Boston’s historic Symphony Hall was filled with rock stars and assorted dignitaries on Friday night, including Sting, Chris Botti, Katharine McPhee, Yo-Yo Ma, John Mayer and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, who performed a raucous version of “Crazy (When I Met You)” wearing a pair of tight, black, lace-and-rhinestone studded pants he’d gotten from Cher.
John Mayer also attempted to croon Frank Sinatra’s standard, “In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning."
The occasion for all this was the second night of taping a PBS special hosted by horn man Botti featuring all these artists. (On the first night, Josh Groban appeared; violinist Yo-Yo Ma was the second-night guest.)
It was certainly one of the wilder nights for Keith Lockhart’s Boston Pops, not to mention Symphony Hall, where this reporter once worked. In those days, very few pop stars were ever allowed to perform in the austere hall where Seiji Ozawa and Arthur Fielder raised their hallowed batons.
But Botti and his management team convinced the BSO to let them in, and the results were stunning. The second-night show allowed Botti to play the trumpet while Sting led him and Yo-Yo Ma through one of his solo classics, “Fragile.”
Botti, who once was the band leader for Caroline Rhea’s lamented talk show, turned out to be an unflappable, smooth host. He was able to juggle a man having a heart attack in the audience, the various acts who played many different kinds of music and his own jazz numbers with great ease.
He joined each of the acts for duets, and also managed to re-recreate a piece of Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” as well as an instrumental version of Pavarotti’s “Caruso” from the movie of the same name, and the stirring theme from “Cinema Paradiso.”
Meantime, the stars came and went. Sting, now free of The Police, has returned to the more complex musicianship of his solo career. Besides “Fragile,” one of his best songs, he and Botti performed “Seven Days” and “If Ever I Lose My Faith in You.”
The latter closed the two-and-a-half hour show, and had better be included in the final edit. It was one of those brilliant, sudden pairings, with Botti’s more-unleashed-than-usual trumpet wildly punctuating Sting’s soaring vocals.
Sting was probably goosed for the second night anyway because of the surprise arrival of wife Trudie Styler from England. Styler had been stuck at home with domestic matters, but flew in and got everyone to keep it a secret until the last minute. This is one celeb couple that likes to be together … a lot. How refreshing!
Tyler, of course, is the Tasmanian Devil compared to the trained, restrained and studied Sting. Following Botti’s improvised New Orleans style, Tyler swung onto the BSO stage and belted out “Crazy” in a long colorful coat and flowing scarves, not to mention those pants. He dedicated his second song, a bluesy version of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” to his elderly dad, Victor Tallerico, sitting in the front row.
Later, a friend of Sting’s, Boston philanthropist Bobby Sager, told Tyler he had to have the pants for his collection of party clothes. “I can’t!” cried Tyler. “Cher gave them to me. And I always wanted to get into Cher’s pants.”
Rim shot, please.
Sager was just the right Bostonian with enough nerve to ask Tyler, anyway. Earlier that day, he and his wife Elaine had hosted a private lunch at their Tremont Street aerie for the president of Rwanda, a country where the Sagers have dedicated their fundraising powers very successfully.
The stars themselves didn’t have a lot of contact off-stage, although Sting’s afternoon sound check did overlap with Tyler’s in an amusing way.
First they traded little vocal intros from each other’s songs. When Sting saw Tyler approaching, he belted out a little “Walk This Way,” to which Tyler screeched back “Rox—anne!” Sting brought out his 12-string lute, which prompted Tyler to announce, “That’s what we need! A balalaika!”
As for Mayer, he’s not Sinatra or Tony Bennett. Shorn of his trademark wavy hair, he more resembled a tall Marc Anthony. (The two should consider doing a video together.)
John Mayer without a guitar is an idea whose time hasn’t quite arrived, but give him credit for trying. Still, losing his other trademark — weird grimaces and other mouth tics — might help his delivery.
McPhee turned out to be one of the great finds of the Botti spectacular, commanding Sinatra’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” with a feline sexiness. Her little black dress and hot pumps didn’t hurt.
A footnote to the Boston adventure: the appearance of none other than F. Lee Bailey, the former super lawyer who was part of O.J. Simpson’s Dream Team in 1994-95 and helped the former pro football star beat his double murder rap.
Lee was the most colorful and famous lawyer in America at the time, but he was disbarred in 2001. Simpson — currently on trial again in Las Vegas — will be happy to know Bailey is sticking to his story. He told me over dinner following the Botti show that he still thinks Simpson is innocent of killing ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman.
Michael Jackson’s great and loyal publicist, Bob Jones, passed away on Saturday. The word is he simply suffered a heart attack after returning from a bike ride. He was probably around 70 years old and had been associated with the Jacksons for 35 years.
It was Bob who guided Michael through his various scandals, from the marriages to Lisa Marie and Debbie Rowe to the Elephant Man’s bones, hyperbaric chambers, etc. And it was Bob who there for Michael during the Jordy Chandler episode.
But in the winter of 2005, when Michael was on trial for child molestation and conspiracy, the pop star let Jones be fired without severance or notice. Jackson just dumped him.
This column was first to report what happened. The result was that Bob and writer Stacy Brown self-published “Michael Jackson: The Man Behind the Mask.” The book, which was hard for the public to find other than on amazon.com, told the real story of Jackson. It wasn’t pretty.
Bob testified at Michael’s trial just as the book was coming out. He had planned to really skewer Jackson, but once he saw his old employer, he couldn’t do it. Jones’ testimony was a let-down. But it also showed that his loyalties were stronger than Michael’s.
Jones’ death means Michael is now without his two closest advisors and surrogate fathers. Bill Bray was the other one, and he died a couple of years ago. Bob was a Southern gent with a big heart, a lot of style and always some good gossip that he delivered with mischievous glee.
Many people from the Motown world will mourn his death, as shall I. He was just a lovely fellow, the sane center of people who lived in the path of one hurricane after another.
Is John Mayer going to host an Ed Sullivan-type variety show for CBS? Has the world gone mad?
Just as Rosie O'Donnell is getting ready to announce her own Sullivan-style show for NBC comes word that Mayer is making some of kind of deal with CBS.
Sources say that show would feature Mayer and his friends, and that he’s been heard saying he’d like to interview former girlfriends. We can only hope this is some kind of facetiousness. …
The end of Starbucks’ Hear Music and its merger into Concord Records has brewed a lot of dissatisfaction among the label’s artists. I hear at least one beloved superstar recording act is more steamed than a cappuccino and could cause a lot of trouble for the corp’s Howard Schultz. Is this really what Schultz needs? His stock closed on Friday at $16.14. A year ago it was at $27.90. …
Britney Spears’ single, "Womanizer," was leaked to radio stations on Friday. It debuts somewhere on Monday. What’s the difference? "Womanizer" is quite awful, retread disco, with an annoying refrain and no discernible melody or hook. Actually, get the hook. Spears is not much of a singer. For her to grab any kind of music audience, she should try and remake novelty songs or find some of her own. But more of this repetitive dance junk isn’t fruitful. …
”Mad Men” did win Best Dramatic series Sunday night at the Emmys, but Jon Hamm lost Best Actor to Bryan Cranston in — surprise — another AMC show that no one’s ever seen.
How crazy. Hamm is the breakout star of the moment, and his rendering of ad man Don Draper is iconic. I skipped the Emmys this year for the final home game at Yankee Stadium. I’m glad to see my instincts were correct. …
Am I the only person in the world who heard Kathie Lee Gifford tell Hoda Kotb, “I will pray for you” on the "Today" show’s fourth hour last week? Hoda wasn’t thrilled, so Kathie Lee said it again. This was right after Hoda owned up to pretty serious road rage. I thought I was hallucinating after too little sleep or too much coffee. But it really happened. J. Fred Muggs is rolling in his grave. ...