U2 Vertigo Tour
Vertigo Tour 3rd leg: North America
: American Airlines Center - Dallas, Texas, USA
UT student struck a chord with Bono at U2's AAC concert(published on 2005-10-31)
By STEPHEN BECKER / The Dallas Morning News
Playing quarterback for your favorite team. Rocking out with your favorite band. These are the dreams that fill a teenage boy's heart.
Of course, most boys don't think they'll ever actually realize those fantasies. But as 19-year-old Sunjay Devarajan strapped on a guitar next to Bono, The Edge and the rest of U2 on Saturday night in front of 20,000 screaming fans at American Airlines Center, his teen dream took life right before his eyes.
"This is like a Make-a-Wish Foundation kind of dream," said Arlington native Sunjay, a day after Bono plucked him from the crowd to play the band's "Angel of Harlem." "I'm just so thrilled that they gave me that opportunity. That they were adventurous enough to actually pick somebody that they had no idea who he was from the audience and have him play guitar."
The dream started simply enough. Sunjay's older brother, Vijay, 23, had traveled to Chicago to see the band in May and got the idea after a woman was pulled from the crowd to attempt what he recalls was a rather unsuccessful version of the obscure "Party Girl." Vijay knew that his brother could play a handful of U2 songs, and after the pair and their sister, Veena, finally bought tickets to the Dallas show on eBay, the idea was hatched.
After traveling from Austin, where Sunjay, a pre-med student at the University of Texas, and Vijay live, they headed with their sister and some other friends to AAC at 10 a.m., hoping to get as close to the stage as they could. While waiting in line, they concocted a sign that Sunjay feels was the key to his success.
The sign, written in red ink on yellow poster board, simply said, "Angel of Harlem" on it with the progression of guitar chords in the song and a note saying, "In case you forgot," since the band had yet to play the song on this tour. During the first encore, Bono peered from the stage at Sunjay and asked, "Do you know how to play it?" To which Sunjay says he screamed back, "Yeah! Yeah, I can play it!"
A few minutes later, he was summoned to the stage, and a guitar tech was handing him an instrument.
"They were kind of hesitant to bring a person onstage who claimed to play the guitar. They didn't want someone screwing it up," Sunjay said, noting that the singer was checking his guitar strap to make sure it was on right and that he had to borrow a pick from The Edge.
"Bono was just sort of joking around. He was like, 'You've never done this before, have you?' And I said, 'Um, no, I've never done this before.' "
As his kid brother was about to begin, Vijay looked on in awe from the floor, hoping for the best.
"I was thinking, 'Ooh – that first chord is going to be crucial,' " Vijay said. "But then I was like, 'Wow.' He was so comfortable up there, just jamming and grooving."
And then they were off. The Edge played the intro, Bono came in with the familiar, "It was a cold and wet December day/When we touched the ground at JFK..." and Sunjay was playing right along with them.
"Once we started, I felt so much encouragement from the band. They were all smiling. I looked at each one of them. I had Bono on my left. He's smiling singing the first words to the song. I turned to my right and Edge, who's one of my inspirations, is sitting there smiling and playing with me. Adam Clayton is jamming with his bass, and Larry Mullen is having a great time. So I just felt this encouragement from the band, and that really allowed me to ease up and I really didn't feel frightened after that."
Sunjay says that Bono noticed him singing the words as he was playing and motioned for him to come up and share the mike with him during the next chorus. What followed was a scene many rock fans had seen from the greats: Paul and John, Mick and Keith. And now Bono and Sunjay.
"It almost seemed natural in the beginning. And once I finished it really hit me," Sunjay said. "And that's when I got on my knees and was doing the we're-not-worthy bow. Because, I'm not worthy. Let's get real here. I am not worthy of that."
As the song came to a close, following Sunjay's solo singing turn on the last chorus no less, there was just one last part of the mission to complete: Snag Bono's signature wrap-around shades to fulfill a promise he had made to his brother.
So after receiving a congratulatory hug from the singer, Sunjay asked him if he'd make the trade, which the singer obliged. Sunjay walked off with Bono's rose-tinted Armanis; Bono donned Sunjay's Eckerd sunglasses.
A perfect end to a perfect night. And a dream come true.
Often plagiarised, never matched.