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Sean Kirst: Fan rethinks her moment with U2 in Buffalo in wake of Vegas massacre

The plan, only last week, was to write this column as a light piece, a morning smile. The goal was to spotlight how an ordinary person, in this case a woman known only as "Silvia" to about 45,000 of us in a crowded stadium, could put on a cardboard birthday tiara and sash from Party City in Blasdell and for a few burning minutes ascend to local legend.

Finding Silvia Rigote, who works as a dental assistant in Los Angeles, required a little work and a little luck. Things came together and we finally made the connection, and she told me the story with sheer delight. It was about warmth and communion, the way a shared love for a band can draw together tens of thousands into a fleeting and magical one-night kinship.

A few days ago, that seemed like a matter of fact.

In the aftermath of a mass killing during a Jason Aldean concert, it seems more like a prayer.

"My heart is broken in a million pieces now," wrote Rigote, a dentist in Brazil who is working toward her dentistry license in California.

At the U2 show at New Era Field in Orchard Park, she turned into both an unexpected celebrity and a quiet mystery when Bono, the band's lead singer, chose her from the crowd and then danced with her on stage. In storybook fashion, she lost her shoes as security guards helped her climb over the rail.

After the concert, she seemed to disappear – but only because she had to be at work the next day, in California.

Silvia Rigote, on stage with Bono during U2 concert in Buffalo. (Photo courtesy Silvia Rigote)

Rigote, as you might expect, is a passionate fan of the Irish supergroup. She and her husband, Ken Lund, traveled here for last month's U2 concert at New Era Field, after attending another U2 performance in Detroit.

Before the show, she connected with some fellow U2 loyalists brought together by social media and a love for the band, including Michele Monfuletho of Buffalo. Monfuletho had never met Rigote before mutual friends introduced them. She joined in a quick excursion to Party City to buy the tiara and sash as a gift for Rigote's 37th birthday, a lighthearted decision that had a more profound result:

It is almost certainly why Rigote ended up on stage.

The lingering, astonished joy about that moment has been overwhelmed by the bloodshed at the Aldean show. Thursday, there were reports that Stephen Paddock, the gunman in Las Vegas, had also booked rooms at last August's Lollapalooza festival in Chicago, rooms that offered a clear view of the stage.

"How do you wrap your head around this?" said Monfuletho, a technical recruiter in Buffalo.

She recalled how their little group arrived early in the morning at New Era Field, on the day of the U2 show. They waited in line for hours for the opportunity to stand by the rail, by the main stage. They staked out their spots and were ready when the band appeared, to the rapture of the crowd.

What they could not anticipate was how Bono – singer and frontman for U2 – would notice Rigote's sash and "birthday girl" tiara and do the unimaginable.

He brought her on stage to dance with him as the band performed "Mysterious Ways." He handed her a camera and asked her to film other members of U2 as they performed.

Rigote lives to go to concerts. It is her passion. She has seen U2 more than 50 times.

Yet she had never experienced anything like this.

In a telephone interview before the mass murder in Las Vegas, she described the shared joy that always brings her back to outdoor concerts, the sense of communion generated by so many wildly different people – strangers no longer – who gather for one reason.

The killings in LasVegas  were a frontal assault on that idea. This week, corresponding digitally from Brazil, she recognized a harsh truth, the ultimate empathy, in the bloodshed at the Aldean concert.

In the random savagery, on any night in any town, the dead and wounded could have been any of us.

As for her moment at New Era Field, she said she had met Bono, briefly, a few times over the years. He once brought her and some friends onto stage when they showed up for a concert dressed as the Village People.

What happened in Buffalo transcended it all. There was a sea of people at Bono's feet. The way he saw her glittering cardboard crown and then put her in the spotlight remains both surreal and testimony to the notion of communion.

Afterward, "people were chanting my name and screaming it, and so many people were hugging me and I got so much love," she said.

Still, the life of a fan remains the life of a real person. By the next day, Rigote was back at work in Los Angeles.

This week has left her staggered. The loss of almost 60 people – the kind of men and women who surround her at any show – makes her sick. Her sadness was amplified a day later by the death of Tom Petty, a performer she'd watched put on a high energy show only last month, in Los Angeles.

She wrote of how she feels "less safe" and about her concern at the killer's access to such guns and weaponry. In Buffalo, Monfuletho hopes that Rigote's moment on stage with Bono – an instant of high communion between a performer and an outdoor audience – isn't someday remembered as a kind of farewell to a more innocent era.

For all those reasons, Rigote promises to be in the crowd this month in Brazil, when U2 plays in Sao Paulo. She believes it is the only choice. She prefers to think the joy she felt in the crowd on that night in Orchard Park will still persevere, overcoming even madness.

"This cannot become a world," Rigote wrote, "where people are mainly driven by fear."

Sean Kirst is a columnist with The Buffalo News. Email him at skirst@buffnews.com or read more of his work in this archive.

 

 

 

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