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U2’s special guests in NYC: Springsteen on stage, Clintons in the crowd

Bono performs at U2's Innocence + Experience Tour at the Forum on May 26.

Bono performs at U2’s Innocence + Experience Tour at the Forum on May 26.

(Rich Fury / Invision)

Fans who saw the last show of U2’s North American tour Friday at Madison Square Garden in New York City had an incredible bit of luck. For one thing, Bill Clinton was in the house, but blessedly refrained from sitting in on saxophone.

Instead the crowd got Bruce Springsteen, who stepped up with an acoustic guitar and helped Bono and the boys sing “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me,” amid lusty vocal support from the assembled multitude. Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton were observed clapping, but not singing, along.

Rolling Stone reported that the crowd had cheered before the show as the Clintons took their seats in the front row of the Garden’s upper deck.

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“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,’” Rolling Stone’s correspondent noted. “When Springsteen appeared, the couple got on their feet and enthusiastically clapped along.”

The Associated Press reported that during the show Bono called out his appreciation to Bill Clinton for his role in helping to negotiate a settlement of the sectarian strife in Northern Ireland during the 1990s – a conflict that had inspired “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and other early U2 songs. He also gave both Clintons kudos for their efforts against AIDS.

Readers of a certain age may remember Bill Clinton donning blues-man shades and honking away on his tenor sax on the “Arsenio Hall Show” during the 1992 presidential campaign. It wasn’t good music, but it was good politics – helping to underscore that Clinton, who was bidding to become the first baby boomer president, was a different kind of politician than George H.W. Bush, the older incumbent he went on to defeat.

U2’s “Innocence and Experience” tour will resume in September in Turin, Italy, the start of its European leg.

Twitter: @boehmm

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