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Jewish dental student plays with U2

Bono calls Ryan Luxenberg up on stage in Montreal, somehow spotting his small, handwritten sign

Renee Ghert-Zand is a reporter and feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Ryan Luxenberg (right) rocks out with U2 in Montreal on June 16, 2015. (Courtesy)
Ryan Luxenberg (right) rocks out with U2 in Montreal on June 16, 2015. (Courtesy)

Dental school student Ryan Luxenberg’s dream came true when Bono called him up on stage at Montreal’s Bell Center to play with him and the other members of U2.

A longtime fan of the internationally famous Irish rock band, Luxenberg went to the June 16 concert alone and stood close to the stage holding a small, handwritten sign saying, “Age 23. Can I play?” The sign caught the lead singer’s eye, and before Luxenberg knew it, he was up on stage playing The Edge’s guitar and belting out “Desire” with Bono.

Speaking to The Times of Israel a week after the event, Luxenberg, said he had no idea why Bono noticed his sign over the 20 or so other ones being held up by people standing in that area of the audience. However, when the singer called Luxenberg up, he didn’t stand around analyzing the situation—he just went.

“Bono asked me, ‘What do you play?’ and I answered, ‘Anything,'” he recalled.

Luxenberg, who has played guitar for the past decade and recently began singing lead vocals in some bands, exchanged a few more words with Bono and suggested the song, “Desire” from U2’s 1988 album “Rattle and Hum.”

Bono had The Edge (also known as David Evans) hand Luxenberg his electric guitar, and Bono gave his acoustic guitar to The Edge.

“It was a cool moment, I have to say,” the dental student said about playing The Edge’s guitar.

As Luxenberg readied himself to rock out in front of 22,000 U2 fans, Bono leaned in and said to him sternly, “Show me you can play it.”

Not only did Luxenberg play “Desire,” but he also sang the lyrics—with Bono briefly letting him take over completely.

Ryan Luxenberg (right) confers with Bono as The Edge stands to the left, Montreal, June 16, 2015. (Courtesy)
Ryan Luxenberg (right) confers with Bono as The Edge stands to the left, Montreal, June 16, 2015. (Courtesy)

Some people, noticing how calm and cool Luxenberg was on stage, assumed his performance was planned in advance. He insists it was not, and he is amazed himself at how he didn’t “flip out” while realizing a dream he has had since first discovering U2’s music as a pre-teen.

“We exchanged a few handshakes and hugs. It was a beautiful moment,” he said of his interaction with the band.

Photos and videos of Luxenberg’s five minutes of fame quickly made their way around social media, including being posted to a Facebook group for the participants of a Birthright Israel trip Luxenberg went on in 2012.

Luxenberg, who has visited Israel several times and has cousins in Carmiel in the northern part of the country, recalled how while on the Birthright trip, he got left at Masada when he went off to the bathroom and the rest of the group departed. He managed to hitch a ride with another Birthright bus, and everyone had a good laugh about it.

The other participants had not forgotten this funny incident. Last week, after the U2 concert, one of them posted, “I can’t believe we left this rockstar behind.”

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