crazy. Again, the feeling of being the Edge came upon me. I was a rock star. Well, not really. I was near a rock star.
And then, I was near Ben Affleck, once when he bounded on stage to ask Ted Kennedy to take the baton, and once later in the evening backstage. I turned to Whitney. “Woah,” I said, and for a moment, all thoughts of Bono left my mind. “He’s very cute.”
“Very cute,” said Whitney. We looked at him admiringly. He is very hot in person.
The concert finished, and I was a woman with a mission. I packed up rapidly and took up my post by Bono’s dressing room. I surmised that he was definitely still there, considering the number of people with green wristbands everywhere. I stood in the corner, and Whitney joined me for a few moments. Lynn came up to us and said, “You guys are just like schoolgirls.” Christine Baranski walked by and I was up to celebrity No. 3 for the evening.
Finally, Bono came out from his dressing room. He looked dazed and tired. Staff members thrust CD jackets towards him; he signed one or two, but seemed as if he were looking right through everyone surrounding him. I rushed in front of him, smiled and said hi, but he looked through me, too. He was led upstairs to meet with Ted Kennedy and I and a few others remained despondent by the dressing room.
I went up to Sean. “Dude, I haven’t met him yet.”
“Well, what comes up comes down,” he replied. “Just go up to him and say hello.”
“Man, I don’t know,” I sighed, frustrated. “I’m just not aggressive enough.”
When Bono did indeed descend, Sean put out his hand and said, “Hi Bono, I’m Sean from the press office and I just wanted to say great job.”
I hung back, and saw how Bono nodded, yet looked tiredly through Sean, and went towards the exit.
“I suck, Sean. I suck,” I said.
“Yeah, you do,” said Sean.
I tried again to approach Bono, but didn’t want to interrupt his conversation with a suited, important looking man, so I stood quietly to the side. I felt sad; my meeting, my autograph, my picture — they just weren’t going to happen. I didn’t want to be an obnoxious fan. I wanted to have a nice dinner with Bono, just like Ben. When Bono left with his entourage of beautiful tall women, I followed sadly, still holding on to a gram of hope for maybe a handshake.
I was a foot behind Bono, walking down the steps towards the stage door, kicking myself for my inability to speak to him, when he stopped at the landing.
“The most incredible thing happened,” he said to the model-like women near him. They bowed their heads close to his as he took off his iridescent eyewear.
“I met a blind man,” said Bono, “And he said to me, ‘When I listen to your music, it’s the closest I get to seeing. I want you to have my glasses.’ And he gave me his glasses. Isn’t that amazing?”
The women nodded and cooed, “ah, so incredible,” in appreciation of his story, and after a pause, they continued walking out. I continued to be a step behind as he paraded through the door and between two walls of people screaming “Bono!” and shoving records in his face. He quickly signed one record and then slipped into a waiting black Explorer.
People continued to scream. A woman ran in front of me, trying to slip a piece of paper to Bono, but was stopped by security. “But… but…” she lamented. “Ma’am, it’s not fair to everyone else if he signs something for you.” “But it’s a note! I just want him to have this note from me!”
No one looked at me as I walked across the street. It started to rain. No picture, no autograph, and the strange feeling of having been in someone else’s world for two minutes. Thom Yorke sang it best:
You float like a feather
In a beautiful world
I wish I was special
You’re so very special
But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo
What the heck am I doing here?
I don’t belong here
So I was back where I started, and I headed home in the rain.
*note from the editor: in the original story received from my sister, the actual creep lyrics are used to finish the story. the editor substituted in the radio edited version for the viewing public.