Sting, Brian Wilson Rock a Family Affair at Carnegie Hall for Rainforest Benefit...
Over the last 15 years, Sting and his wife Trudie Styler have hosted a bi-annual charity concert at New York's Carnegie Hall to celebrate the Rainforest Foundation Fund, which the two founded in 1989 to preserve rainforests and its inhabitants around the world. Last night's show featured many familiar faces, including James Taylor and Billy Joel, who've performed at the concert many times. But this year's spectacular gala also featured some welcome surprise guests, including Joel's daughter (Alexa Ray), Taylor's kids (Ben and Sally), Sting's daughter (Coco Sumner), Clarence Clemons, singer-songwriter Feist and Brian Wilson.
The first portion of the evening was surprisingly relaxed given the elegant environment of Carnegie Hall. Sting, Taylor, Joel and all their children - including a barefoot Ben Taylor - joined together for a faithful cover of the Byrds' 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' The evening featured many casual family duets: Joel and Alexa turned out a cabaret-influenced version of 'Baby Grand' while the Taylors teamed up for the meditative ballad 'You Can Close Your Eyes'. Coco Sumner, however, showed off her immense, smoky voice with a sultry performance of her own tune called 'Bohemian Love'. Other highlights of the first set included Feist - backed by a 34-piece orchestra - nailing a perfect version of her hit song '1234' as well as a set-closing Mardi Gras-style performance of 'When the Saints Go Marching In', which concluded with all the participants parading through the aisles.
Things heated up for the second portion of the concert. While the crew set up the stage for Brian Wilson, Sting and Dustin Hoffman filled in by performing a Hoffman-penned ballad called 'Shoot the Breeze'. The show really took off for the Beach Boys mastermind's excellent performance: Wilson - dressed casually in a cool blue-and-white-striped rugby shirt and jeans - performed serotonin-inducing classics like 'God Only Knows', 'Help Me Rhonda' and 'Do You Wanna Dance', which featured some crazy psychedelic light shows. 'Good Vibrations', which featured the entire night's all-star lineup, capped the set.
So what did the performers think of the event? "It was very emotional," Sting told Rolling Stone after the show. "Coco was amazing. Alexa and the Taylors were fantastic. It's evolution at work. And they're better than we are."
(c) Rolling Stone by Kevin O'Donnell
Sting and Pals 'Rain' Over NYC...
It was a family affair last night at Carnegie Hall for the annual Rainforest Foundation concert.
The audience that's followed Sting and Trudie Styler's commitment to saving indigenous peoples of the world for the past two decades also got to see how the performers' families have grown up.
Not only did Sting, Billy Joel, and James Taylor perform, but so did their kids: 17-year-old Coco Sumner, 22-year-old Alexa Ray Joel and thirtysomethings Ben and Sally Taylor (whose mom is Carly Simon).
There was also a second-act centerpiece tribute to the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson, with eight of his classic songs like 'Good Vibrations' and 'Help Me Rhonda'. The songs are beautifully executed while Wilson - whose life history of mental problems has been well chronicled - occasionally joins in on vocals. The material is vibrant and strong, which is rather a nice tribute to him after 40-plus years.
Also on the bill was opera great Kathleen Battle. The show was so jam-packed that a planned set with Lovin' Spoonful founder John Sebastian had to be scrapped at the last minute. He'll be back next time, however.
There were several transcendent moments, including a surprise performance by Sting singing a song written by actor Dustin Hoffman, who accompanied him on piano. The two-time Oscar winner turns out to be an accomplished musician; he could build a whole cabaret act as a second career.
The night, produced by superstar producer Narada Michael Walden, had an eclectic but warm feel with so many family members coming and going. Sting and Billy Joel pulled off a well-executed 'Strawberry Fields Forever' as a rare duet, and Sting showed off his R&B chops on 'Some Kind of Wonderful', the Soul Brothers Six hit from the '60s that was later recorded by Grand Funk Railroad and Buddy Guy.
On the solo front, Billy gave the audience his Drifters-inspired 'An Innocent Man', with soaring vocals and finger snaps, while Sting - who's been on tour with the Police for a year - recovered his solo career with the charming, melodic 'Englishman in New York'. He told me later he'd been so involved with Police business, "I almost forgot how to do it."
But the kids stole the show - remember the adage never work with kids or pets? Well, that was proven out as Billy and Alexa performed on stage together for the first time ever, doing a vampy version of Billy's Ray Charles-inspired 'Baby Grand'. Alexa, who's been touring the Northeast for the last couple of years, has really matured as a performer. She's ready for the big career that was already apparent a couple of years ago.
Ben and Sally Taylor are already accomplished musicians, with indie albums out and a song each on Carly Simon's new album, 'This Kind of Love'. Sally, though, was especially a trouper since the new mom came on crutches - she broke her leg a month ago while skiing in Colorado. Still, looking lovely in a black full-length gown, she showed off her singing genes with an original song that could easily stand with those of her parents.
But still, the show stealer of the night was Coco Sumner, Trudie and Sting's 17-year-old daughter. With a husky voice that reminds of her father but is original, Coco confidently sang one of her own tunes and accompanied herself on guitar.
The long-legged brunette - whose older brother Joe already fronts his own rock group, Fiction Plane - wowed the crowd including a cheering section of siblings including sisters Kate and Mickey, and film-student brother Jake.
Backstage all the parents were beaming over their kids, including Alexa Ray's mom, Christie Brinkley, who was in the audience along with Billy's current wife, Katie Lee Joel. Just to make things fair, since Billy got to sing with Alexa, Christie was awarded "custody" for the swanky post-concert dinner at the Plaza Hotel. That's what you call a modern stepfamily!
Even though a nasty piece earlier this week in the New York Post tried to rain on the foundation's parade, the evening probably raised another couple of million dollars that will be doled out over next couple of years in Third World countries. Some of the auction items at the Plaza dinner that fetched big bucks included staying for a week at Sting and Styler's Tuscan villa, and getting up close and personal with Bruce Springsteen at his upcoming Meadowlands concert.
For Styler, especially, the continued success of the foundation is some kind of wonderful accomplishment. She spent several days last week in Ecuador - her fifth trip in a year - working with the U.N. on an irrigation project to bring that parched country clean drinking water. I think the rest of us were at the movies or something. It's to be applauded. Loudly.
(c) FoxNews.com by Roger Friedman
Brian Wilson highlights 'Rainforest' concert benefit...
The sun-kissed beaches of California may lie thousands of miles from the soaking foliage of the rainforest. But that didn't stop a kick line of boomer-aged pop icons from saluting classic L.A. music at a show meant to help save that eroding Brazilian expanse.
At the twentieth anniversary "Rainforest" show, held at Carnegie Hall Thursday night, the usual star suspects - Sting, Billy Joel and James Taylor - turned out to croon. But the evening found a clear highlight in a section devoted to the summery West Coast music of guest star Brian Wilson.
Coming towards the close of this long, slow, and often aimless night, Wilson provided some needed animation and helped redeem much of what came before.
The snaking lead-up included stretches of classical music and jazz as well as pop. To make things even more diffuse, the first half of the show featured its own self-contained theme - "Legacy," by which it seemed they meant "nepotism."
The headlining stars brought along their musical offspring, for what worked like a large scale example of showing off your kid's baby pictures. The second generation participants included Coco Sumner (sired by Sting), Alexa Rae Joel, plus Ben and Sally Taylor (spawn of James Taylor and Carly Simon). If nothing else, their presence added an extra layer of hominess to this always casual affair.
Among the kids, Sumner showed the most promise. Her vocals have the itchy intonations and husky tone of her dad, but she has a deep range and dark timbre of her own. She impressed mightily on her solo song "Bohemian Love."
The other well-connected singers had more decorative talents, providing competent harmonies and little else.
In between these performances, the hit-making parents cruised distractedly through some touchstones, like 'Carolina On My Mind', from Taylor, 'Englishman In New York', from Sting, and 'An Innocent Man',from Joel.
To underscore the "Legacy" theme, the show opened with the whole cast sweetly signing the ultimate song of generations changing hands, 'Turn, Turn, Turn'. The set ended less happily with a take on the irredeemably corny 'Teach Your Children'.
Not content to leave it at that, the cast then snaked through the audience while hacking out an interminable version of 'When The Saints Go Marching In'.
After a break, we heard tasteful performances from Chris Botti and opera star Kathleen Battle, who stepped in at the last minute to salute the late Pavarotti (an old Rain Forest friend).
But the show didn't kick into high gear until Wilson and his band came out to bat out 8 undying hits. From the sumptuous chords of 'God Only Knows' (with Sting taking some verses) to the creamy pep of 'Fun Fun Fun' (with James Taylor adding his own touches), Wilson's songs provided a model of complex harmonics spun into blissful pop. You could make fun of the middle-aged stars twisting along to these songs like drunken uncles at the wedding. Or you could carp about the tossed-off feel of the rest of the night. But hey, it's a benefit show meant to generate good will and big bucks not to floor you with inspiration. And at those modest goals, it succeeded.
(c) NY Daily News by Jim Farber