Charity fundraiser helps families of children who need organ transplants
Mike Devlin, timescolonist.com
In terms of nights on the town, this one was pretty starry, indeed.
Bolstered by an all-star assembly of talent – including American Idol alums Ruben Studdard and Michael Johns, singers Josh Groban and Sarah McLachlan, boxing icon Muhammad Ali, and comic Sinbad, among others – the grand finale of David Foster’s Miracle Weekend was a capital-E event.
Following a charity auction that on the floor raised more than $2 million for the David Foster Foundation, a segment of the seven-hour evening that drew a standing ovation with a brief appearance by the Phoenix-based Ali, the concert portion got underway with an extended video of Foster’s biggest hits.
But as they say in the business, there ain’t nothing like the real thing, and when Foster weaved through the audience on his way to the stage it was to a rapturous ovation from his fans.
Foster opened with his signature song, Love Theme From St. Elmo’s Fire, a fitting way to open the David Foster Foundation’s 25th Anniversary Miracle Concert and Gala. Not long after, he addressed the crowd with a burst of excitement.
“Do you have any idea how fantastic it was to stand at the back of that room and see this town give over the space of 20 minutes over $2 million?” Foster said, incredulous at the outpouring of support for the families of children in need of life-saving organ transplants.
“This is beyond my wildest dreams.”
Seattle-bred star Kenny G was late to the party, so to speak (he didn’t arrive until mere hours before showtime) but when he joined Foster it was like the noted smooth jazz instrumentalist had been here all week. As he strode through the audience, holding a single, sustained note on his soprano saxophone, it proved in less than a minute why he is the biggest selling instrumental artist of his generation.
The playful jabs between G and Foster, who ribbed each other about their previous divorces, weren’t bad, either.
The crowd of roughly 6,000 came alive at the appearance of the Canadian Tenors, the singing group whose earlier incarnation got its start in Victoria. Known for their opera-infused songs, some of which were written by Foster, the group brought down the house with a strong two-song performance, even without member Remigio Pereira, who had taken ill. Their mini set not only had Foster in awe, it prompted hockey legend Wayne Gretzky to ask, “How good were the Tenors?”
You know who was good? Studdard. The Velvet Teddy Bear serenaded Ali with an impromptu song that all but brought the crowd to tears. “I hope somebody got that on film,” Foster said.
Studdard kicked it up a notch when he sang a quiet-storm version of Michale Buble’s Home, which Foster’s daughter, Amy, co-wrote. Need evidence as to why Studdard won American Idol in 2003? He delivered it.
A video montage of previous Foster fundraisers put into perspective how long Foster has been at this game – and how many stars have appeared in Victoria over the years, from Olivia Newton-John and Michael J. Fox to Rob Lowe and John Travolta.
“Boy, was it worth it,” Foster said, making note of his changing hairstyles over the years.
Sinbad brought the humour big-time, mocking Wayne Gretzky for leaving Edmonton for L.A., among other things. During his set he warned Victorians of letting U.S. citizens know about the best Victoria has to offer (“Don’t tell ’em, they’ll mess it up,” he cautioned) and told a hilarious (and seemingly true) story about the recording process of Foster’s first hit with Skylark, Wildflower, that involved Sinbad and a stolen harp.
“I still have that thing in my basement,” Sinbad said. “Still can’t play it.”
Foster played Man in Motion, with help from American Idol finalist Michael Johns, which was accompanied by a video montage of the man who inspired the song, Rick Hansen.
“She is one of the most beautiful talents I have ever come across,” Foster said, by way of introduction to Vancouver singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan. “Ever, ever.”
McLachlan sang Adia by herself at the piano, from the satellite stage, but the real magic was to come minutes later, when – for the first time in 20 years – she sang the song Angel without being seated at the piano. That was Foster’s territory on this night, and he and McLachlan made for a fine pair – as in, cue the standing ovation.
“God, was that heavenly,” Foster said at the conclusion.
The Canadian Tenors came back to the stage with McLachlan and Kenny G in tow for a version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah that would have all but sealed the deal on this night – that is, if it weren’t for Josh Groban.
The multi-platinum singer, who said he was suffering from laryngitis, sang the touching February Song sitting at the piano as if he was in perfect health, and delivered with assistance from Foster a moving version of Don McLean’s Vincent (Starry Starry Night).
Groban took it up a notch when he went to the satellite stage, with backing from red-robed members of the Canadian College of Performing Arts, and closed the show with You Raise Me Up. It was a fitting message, and song.
The stars were good, indeed. The Hitman, as Foster is known, was equally effective. He kept it local all night, from backing by members of the Victoria Symphony to stories of his days growing up in the Garden City.
We’re happy to have had him. Even though he now lives in Los Angeles, he’s still ours. And with concerts like the one he put on Saturday night – the final total was $4.6 million – we’re all the better for his generosity.
© The Victoria Times Colonist 2012