NEW YORK — Near the end of the first half of Thursday’s 25th Anniversary Rain Forest benefit concert at Carnegie Hall, chairwoman Trudie Styler introduced a man who recently learned he was going to be a grandfather, and out came former President Bill Clinton.
After Clinton praised the Rain Forest Foundation, he thanked Sting, Styler and others for their efforts for the organization. Then, he acknowledged Kevin Spacey.
“I know Kevin Spacey made fun of me earlier,” he told the crowd.
Clinton was referring to Spacey doing an imitation of him praising his Netflix series, “House of Cards,” where the actor plays the president of the United States. Spacey walked on stage and greeted Clinton.
The former president told the actor he always wanted to be in his line of work.
But then, he quipped to hearty laughs: “Now, damn it, you’re in mine.”
Clinton continued poking fun at Spacey.
“I was always accused of getting away with murder, but Spacey actually does it in 15 minutes,” Clinton said, referring to a scene in the first episode of the second season.
Earlier in the day, Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, announced she and husband Marc Mezvinsky are expecting their first child later this year.
As for the benefit concert, the exception often became the rule with performers leaving their comfort zone to entertain the audience.
The show opened with Sting and Spacey sitting at a bar performing a duet of Cole Porter’s “Well Did You Evah (What a Swell Party This Is),” backed by a huge orchestra. They eventually were joined by James Taylor, who entered the stage wearing a lampshade on his head.
At the end of the number, Sting welcomed everyone and introduced Spacey as President Underwood, his “House of Cards” character.
After opera singer Renee Fleming did her first selection early in the show, she requested a partner to accompany her on an excerpt from “Don Giovanni,” and out came Sting. After accompanying her seamlessly in Italian, Spacey walked out with a giant daffodil in his mouth and joined in.
Actor Oscar Isaac of “Inside Llewyn Davis” performed a solo acoustic version of Rod Stewart’s “Young Turks.” And Sting’s oldest son, Joe, covered Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
Some stayed in their comfort zone.
Taylor performed his signature hit, “Fire and Rain,” and later covered the Holland-Dozier-Holland classic “How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved by You.)”
Paul Simon did a couple of his own songs, including “Graceland” and “The Boxer,” and Dionne Warwick covered some of the Burt Bacharach tunes she helped make famous, including “Walk on By.” Stephen Stills brought the crowd to its feet several times with raucous versions of “For What It’s Worth” and the finale for the nearly three-hour show, “Love the One You’re With,” where he was joined by all of the evening’s performers.
The Rain Forest Foundation Fund is dedicated to preserving rain forests around the world by defending the rights of indigenous people living in and around them. It was founded in 1989 by Sting, Styler and Jean-Pierre Dutilleux.
In her speech, Styler spoke of the global importance of protecting rain forests around the world, and said that she and Sting no longer mind being described as “Tree-hugging tantric yogis.”
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