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”
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