The MTV concert for the Tribeca Film Festival was such a hit Friday night that Tom Freston told me, "We're going to do it again next year."
Corporate sponsor American Express has already signed up for two more years, festival founder Jane Rosenthal said right after that.
And why not? Under the most glorious cobalt blue sky, Wyclef Jean performed Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" at the Battery Park city bandshell, just south of Ground Zero. At least 3,000 people who'd come to hear him and the rest of the stars waved matches and lit cigarette lighters and sang along. It was so moving that for once a celebrity-filled evening was about something other than celebrity.
Rosenthal and Robert DeNiro did it again. For the third straight night, they breathed life into downtown Manhattan.
Backstage, and all around the MTV show, there was a great vibe — very relaxed, with none of the usual security intensity, barking publicists, velvet ropes, and peon attitude that often wrecks events.
Everyone was in a good mood. Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, director Barry Levinson, Wyclef Jean and David Bowie all hung out, chatted with fans, reporters, roadies, and just about anyone who milled through the area.
Even supermodel Veronica Webb — who told me she’s five months pregnant, confirming a rumor in Friday's New York Post Page Six — was comfortable and chatty (not to mention stunning).
In the tiny area at stage right where sundry VIPs were penned in, Kevin Spacey boogied with his mom (wearing her trademark cream colored turtleneck sweater and blonde bangs) and a group of young friends.
Spacey, who's been actively helping Rosenthal and DeNiro all week, played with his digital camera, taking pictures of Bowie while he performed songs from his upcoming new album Heathen, and shook hands with any number of fans who wanted to say hello.
Actor Adrian Pasdar — who's had a hit with Mysterious Ways on PAX TV — strolled around most of the night with his toddler son, Slade, strapped to his back. Slade's mom (and Adrian's wife) Natalie Manes, of the Dixie Chicks, was there to sing with Sheryl Crow. Around 10:30 p.m., when little Slade's reddish blonde hair was standing straight up and his eyes were shutting, Pasdar told him, "Hold on, mom's coming. She's next!"
With so many superstar comedians on the bill, you wouldn't think Saturday Night Live's Jimmy Fallon would be nervous. But while he waited to go last night, Fallon told me: "I always get nervous. What should I do? I'm introducing Wyclef. Should I call him Cleffie?" Fallon paced back and forth, and practiced his dead-on Robert DeNiro imitation. "Should I do that?" he asked, then turned into DeNiro: "You betta be good out deah, Jimmy."
When Fallon finally hit the stage, he brought his guitar. No mention of Cleffie or DeNiro, but Jimmy sang "I'm Your Stupid Boyfriend," from his upcoming comedy album, then did impressions of Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, various rock musicians, and most hysterically, Cliff Clavin, the mailman from Cheers. The audience loved him.
Fallon — who just appeared on the cover of Entertainment Weekly with his Weekend Update co-host Tina Fey — should be a movie star already. Trust me, it's going to happen. Last year he played a rock manager in Almost Famous. This summer he's shooting Woody Allen's new movie. "I have no idea what it's called, what I'm playing, or anything. All I know is, I'm in it," he beamed. This summer Fallon will spend his time off from SNL writing his own screenplay — which, hopefully, will launch him off the weekly show. Let's cross our fingers.
For me, the musical star of the night was Wyclef Jean — although Counting Crows, Bowie and Crow weren't too shabby.
But Wyclef was the wild card — a musical savant and genius who mixes rap, R&B, reggae, salsa, and electric rock into his own gourmet meal. His new album, Masquerade, hits stores June 18, and like its predecessors, Carnival and The Ecleftic, it's an original, ebullient document. There's a knockout cover of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," and a duet with Tom Jones on "What's New Pussycat." The first song, and its video, called "The PJ's" — a reference to the projects and performed in a Curtis Mayfield style — is already available on the Sony Records Web site.
At the end of his segment, Jean — who'd taken the crowd through about five musical genres including his own "Guantanamera" and several free style on the spot raps about New York — declared, "We gotta go! The rap guys only get a half an hour! The rockers get an hour!"
But Jean is so far beyond being a "rap guy" that it isn't funny. And he probably could have stayed on three times longer and no one would have minded. When he came off stage I asked him what happened to his hits, "Somebody Call 911" and "Gone 'til November"? "You know me man, I got into a zone. I was just out there performing."
Jean's show featured an 18-year-old singer named Claudette Ortiz, of the group City High. Ortiz is not only a gorgeous raven-haired figure, she has a voice that needs no augmentation. "Jennifer Lopez has nothing on her!" Jean declared. Ortiz is going to be a big hit, and very soon, on Jean's Clef Records.
More Sunday and Monday from the Tribeca festival, including Saturday night's premiere of Chris Nolan's new movie, Insomnia.