A Newfoundland Woman’s eXPERIENCE With U2

U2 is set to end their eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE Tour tonight in Berlin, a makeup show after Bono inexplicably lost his voice only five songs in earlier this fall. Tonight’s show comes nearly three years to the day when U2’s iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE shows were postponed in Paris after the 2015 terrorist attacks.

During the 2015 tour, it was customary for U2 to interact with members of the audience. Newfoundland’s own Stephanie van der Linde was one of these audience members and she chatted with The Racket via Facebook Messenger about the night in Toronto when she shared the stage with her favourite band. “I’d heard rumours they were pulling people up on stage more frequently than usual,” said van der Linde. “I’d been dreaming about playing guitar with U2 ever since the Vertigo Tour, when another fan (who eventually became an online friend of mine), got pulled up on stage to play!”

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Van der Linde created a double-sided sign with one side reading “U2 + Me + Guitar = 15 Year Dream,” and the other read “All I Want is (to Play Guitar With) You”. During the show, bassist Adam Clayton noticed the sign and smiled at van der Linde. “That in and of itself nearly induced a total brain meltdown,” she recalled. “I think he pointed the sign out to Bono; I can’t really remember, because I was still trying to process what had just happened.”

Then, next thing van der Linde knew, a security person gestured towards her during “Mysterious Ways,” yelling, “They wanna bring you up!”

What transpired would be a comedy of errors. Apparently, Bono misread van der Linde’s sign and assumed she wanted to dance. “I am a TERRIBLE dancer. I cannot emphasize that enough,” she said. “Bono swung me around in circles at one point, and my sweaty hands started slipping in his.” A thought popped into van der Linde’s head: “This is how I’m going to die. Bono is going to accidentally hurl me off stage like a human shot put.”

Once the song ended, Bono realized van der Linde hadn’t asked to dance. The rocker took a second look at the sign and said “Oh! You’re a guitar player!” and blamed this mistake on his glaucoma which provided for an entertaining exchange for those in attendance.

Bono asked van der Linde to play “Angel Of Harlem” and she said this is where she got nervous. She hadn’t played the song in years and felt comfortable she could pull off the verses, she wasn’t sure about the chorus or the middle eight. Not wanting to screw up in front of her favourite band, van der Linde suggested playing U2’s “All I Want Is You” instead but Bono insisted on “Angel Of Harlem”, at least to start.

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“[The] Edge then handed me one of his acoustic guitars, and I somehow managed to not forget every chord I’d ever learned,” recalled van der Linde. “It was such a delightful, terrifying, hilarious blur.”

The song ended and to van der Linde’s surprise, she heard Bono say to the rest of the band, “She wants to play “All I Want Is You”.”

The single from the 1988 album Rattle and Hum is one of van der Linde’s favourites. She said she could play the song in her sleep, which is how she managed to contain her excitement and “not scream incoherently”. “I [was able to go] into autopilot mode and fully enjoy the moment without worrying about making a mistake,” she said. “Playing that song with the band was pretty much the most magical experience of my life.”

Upon returning to Newfoundland, van der Linde received requests from various local media outlets, which she found to be a bit overwhelming. “I’m a fairly shy person, and that performance felt like something private shared between the band and those of us who were there,” she said. “I didn’t want it to be about me, because it wasn’t, but that’s what the media attention made it feel like at the time.”

Van der Linde initially had agreed to only one interview but has since softened that stance. “[T]alking about the experience gives me an opportunity to explain just how good U2 are to their fans, to those who might not know otherwise,” she said. “People love to dismiss U2 (and Bono, especially) as pompous and self-serving. There’s nothing pompous or self-serving about plucking random fans from the audience and letting them live out dreams they’ve had since they were kids.”

There have been many rumours and theories brewing online that this tour will be U2’s last but van der Linde is hoping this is not the case. Her schedule didn’t allow her to catch any shows in 2017 or 2018 so she, like many are hoping the band has at least another album and tour in them.

Van der Linde said there is no comparison to seeing U2 live. “The amount of energy and emotion they bring to every live performance is something I haven’t seen in any other band,” said van der Linde. “Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen some really great shows over the years by some fantastic artists; U2 is just different.”