NEW YORK - Bruce Springsteen and Coldplay's Chris Martin tried to replace Bono's legendary vocal cords Monday in a surprise U2 concert in New York to rally support for fighting AIDS.
U2, which has played only select shows since a 2009-2011 tour, announced the free show in Times Square with several hours of notice to raise awareness and funding on World AIDS Day.
But with frontman Bono injured in a bicycle incident last month, the Irish superstars offered the microphone to two of the rare vocalists who rival U2 in celebrity.
"Dreams come true for all old and young people alike," a humbled Coldplay frontman Chris Martin said on the stage set up underneath Times Square's famous flashing screens on a rainy night.
Martin, who has long cited U2 as an influence, joined The Edge and the rest of the band to perform "With or Without You" and "A Beautiful Day" - staying faithful to Bono's lyrics and style while struggling to match his range.
Closing the hour-long concert, Bruce Springsteen summoned the depths of his emotional force to sing "Where the Streets Have No Name" before a more understated rendition of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." Leaving behind his usual guitar, Springsteen cast a surprisingly similar physical appearance to Bono as he grabbed the microphone, with The Edge audibly driving the music.
The concert was organised by the Bono-backed Red campaign to mark a decade since the United States dramatically ramped up support for fighting AIDS.
Former US president Bill Clinton, who explained that Bono asked him to address the concert, said that 2014 marked the first time that more people around the world received life-saving drugs than were newly diagnosed with HIV.
"Twenty-six years ago, we could never have had an event like this on World AIDS Day because to be diagnosed with AIDS was a death sentence," said Clinton, referring to the start of the annual commemoration.
"We are going to win this fight," Clinton said.
Clinton pointed to US anti-AIDS efforts as an example of cooperation across political lines. His successor George W. Bush spearheaded the so-called PEPFAR programme, which now supports anti-retroviral medication for 7.7 million people, in large part in sub-Saharan Africa.
Still, some 39 million people have died from HIV-related causes since the virus that leads to AIDS emerged in the 1980s.
The concert played a video message, released earlier in the day, from President Barack Obama who called for sustained efforts to fight HIV.
"We've got to stay focused and committed. Science is on our side, momentum is on our side. It's up to us to finish the job," Obama said.