Imagine being invited - as a member of a stadium audience – to perform on stage with one of the world’s greatest bands. It could never happen, right? But that’s exactly how it was for a trio of Czech musicians at a U2 concert in Berlin last weekend. Incredibly, U2 singer Bono invited the Czechs – all strangers to him – to come up for the song Angel of Harlem.
If you’ve ever crooned I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For in the shower, this story is probably for you: how three Czech fans (members of a U2 tribute band) were invited impromptu by Bono to join U2 on stage. Last Saturday, at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, the Czechs – guitar player Štepán Etrych, bass player Cyril Strejc and drummer Michal Šimek – put together signs describing they could play U2’s Angel of Harlem, off of the album Rattle and Hum. But of course, they never really expected their plan to work. To their disbelief, several songs in, Bono gestured to them to come up. A little earlier I spoke to Michal Šimek on the line from Amsterdam, who described how things came together:
“It was a plan by our guitar player Štěpán. He got this idea to write signs saying Me + drums = Angel of Harlem, Me + guitar = Angel of Harlem and so on. I thought it was impossible the plan would work: it would be like winning the lottery. But then the Edge began playing the starting riffs of the song and Bono looked around and we put these signs up and he gestured to us. Could we play it? And we were like, yeah we can!”
Before they knew what was happening, they had joined U2 on the podium.
Bono: This is an experiment...
For a U2 fan playing drums on Larry Mullen, jr’s own set almost defies description not to mention performing in front of 80,000 people. But Michal Šimek says there was no time to be nervous:
“You won’t believe me, but it was like nothing. I guess I didn’t realise what was happening. I didn’t feel any fear, I wasn’t nervous, and I was happy just to see Bono close-up and happy that I could shake hands with Larry Mullen, jr. I took my place behind the kit and started to play!”
The drummer does admit it was a relief that neither he nor his band mates messed up. The tribute band they are in (called the U2 Pop Tarts) had never before performed live – before anyone - he explains. The reason? They spent the last year-and-a-half in rehearsal searching for… wait for it… a suitable singer. Now they were playing with Bono himself!
Of course the five minutes the Czechs spent on stage are moments they’ll never forget. Michal Šimek once again:
“I didn’t have enough courage to ever dream of anything like this: it could never happen! But it did! It was so euphoric and they gave us so much energy. Hard to describe or believe we weren’t nervous but it really was that way!”
You can see U2’s performance of Angel of Harlem – in which Bono also
pays tribute to Michael Jackson – at youtube.