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Pop / Rock 15/12/2001

Elton John, Robert Downey Jr. Shine At Silver Lining Benefit

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - Robert Downey Jr. got love Thursday (Dec. 13) night, just a different kind. The Oscar-nominated actor drew hearty applause after making his official rock debut alongside Elton John at the first of two Silver Lining Silver Lake benefit concerts for the Hollywood Sunset Free Clinic.

Downey, who lip-synchs in John's "I Want Love" video, sang more than half the song himself during the show. Truth be told, Downey's performance was respectable. He nailed every note and in fact gave it more heart than John, who for an hour delivered crisp, though rote, versions of his hits, including "Your Song," "Someone Saved My Life Tonight," "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters," "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues," and "Rocket Man." His piano was accompanied only by a synthesizer player in the wings.

John is something of a benefit mainstay these days, performing at his annual AIDS charity concert at the Universal Amphitheatre the previous night and at a $5,000-per-plate Philadelphia dinner the next night. Rather than headlining, John opened Silver Lining Silver Lake at 8 p.m. so he could dash off to make his flight.

The show also starred Sting, Daniel Lanois, Deborah Falconer (Downey's ex-wife), and DJ Bostich of the Nortec Collective. John, who wore a conservative black suit, indicated that Downey had turned him onto the Hollywood clinic, which has offered free health care for L.A. residents since 1968. "This is such a great event and such a worthy cause," he said.

Sting - accompanied by three singers, a drummer, guitarist, and keyboard player - performed second, causing 1,500 of the 1,750 attendees to flee before Lanois' set at evening's end. The former Police chief's 45 minutes were highlighted by "Roxanne," "Moon Over Bourbon Street," "All This Time," "Englishman in New York," "Don't Stand So Close to Me" (1986 style), and his reaction to the Osama bin Laden video tape. "No one could be under any illusion that that guy isn't an unctuous prick," Sting said. He opened on an uncharacteristically weak note, with his unfamiliar "Until," from the new Meg Ryan movie Kate & Leopold.

The concert was held on a barely raised stage behind a hilltop mansion in L.A.'s artsy Silver Lake district. Called the Paramour, it is a former Catholic girls' school converted into a private residence. The building itself was sealed off to all but V.I.P. guests.

"So they said come and play someone's backyard," Sting said. "It's a hell of a backyard, I'll tell you that. It's almost as big as my backyard."

Tickets fetched between $250 and $1500 per, and included an open bar and free buffet. On the second night, Friday (Dec. 14), the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jaguares, Aimee Mann, Jurassic 5, DJ Keoki, Norton Wisdom, and last-minute addition Beck are slated to play a second night at the Paramour. A third show, Saturday (Dec. 15) night at the Hollywood Palladium, was canceled a few days ago when the headliner, Third Eye Blind, pulled out without providing a reason.

Last year's inaugural Silver Lake Silver Lining concert raised $488,000 for the clinic.

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