Then it got even weirder. "This is a favorite single of mine from the 1980s," Springsteen said as he grabbed a new guitar. "I always knew there was a soul sing hidden inside of it." It took about 30 seconds before it became clear he was playing "Cuts Like a Knife" by Bryan Adams. Halfway through a very long version he stopped the song, fell down to his knees James Brown-style, and told an incredibly lengthy story about an old girlfriend who supposedly left him for a slightly more famous singer. It was hard to tell who was enjoying the bizarre performance more: the crowd, Springsteen, or Elton and Sting as they stood on the side of the stage in slack-jawed disbelief.
The evening began with Sting performing "An Englishman in New York" followed by Elton, the house band and a huge orchestra playing "Philadelphia Freedom." Elton then introduced the most anticipated performer of the evening: Lady Gaga. "This girl is everything," he said. "She can sing. She can play. She's the real deal." Looking quite dressed down and demure (at least by her standards) in a bell-shaped white dress, Gaga settled in at the piano and led the band in a note-perfect cover of "Stand By Me." "I wrote this next song for my dad," she told the crowd before launching into "Speechless." "He's here tonight." Midway through the track, Elton John strolled back onstage and sat down at sat down at another piano. "It's my other daddy!" Gaga squealed as the two reprised their Grammy performance, splicing in parts of John's "Your Song."
Sting and Mary J. Blige — who got shockingly little stage time — revived their 2003 duet "Whenever I Say Your Name" shortly before Styler gave a speech about the vital work of the Rainforest Foundation. After a film clip of Sting and Trudie's trip to the Amazon, Shirley Bassey belted out "Diamonds Are Forever" and "Goldfinger." The two James Bond themes have absolutely nothing to do with the rainforest, but they were fun and helped earn a ton of money for the cause, which was ultimately the real point of all the mind-blowing musical magic. "No one wants their money back! But I'm not surprised, it was one of the best shows I'd ever been in, or seen, it was incredible," Sting told Rolling Stone after the concert. "Bruce brought the house down because I told him he had to bring the house down. Gaga was incredible. I mean, forget it, it was just a brilliant show."
Additional reporting by Jennifer Vineyard.
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