Springsteen Rocks for Handler, Gorman, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

  • Rainforest Fund’s first U.S. grant cheered at holiday concert
  • Damian Lewis of ‘Billions,’ Barry Rosenstein join after-party

The Rainforest Fund’s first holiday-themed benefit concert started on a cheerful, if familiar, note Wednesday night with several electric guitarists on “Carol of the Bells,” a song used in Wal-Mart and Victoria’s Secret commercials.

Did the crowd really want to hear Christmas music for the millionth time?

James Taylor, Vittorio Grigolo, Bruce Springsteen and Sting

Photographer: Kevin Kane/Getty Images for The Rainforest Fund

Well, yes, when it’s Bruce Springsteen at Carnegie Hall, walking through the aisles before belting “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.”

James Taylor, in a newsboy’s cap, coat and scarf, gently sang “Winter Wonderland.” Idina Menzel arrived in bright red for “Let It Go,” the “Frozen” hit you didn’t think you could possibly want to listen to again but that fit the title of the show, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside."

To heat things up, flirty tenor Vittorio Grigolo peeled off a bulky, belted Santa jacket, leaving him in an undershirt and suspenders over comically roomy red pants to perform an aria from “Pagliacci.”

Key Moments

For all the snow, roaring fires and sexy Santas conjured, a few key moments cut through the froth.

Gina Gershon, Ronnie Spector, Darlene Love, Idina Menzel and Jennifer Nettles

Photographer: Kevin Kane/Getty Images for The Rainforest Fund

About half-way through the show, a photograph of James Foley went up (replacing light projections) and Sting discussed a documentary about the journalist beheaded by the Islamic State. Asked to write a song for the film, he’d initially refused. “I said it’s beyond my powers,” he recalled. Then it was Thanksgiving “and I thought, if one of my kids was missing, I’d make a place at the table for them.” The metaphor led to a song, he said, before performing “Empty Chair.”

Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, created the Rainforest Fund 27 years ago with human rights lawyer Franca Sciuto. The mission: to help indigenous people protect their environment and their rights. It has sent funds to Indonesia, West Papua, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil to aid “land defenders, guardians of the future,” Styler said on stage.

This year, it took a different direction, making its first grant in the U.S. to support the Standing Rock Sioux in their fight against the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

Big Welcome

Hans Young Bird, Trudie Styler, Jodi Gillette and Rusty Gillette

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Moments later, she looked up at a balcony to acknowledge the presence of Jodi Gillette, who served President Obama as a senior policy adviser for Native American affairs, and others who fought against the pipeline. The audience gave them a thundering welcome.

“That was the moment that really turned me on,” said drummer Narada Michael Walden at the after-party at the JW Marriott Essex House New York. Walden had performed the entire concert and was also its musical director.

Josh Haber with Jaime, Ana, Lizanne and Barry Rosenstein, plus Sandra Lee

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Here Gillette recalled Styler’s visit to Standing Rock protests in the middle of a blizzard, as others roamed including Barry Rosenstein and Christopher Burch, co-chairmen of the event, Fabian Garcia, CEO of Revlon, which sponsored the concert, and Springsteen fans Rich Handler of Jefferies Group LLC and David Blitzer of Blackstone Group LP.

James Gorman, CEO of Morgan Stanley, bid on an Elliott Erwitt black-and-white photograph of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in the silent auction.

Mark Dalton, CEO of Tudor Investment Corp., went relatively unnoticed as Damian Lewis, the actor who plays a hedge-fund manager on Showtime’s “Billions,” was surrounded by admirers, until they decamped to say hello to Darlene Love, Ronnie Spector and Jennifer Nettles, who also performed.

Gorman tapped his toes to the fiddlers of The Good The Bad & The Ginger, the after-party Irish band that provided a country twist with more harmonicas than jingle bells.

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