Springsteen, Chris Martin, U2 rock World Aids Day concert

The two filled in for U2's Bono who was injured during a cycling accident.

US singer Bruce Springsteen. Picture: EPA.

NEW YORK - Bruce Springsteen and Coldplay's Chris Martin filled in for U2's injured lead singer Bono on Monday evening and rocked a surprise World Aids Day concert in New York's Times Square with the Irish rock group.

They joined other U2 members, Adam Clayton, The Edge and Larry Mullen Jr., to perform the group's songs as crowds packed the centre of Manhattan bundled in coats and hats and huddled under umbrellas as rain fell.

Former President Bill Clinton, opening the concert, said he received an email from Bono, who is recuperating in Ireland from a cycling accident in New York last month, asking Clinton to do the introduction.

"This year for the first time ever, more people were put on life-saving medicine than were diagnosed with AIDS," Clinton told the cheering crowd.

"We can end Aids but we all have to do our part," he added.

Martin pranced on the plastic covered stage in the heart of Manhattan and kicked off the concert with U2 with the song Beautiful Day as the crowd raised smartphones to record the moment, followed by With or Without You from the group's album, The Joshua Tree.

Messages about the Aids pandemic that began more than 30 years ago were broadcast to the crowd between sets. United Nations data show that in 2013, 35 million people were living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes Aids, 2.1 million people were newly infected with the virus and some 1.5 million people had died of Aids.

Singer Carrie Underwood sang two songs, followed by rapper Kanye West, performing a set to the delight of the crowd, before U2 returned with Springsteen, who led the group with Where The Streets Have No Name.

Bono, who has lobbied for a variety of causes including debt relief, world poverty and Aids, earlier on Monday said on the group's website that this year was a World Aids Day like no other because 13 million people have access to life-saving drugs, up from 300,000 just over 10 year ago.

The Irish rocker was hurt while cycling in New York's Central Park. He sustained injuries to his face, shoulder blade and arm, which required hours of surgery.

Three metal plates and 18 screws were needed to repair the bone in his upper arm. He will have intensive therapy but is expected to make a full recovery.