Was it a legitimate rock-star sighting? A shared hallucination? A Record Store Day miracle?
Last weekend, rumors persisted that Paul David Hewson—Bono if you're nasty—had been spotted on the streets of Portland. A friend of a friend of mine reported seeing him at the airport, then someone called the WW office, wondering if we had any information on why the U2 singer would be in town. Unlike our current celebrity in residence, Elijah Wood, there was no obvious reason—unless he wanted to catch the Paul McCartney show at Moda Center, which seems vaguely possible but not really probable—and there wasn't a whole lot to go by online, so it seemed like a simple case of mistaken identity. Because, y'know, all short, middle-aged Irishmen look the same when wearing tinted sunglasses.
But Justin Harper swears it was him. Harper was working at Exiled Records, a tiny vinyl shop on Southeast Hawthorne, on Record Store Day last Saturday, when two guys walked in—one tall with dark hair, the other shorter with reddish hair, an earring and "some funny sunglasses with a starthingy on the sides."
"I didn't give it much of a thought when they first walked in," Harper says over the phone. But then the "shorter guy" started to look familiar. "I asked, 'Are you in a band?' He said, 'Uh, yeah,'" revealing an Irish accent. I asked, 'Are you in U2?' And he's like, 'I play U2 songs sometimes.'" At that point, other customers milling about began to take notice. The "bigger guy" then suggested they leave, and they walked out. "I should've asked him for ID," Harper says.
A weird incident, to be sure, but you know what they say: pics or it didn't happen. But then there's this photo, from Facebook, allegedly taken at Saturday Market:
At a glance, that certainly looks like the world's most famous iPhone spammer. But if you compare it to certifiable photos of him recently, it doesn't quite match up. His hair appears thinner and lighter in color. Plus, those shades are pretty gaudy, even for him. Compare it to this clip of Bono from a week ago, testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee, because, well, that's just the kind of thing Bono does from time to time:
Then again, that clip does prove that Bono was in the states last week. He's not unfamiliar with our city, after all: Way back in the early years of U2, a briefcase containing lyrics for the band's as-yet-unrecorded second album went missing at a gig here. Maybe it is possible that he flew to the West Coast to see McCartney, then stuck around town for a few days. Adding another wrinkle to this whole thing: At the McCartney show on Friday, I was sitting next to a truck driver who works for a company that hauls equipment for big arena tours, and he told me that Macca's guitar tech is Bono's cousin, who he befriended while driving for U2 a decade ago.
Then again, there is a weird cottage industry of Bono impersonators out there. And anyway, wouldn't it be great if there was some impostor going around town, posing for photos and intimating to record store clerks that he's a rock legend, just to confuse everyone? If you ask me, that'd be…even better than the real thing. Hit it, Edge!