Sunday, October 16, 2011

Concert Review: A Decade of Difference

The Clinton Foundation celebrated "A Decade of Difference" with a huge fundraising concert at the Hollywood Bowl (Oct 15, 2011). Celebrities still love Bill Clinton, and they were abundant on the stage to pay tribute to him on his 65th Birthday. Hilary and Chelsea were seated with him.

The show kicked off with a surprise set from Stevie Wonder! Good thing we were on time. Stevie and his band played "Overjoyed", "Superstitious", and "Signed, Sealed and Delivered." It was pretty amazing.

Celebrity presenters who introduced bands or clips about the foundation included Laura Ling (the journalist who was once jailed in North Korea), Jason Segal, Maria Bello, Ellen DeGeneres, Colin Farrell, and Ashton Kutcher.

Kenny Chesney played a few acoustic country tunes. Clinton later thanked him for making him not be the only person on stage that night with a Southern accent.

K'Nann was next up. I hadn't heard of him, but I found him really likable. He got the crowd going with a singalong for "Wavin' Flag" and Bono joined him on stage for a song. He grew up in Somalia and spoke about surviving the war there.

Then came Juanes, who I also didn't know anything about, but I dug his virtuoso guitar playing and rockin' tunes. Hailing from Colombia, he added to the global atmosphere.

The crowd got fired up for Usher. He opened with the Beatles' classic "With a Little Help from my Friends." He had his full band and back-up dancers. Everyone was on their feet for "Yeah" and "Caught Up." Even Hilary was gettin' down.


Many girls in strange outfits in the audience got on their feet to greet Lady Gaga. She and her piano were perched atop a strange treehouse-like structure. The atmosphere was electric as she played a slow version of "Born This Way" and then segued into the upbeat usual version, calling on a fleet of dancers and musicians.

She expressed sadness about Clarence Clemmons' death as she started to sing the song he played on - "The Edge of Glory" - and she suggested Bill come up on stage and play sax. I think we were all secretly hoping he would do that during some point in the evening, but no such luck.

Gaga was warm and entertaining and, of course, provocative. Fully blond, she said she was going to have a Marilyn moment, and I fully expected her to sing "Happy Birthday, Mr. President." Thankfully, she refrained. She did mention that we should all have "A Bill Romance" and then substituted that phrase into "Bad Romance." She flirted with both Bill and Hilary.

All out of breath from dancing, she panted through her own American Dream story, talking about being in a tiny apartment four years ago and dreaming that just one person would believe in her. I'm sure it sounds hokey, but after watching Gaga in the interview she gave at Google, I do think she's being genuine. I was impressed with her piano playing and singing, too. She whipped the crowd into a frenzy and President Clinton later quipped he thought Gaga might give him a heart attack.

After an intermission, they showed an amusing celeb-studded film about celebrities brainstorming for ideas for the foundation. Ben Stiller, Matt Damon, Sean Penn, Kristin Wiig, Ted Danson, Mary Steenbergen and Kevin Spacey were in the film.

Chelsea came out and gave a short tribute stating that her parents were her heroes, and she introduced President Clinton who talked a little about the foundation and thanked everyone who appeared that evening. I did cringe a bit when he jokingly referred to Laura Ling as "a girl I once picked up in North Korea." Some folks in the crowd began a chant of "Four More Years" while Clinton was speaking.

The show concluded with an acoustic set from Bono and The Edge. They kicked things off with "Desire" and then "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." Bono described them as one half of the band U2, and there was some amusing fumbling as The Edge had trouble finding the drum track for "A Man and A Woman" on his Mac. Before launching into "Sunday Bloody Sunday," they talked about how President Clinton had united Ireland and his other contributions toward greater world peace. They brought out a string section. Bono said rock n' roll was such a male-oriented universe, it was nice to occasionally hire a string section because string sections often include girls. They played "Staring at the Sun", "One" (with a snippet of "Happy Birthday") and closed with "Miss Sarajevo" in which Bono did an admirable job with Pavarotti's opera solo.

It was a magical evening at the Bowl!

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