Selected Miscellaneous Shows

New York City, NY, US
Rainforest Benefit (Carnegie Hall)
Not too many wrong turns in this forest of stars...

Surrounded by ranches, mining boom towns and logging operations, the Brazilian rain forest gets smaller daily. That's why this sensitive global garden needs tending by powerful friends.

Last night at Carnegie Hall, those friends included rock giants Sting, Elton John, Don Henley, James Taylor, Diana Ross and a pride of classical music's most elite players. The musical variety seemed to be making the point that the destruction of this frail, South American ecosystem affects everyone from those who would have been happy for a night of amplified rock to those who'd have preferred nothing but the soaring cello of Mstislav Rostropovich and the golden flute of Andrea Griminelli.

Unlike last year's benefit concert - whose bill featured Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, and even Jon Bon Jovi along with opera great Jessye Norman - this year's fund-raiser was almost a 50-50 mix between the rockers and the long hairs. Still Maestro Rostropovich joked after his solo, "I'm 69 years old and this is the first time I played a rock show."

But the other side of the story is that during the first half of the show, Sting and company looked droopy eyed as if they were wondering what they were doing at a classical concert.

The only real fireworks in the early show were set off by Trudie Styler, who wore a black gown with a plunging neckline. The cut of the dress was daring enough to make hubby Sting forget most of his acknowledgement speech and conclude with I'd really like to thank Trudie for wearing that dress."

The after-intermission set was where rock fans in the house were rewarded. Sting opened by playing electric bass to the powerful vocals from the 45-member Radio Choir, Henley, Elton and Taylor - who were Mount Rushmore in the early concert - cam alive after that, actually allowing Sting's music to move them.

Yet nothing shattered their stone expressions like the antics of Robin Williams, who stepped out of the audience, unannounced, to hawk free Carnegie Hall programs. As usual when Williams was in the spotlight he became an insane kamikaze comic trashing everything from Mickey Mouse to the politically correct who'll only eat Kevorkian Chicken, because it kills itself before cooking.

The concert wisely kept the preaching to a minimum, focusing on the entertainers. Of the many highlights, Elton John made his biggest splash with 'Philadelphia Freedom'. Henley was excellent on 'Forgiveness' and Sting, backed by the big choir for 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free'.

The loose ends of the show were drawn together by Diana Ross, who recreated her early glory years by enlisting the big gun singers as honorary Supremes. Although the choreography was hardly synchronised, Taylor, E.J., Sting, Henley and even Williams donned tight black t-shirts and elbow-length, satin gloves for a convincing medley including 'Baby Love', 'Stop In The Name Of Love', and 'You Can't Hurry Love'.

This all-star, one-night stand raised more than $1 million dollars for the Rainforest Foundation.

(c) The New York Post by Dan Aquitalane

Admit it: in some small part of every living being burns a desire to play a Supreme...

That overarching fantasy came true for a slew of pop's biggest brand names at the seventh annual Rainforest Benefit at Carnegie Hall on Friday.

Sting, Don Henley, Elton John and James Taylor all donned elbow length silk gloves and shimmied their way to instant dreamgirlhood. At the side of a woman all the world must still address as Miss Ross. The frothy result helped extend the Rainforest show's reputation as the loosest benefit show around.While the effort to save the Brazilian forest has to rank as the ultimate tree-hugger cause, its corresponding show couldn't have been less smug. For the event's latest edition chief do-gooder Sting organised the show around two light musical themes - standards and pop spirituals.

Along the way, the three-hour extravaganza also worked in terse cameos from classical musicians (cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, flutist Andrea Griminelli), jazz players (Branford Marsalis, Kenny Kirkland) and a flamenco guitarist (Paco Pena) to create a kind of tony variety show.

For the show's first half, the classic-rock performers applied themselves to standards from the pre-rock era. In 'They Can't Take That Away From Me', James Taylor gave each note a bubbly sheen, while Sting indulged a flirty arrogance in his bop take on 'The Very Thought Of You'.

Don Henley lent a sinister edge to 'Come Rain Or Come Shine', pledging fidelity with as much threat as promise. By contrast, Elton John never sounded more romantic than on his stirring version of the 1963 Bacharach-David song 'Anyone Who Had A Heart'.

For singers normally constrained by the limitations of modern pop, the older, jazz-inflected numbers gave them a chance to show more chops. It also put them in touch with pop's latest trend, neo-lounge music.

Even the classical musicians took pains to keep things breezy. Flutist Griminelli offered an especially athletic take on Carmen. The piano-playing sister act of Marielle and Katia Labeque performed sprightly duets with Elton John and Sting on a pair of Stravinsky numbers (assigning the pop stars the easy bass parts).

To broaden things for the show's second half, 46 gospel singers took over the stage, lending special oomph to secular hymns like Sting's 'Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot' and Elton John's churchy 'Philadelphia Freedom'.

While the male stars exuded a sweet humility throughout, Miss Ross just had to do her patented star turn, twirling in a drop-dead cinnamon dress during numbers like 'Reach Out and Touch'. God love her.

Of course, for sheer star power nothing could match the final Supremes medley, during which even the classical and flamenco musicians jumped at the chance to impersonate pop's most chic backup singers. The result revealed something every culture and genre probably can agree on - an admiration for attitude.

(c) The New York Daily News by Jim Farber