The occasion was Sting's annual Rainforest Foundation benefit at Carnegie Hall where, as in the past, it was an "anything goes" event (in 1999, for example, Bill Murray took part in the finale performance of a Frank Sinatra song). To drive home this point, before the powerhouse lineup took on the famous '80s power-pop ballad, Springsteen also sang a reworked cover of the Bryan Adams' hit "Cuts Like a Knife."
The amateur video of the performance has been going viral on the Internet, which proves it's a spectacle that many can't seem to turn away from.
But, as a quasi-karaoke performance, how did these music heavyweights do? Let's break it down.
Some Will Win
Lady Gaga, for all her over-the-top glamour, seemed to be sincerely enjoying her performance — despite that the former Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta was four years from being born at the time the song was released. For Lady Gaga, this performance may have been a rite of passage. Think abut it: It's not just anyone who gets to share the stage with Sting, Springsteen, and Elton John. Her inclusion is a win-win for this performance. She earns some needed music-community credibility; the others, who certainly don't need her and have been at this for four decades, can enjoy her current relevance. Put it this way: Without Gaga on stage, this video is still cool, but this article doesn't exist. Plus, she really rocks those quasi-stilt shoes. Grade: B+
They don't call Bruce Springsteen "The Boss" for no reason — and this video proves it. Springsteen never half-asses a performance, and this is no exception. He plays the heck out of this song as if he just broke into the fan favorite "Badlands." Also, as you watch the video, this rendition — as sloppily awesome as it already is — would completely fall apart without Bruce. All the others onstage are looking to him for their cues; all the while, Springsteen keeps the rhythm on his classic Fender guitar. To show the appreciation everyone on stage must have felt, Sting's wife, Trudie Styler, lays a big wet kiss on Bruce near the end. Grade: A
Elton John sings this song with enough passion that you think at any moment he's going to break into "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters." Needless to say, Elton is totally into it. That is, until, very incongruously, a group of barely clothed male dancers appear onstage and John seems, um, distracted for that part of the song. He later regroups and finishes it off with a battle for the mic with Gaga. Grade: A-
Some Will Lose
It's Sting's event, and this was probably Sting's idea — too bad Sting wasn't a little more into this. Sure, not every song can be as highbrow as, say, "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da," but a tad more effort would have been appreciated. Also, perhaps there was a hint of jealousy when Mrs. Sting sought out Springsteen. Then again, chances are she gets to duet "Synchronicity II" with Sting every night of the week. This was her one chance with The Boss. Grade: B-
Poor Debbie Harry. They didn't really give her much to do up there. Of course, she could have been thinking, "Wait, if we have to sing a karaoke song, why can't we just sing my very own 'One Way or Another'"? This really seems like a missed opportunity. Considering her lack of involvement, the chances seemed ideal for her to break into that Fab Five Freddy rap from "Rapture. "Alas, it was not meant to be. Grade: C
Some Were Born To Sing The Blues
Dame Shirley Bassey had the look on her face of someone intermittently thinking thoughts stuck somewhere between "What the hell is this song?" and "I am considering firing my agent." Then again, it's Shirley Bassey! She created the most awesome James Bond songs! And she's kinda sorta singing Journey! Just for that alone… Grade: A
- Bruce Springsteen
- Elton John
- Lady Gaga
- Shirley Bassey