Rainforest Fund benefit concert celebrates 25th anniversary with Sting and Trudie Styler, performances by Paul Simon, James Taylor, Stephen Stills...
Power-couple Trudie Styler and Sting led a star-packed line-up at the three-hour event held Thursday at New York's Carnegie Hall.
It's serious business trying to save the world's rainforests. But the annual Rainforest Fund benefit concert series meant to raise funds for the cause long ago learned the value of keeping things light.
For the 25th year, power-couple Trudie Styler and Sting led a star-packed line-up at Carnegie Hall - the latest of which included Paul Simon, James Taylor, Dionne Warwick, Stephen Stills, Renee Fleming and more.
At the three hour event, held Thursday, nary a twig of the rainforest was mentioned, outside a tidy speech at the mid-way point by Styler, outfitted in a chic white, floor-length gown.
The show set its preferred tone right away, with a rendition of the slosh classic "What A Swell Party," given jaunty new life by Sting, Kevin Spacey and James Taylor. (Taylor entered the stage with a lampshade on his head).
For those who don't know, actor Spacey has a long history as a mimic, as well as a singer. Or at least as a guy who mimics a singer. He proved that again with a wry Sinatra impersonation in "That's Life."
From there, the repertoire couldn't have been more happily chaotic. It almost seemed as if the organizers were engaged in some kind of contest to see how many genres they could jam into one night. The songs bounced from opera (Ms. Fleming on "O Mio Babbino Caro" and "La Ci Darem La Mano," aided by Sting) to jazz (Chris Botti on Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain") to township jive (Paul Simon on "Graceland").
Botti valorized Davis' piece, exagerating it flourishes to embrace its inspiration - flamenco - more conventionally. Sting showed surprising poise while working in Fleming's wheelhouse. He nailed the Italian lyric.
Sting pushed the bounderies further by bringing a wholly different art form to this musical event. He featured a pas-de-deux, from the decorative couple Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo, during a rendering of his own "When We Dance."
Every year, the Rainforest Fund organizes its music around a theme, such a Motown, the '80s, etc. This time, they threw things open with the vague term: classics - including the same number of them as the fund's current age.
The term certainly applied to Ms. Warwick's songs. She used what's left of her voice cannily in "Walk On By" and "Anyone Who Had A Heart." Warwick navigated the notes of the latter with particular invention, finding a new way to balance the song's chic with its ache.
Oscar Isaac, who sang the lead part for "Inside Llewyn Davis," offered a folk re-think on Rod Stewart's slick pop song "Young Turks." He sounded sweet, though few would consider this '80s hit a classic.
Stills served up a far truer cultural touchstone from his Buffalo Springfield days, "For What Its Worth." But he had to use lots of striking psychedelic guitar solos to make up for his scratchy vocals.
For a rock segment, Sting and Styler exercised their right to nepotism by hiring their sons Eliot and Joe Sumner to voice "Born To Be Wild" and "Smells Like Teen Spirit," respectively. The voices of both sons show the genes of the father, while Eliot seems to have gotten his dad's fine bone-structure as well.
Backup singer Lisa Fischer had the chance to realize the dream of "20 Feet From Stardom" by taking the lead on hits from her bosses, The Rolling Stones. She shouted mightily through "Start Me Up" and "Jumpin Jack Flash." Likewise, E Street Band support singer, Patti Scialfa shared a girl-group-influenced lead vocal with Sting on the soul standard "Stand By Me."
Simon repeated several songs from his recent co-headlining tour with Sting. They dueted on "The Boxer" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water." The night ended with an all-star sing-a-long on a classic that doubles as a piece of advice: "Love The One You're With." Its hooting crescendos nailed the event's ideal mood - joy.
(c) New York Daily News by Jim Farber
Bill Clinton Surprises Sting, Trudie Styler at "A Swell Party" for the Rainforest Fund 25th Anniversary...
When Bill Clinton walked on stage last night I don't know who looked more surprised, Sting or wife Trudie Styler. There was such uncertainty that Clinton would come, let alone give a talk to the star studded Carnegie Hall audience for the Rainforest Foundation's 25th anniversary, that he was never announced. And no mention of him was made all afternoon during rehearsals.
But Clinton did show up, just at the end of Act 1, in the break between Stephen Stills' two songs, and rocked the house. The place went wild as Clinton not only spoke about Sting and Trudie's dedication, but let Kevin Spacey do imitations of the former president at the mike with him. "Sometimes you can't tell who's talking," Clinton said. Then referring to Spacey's role as a vicious president elect on "House of Cards," Clinton marveled of Spacey's Frank Underwood, "He's president and a murderer."
Clinton was only one hit of amazing night produced by Styler and Sting. They put together an eclectic list of artists and came up big winners with Paul Simon, James Taylor, Stephen Stills, opera great Renee Fleming, Chris Botti, Dionne Warwick, Patti Scialfa, and Oscar Isaac from "Inside Llewyn Davis."
The Rainforest show began with Sting, James Taylor and Kevin Spacey, wittily commiserating and singing around a leather padded bar to "What a Swell Party" from "High Society."
And as usual the concert had a family element to it. Sting's son Joe Sumner delivered a more than credible "Smells Like Teen Spirit" with Narada Michael Walden's house band. Sting and Trudie's daughter Eliot (aka Coco) Sumner rocked a gravelly "Born to Be Wild." Famed backup singer Lisa Fischer (from "20 Feet to Stardom") and sensational Ivy Levan did a Rolling Stones medley of "Start Me Up" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash" that tore the paint off the ceiling of Carnegie Hall.
All of Sting's family was there: six kids, two grandchildren (including a 12 week old baby Chloe), sister Anita, loads of friends, loyal Rainforest concertgoers from the last quarter century, as well as pals like Rita Wilson, billionaires Ronald Perelman and Len Blavatnik, and Melanie Griffith - friends with Sting since their classic film "Stormy Monday" some 25 or more years ago.
Styler, looking stunning in a brilliant white gown, told the audience that in 25 years the Rainforest Foundation had raised an astounding $35 million to protect the rainforests of the world and their indigenous people. The foundation is easily the most consistent charitable organization started and run by celebrities with a cause ever. As Simon noted, charities that followed - like his Children's Health Fund - looked to the Rainforest Foundation as an example of how it's done.
There were some lovely turns: Dionne Warwick, a national treasure, found some notes we hadn't heard for a long time on "Walk on By" and "Anyone Who Had a Heart." Oscar Isaac, overdue for his own album, reinvented Rod Stewart's "Young Hearts" into a bluesy folk number. Patti Scialfa partnered with Sting on an irresistible "Stand by Me."
The show also gave Sting and Paul Simon to reprise their collaborations from last month's successful joint tour. Who knew that Sting's voice would be so well suited to Simon's songs. He breathes new life into "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "The Boxer," and "America." Simon added "Graceland" as a solo number.
Taylor contributed "Fire and Rain" and "How Sweet it Is" on his own. Stephen Stills, a newcomer to the Rainforest family, gave the group a couple of depth charges with "For What It's Worth" and and the Latin tinged "Amazonia. All the artists pitched in for a big finale on "Love the One You're With."
And what of Patti's husband, Bruce Springsteen? He came to rehearsals to cheer Patti on, but was in Nashville by 7pm to play a three hour, thirty minute show with the E Street Band. I am not kidding. I saw him at around 2:50pm leaving Carnegie Hall. Now I'm reading reviews of the Nashville show. Amazing.
(c) Showbiz 411 by Roger Friedman
Sting, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Kevin Spacey & More Croon & Clown at 2014 Rainforest Benefit...
Sting singing Italian opera? Kevin Spacey impersonating Bill Clinton -¦while standing next to Bill Clinton? Paul Simon cracking jokes like a stand-up comic? It could only happen at Sting's long-running Rainforest Benefit Concert, which marked 25 years of fundraising Thursday night at New York City's famed Carnegie Hall.
As usual, Sting and his wife Trudie Styler put together a star-studded cast of musicians to entertain the crowd. In addition to Sting himself, the lineup included Sting's recent tour mate Paul Simon, as well as James Taylor, Stephen Stills, Bruce Springsteen's wife and E Street Band member Patti Scialfa, Dionne Warwick, opera star Renee Fleming, trumpeter Chris Botti, Inside Llewyn Davis star Oscar Isaac, two of Sting's children and Spacey, who proved himself to be quite the entertainer all evening.
The night began with Sting, Spacey, and Taylor performing the Cole Porter classic "Well, Did You Evah!," an over-the-top comical music number from the movie High Society. Then, the tuxedo-clad Spacey offered up a spot-on imitation of Johnny Carson, before launching into a version of "That's Life," made famous by Frank Sinatra. Throughout the evening, Spacey also joined in on group numbers. However, he got the most laughs when Bill Clinton took the stage, and Spacey performed an uncanny impersonation of the former president while standing right next to him.
"When I was president, people accused me of murder all the time! Made a show of investigating it!" Clinton told the crowd, to much laughter. Then, referring to Spacey's character Frank Underwood on the hit Netflix series House of Cards, he added, "Spacey's president for 15 minutes, and he gets away with murder!"
The musical numbers ranged from opera - with Sting even joining Renee Fleming for an aria from Mozart's Don Giovanni - plus classic rock, classic pop and singer/songwriter classics. The biggest highlights were watching Sting team up with Paul Simon on some of Simon's most famous Simon & Garfunkel numbers, as they recently did on their joint tour. When Sting held the high note at the end of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," it brought down the house. Simon also cracked a string of jokes about the rainforest; the crowd roared while Sting just shook his head.
Over the 25 years that the Rainforest Foundation has been holding these benefit concerts, nearly $35 million has been raised to preserve and protect the world's rainforests, as well as the indigenous people who live there.
Here's a partial set list of the numbers performed Thursday night:
Sting, James Taylor, Kevin Spacey: "Well, Did You Evah!"
Spacey: "That's Life"
Renee Fleming: "O Mio Babbino Caro"
Fleming, Sting, Spacey: "La Ci Darem La Mano"
Taylor: "Fire and Rain"
Chris Botti: "Sketches of Spain"
Sting: "When We Dance"
Dionne Warwick: "Walk on By" and "Anyone Who Had a Heart"
Oscar Isaac: "Young Turks" (Rod Stewart cover)
Sting: "America" (Simon & Garfunkel)
Stephen Stills: "For What It's Worth"
Stephen Stills: "Amazonia"
Eliot Sumner (Sting's Daughter): "Born to Be Wild"
Joe Sumner (Sting' Son): "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
Sting & Patti Scialfa: "Stand By Me"
Taylor: "How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved By You)"
Paul Simon: "Graceland"
Sting & Paul Simon: "The Boxer" (Simon & Garfunkel)
Sting & Paul Simon: "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (Simon & Garfunkel)
Stills & Entire Company: "Love the One You're With"
(c) ABC News Radio