"I'm deeply honored to receive this hugely heavy award," Sting said, referring to his selection as Man of the Year by MusiCares, a branch of the Grammys devoted to caring for musicians in need. "I'm feeling an emotion I'm not well known for: humility.
"We're here tonight to support the people who haven't had the breaks, who weren't in the right place at the right time," he continued. "I'm deeply proud to be here tonight to support musicians. Let's have a party!"
The black tie soiree, held on a massive soundstage on the Sony Pictures lot in Culver City on Friday, had actually begun several hours earlier, as 2000 industry types arrived in a long line of limos. A star-studded crowd turned out for the ceremony, paying $1,000 per person. Sting (wearing a skort) shared a table with Dustin Hoffman, Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith, with Elton John and Rufus Wainwright nearby, and Hugh Hefner and his blonde posse seated one table over.
The elegant crowd dined on salmon and beef, sipping Syrah and Chardonnay from Meridian Vineyards, as entertainers took the stage to perform Sting's songs (both solo and from his years with the Police), backed by a ten-piece group. First up were Black Eyed Peas, who infused "Walking on the Moon" with a hip-hop sensibility. Dave Matthews followed, sitting center stage with an acoustic guitar. "I figured I'd go on with something real glitzy, try to blow your socks off," he rasped, launching into an energetic rendition of the Police's "The Bed's Too Big Without You."
"If I Ever Lose My Faith in You" got the country treatment, with more than a touch of gospel, from Wynonna. John Mayer, throaty and sounding more than a little like Sting, performed "It's Got to Be Me." Turning up the funk meter, Mary J. Blige tackled "Roxanne," with steamy backing vocals from the singers in the house band.
John, a very long diamond dangling from one ear, skipped the piano in favor of standing and singing "Mad About You," adding the line, "I'm mad about you, Sting!" Charles Aznavour, oddly perfect with his French accent, sang "Moon Over Bourbon Street" with atmospheric backing from Herbie Hancock and Chris Botti.
A slow, nasal version of "King of Pain," enhanced by tabla and sitar, came from Rufus Wainwright. "We sexed this up a little," he said, grinning. Kylie Minogue made no such disclaimer, but delivered an undeniably tarted-up "Every Breath You Take." Elvis Costello, whose wife Diana Krall was a no show, belted out "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" with great enthusiasm.
After an announcement that more than $3 million had been raised that evening, Sting returned to the stage, first singing a love song to his wife, Trudie, before jumping into "Send Your Love" with energetic backing from the band. As the last notes sounded, the crowd, carrying massively heavy gift bags laden with CDs, cosmetics and candles, filed out in search of their limos.