By Paris Spence-Lang
VANCOUVER – In 2015, Patrick Stark walked up to a table in Chambar to pose a special request. The patrons were U2. The request? “I’d like to join you on stage.”
That moment was the result of a 30-year journey of self-discovery and singing lessons, the last six of which Patrick had documented in his film One Life No Regrets. A severe case of stage-fright had haunted him his whole life, and the film was his effort to overcome that phobia in the grandest way possible—by singing in front of 18,000 people with his favourite band.
That band listened as Patrick wrapped up his pitch. “Sure,” Bono said, probably with a Gaelic twinkle in his eye. “What are you doing on Friday?”
But the dream was never realized. B.B. King, a close friend and collaborator of the band, passed away, and Patrick’s moment was replaced with a tribute to the blues legend.
Two years later, U2 is back in town—playing for 50,000 now—and Patrick hasn’t given up. With his luck, how could he? Since he innocently started the film—and the journey that came with it—by jamming with session musicians over six years ago, Patrick’s pursuit of the ultimate vocal performance has become a metaphor. The film is now something bigger, a documentation of the deep spiritual journey that comes from overcoming challenges, living in the moment, and grabbing the microphone every chance you get.
It’s almost impossible not to wonder if some guiding force is backing Patrick on this one. At one point he even reached out to spiritual leader Eckhart Tolle to see if he’d be willing to do an interview. The assistant to the assistant (to the assistant) of Tolle reached out to him with a heartfelt no. Weeks later, Patrick pulled up to a red light and looked out his window—the guru was driving the car next to him. Patrick rolled down his window, and Tolle agreed to be in the film.
But why does it have to be U2? Even that is rooted in something deeper than the music.
“The Joshua Tree brings up so many special memories for me,” Patrick says. “Back in 1987, U2 had just released The Joshua Tree, but it wasn’t yet available in my hometown of Dawson Creek. When my dad and I made an 800-mile trek from there to Vancouver, I bought a copy. It was my last road trip with my father, and that album became its soundtrack.”
Patrick then cut his teeth singing that and other U2 albums over and over again in his car—one of two spaces he deemed safe enough to sing in. “I didn’t hear my singing voice until I had a car—so 16. I also started singing in the shower when I knew everyone was out, but when I got married I had to stop doing that.”
This isn’t just a pipe-dream of a mega-fan. Since his journey began in that first jam session, Patrick sings every chance he gets. His biggest performance to date was with Trooper in front of 7,000 people.
Still, Patrick knows it’s a long shot. At one point, U2 producer Steve Lillywhite called to tell him he should give up and that it was never going to happen. Patrick, a true documentarian, immediately asked if he’d be willing to humiliate him once more, but on camera this time.
Patrick’s infectious spirit pulled Lillywhite into the film, as it has for so many other musicians, producers, and music lovers. And regardless of whether that final cut of him on-stage with Bono will find its way into theaters, the journey has been an incredible one. Thanks to the film, Patrick truly has no regrets.
It’s a few days before the concert, and Patrick messages me. “Can you meet me downtown?”
I see him jogging out of the lounge of the Sutton 20 minutes later. “What size shirt are you?” He’s gone for a minute and comes back with my own One Life No Regrets t-shirt, the tag already removed. Patrick is in his zone.
Why so excited? He leans in and smiles: “U2 has landed.”
Singing with U2 in front of 50,000 people would be enough to jazz anyone up, but it’s not locked down yet. “Still silence,” he tells me. “These stories are our only communication with the band.” Maybe it’s time for Patrick to start eating out again—a run-in with the band in the Hawksworth certainly would help his cause.
But things are different this time around. Momentum is on Patrick’s side, as is, perhaps, some hidden force of the universe, pushing things silently along like a good producer. Will it be enough? Only Bono can tell. Until then, Patrick will keep moving, keep singing, and keep living. He only has, after all, One life.
Stay tuned to Twitter to see if Patrick succeeds when U2 plays Rogers May 12.Bono, concert, documentary, Eckhart Tolle, Joshua tree, live, One Life No Regrets, Patrick Stark, Rogers Arena, stage fright, U2, Vancouver, vocalist