VATICAN CITY • The Edge, lead guitarist with the Irish band U2, has made history by becoming the first rock star to play in the Sistine Chapel, which he says is "the most beautiful parish hall in the world".
The 54-year-old sang four songs on Saturday night for about 200 doctors, researchers and philanthropists who attended a conference at the Vatican on regenerative medicine called Cellular Horizons.
Backed by a choir of seven Irish teenagers and wearing his trademark black beanie cap, he played acoustic guitar and sang a cover of Leonard Cohen's If It Be Your Will and versions of U2 songs Yahweh, Ordinary Love and Walk On.
The Edge, whose father died last month from cancer and whose daughter overcame leukaemia, is on the board of foundations working for cancer prevention. He joked with his audience, telling them he was stunned when asked to play in the chapel which was painted by Renaissance master Michelangelo.
"When they asked me if I wanted to become the first contemporary artist to play in the Sistine Chapel, I didn't know what to say because usually there's this other guy who sings," the musician said, referring to U2 frontman Bono.
He dedicated his performance of Walk On, written in 2000 for Myanmar democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi when she was under house arrest, to Pope Francis, who he described as "the people's pope".
"He's doing an amazing job and long may he continue," he added.
The rocker sprinkled his address with technical terms such as bio- markers and angiogenesis. "I can tell this is a really cool audience because normally when I say angiogenesis eyes glaze over," he said.
Angiogenesis is the process through which new blood vessels, which tumours need to grow, are formed. Scientists are seeking ways to block tumour angiogenesis.
The Vatican conference, which was addressed by United States Vice-President Joe Biden last Friday, was organised by the US-based Stem For Life Foundation to share ideas and treatments on the use of adult stem cells to cure rare diseases.