HOLLYWOOD — What could have possibly brought Third Eye Blind, Seal, Deftones, Lil’ Kim, Sugar Ray, Nikka Costa, Crazy Town and Jurassic 5 to the same stage?
“We’re here to save the boobs!” declared Crazy Town’s Shifty Shellshock at Saturday’s inaugural Breathe benefit concert for breast cancer.
Organized by Third Eye Blind frontman Stephan Jenkins, the five-hour marathon concert took a lighthearted approach to a serious issue.
Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello and model Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, serving as hosts, tossed out jokes about examining yourself or someone else, while acts such as Nikka Costa and Sugar Ray happily flaunted their own sexuality. Lil’ Kim could hardly save her own breasts from falling out of her bikini top.
Breathe was the anti-Women Rock!, the other star-studded breast cancer benefit hosted by Lifetime Television at the same Wiltern Theater a few weeks ago (see “Mary J. Blige, Pat Benatar Take On Breast Cancer, Prove Women Rock!” ). While all of the acts at that show were women, including Sheryl Crow, Nelly Furtado and Mary J. Blige, the majority at Breathe were men, which Jenkins said was intentional.
“If we can get Deftones fans and Crazy Town fans, who are pretty much all guys, to say, ‘This is something that is cool to me,’ we are going to widen the scope of awareness for this disease and widen the scope of fundraising for this disease,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins, who promised the event would continue next year, wanted to get involved raising awareness for breast cancer after his mother contracted the disease three years ago.
“Before that I always thought of breast cancer as a women’s issue, which is much the way the disease has been marketed to the public,” he said. “Witnessing her ordeal made me realize it’s not a woman’s issue. It’s a son’s issue. It’s a family’s issue. It’s everyone’s issue. This is something that is statistically going to attack someone in my family.”
Though full of laughs, Saturday’s concert was not without heartfelt performances. Seal brought a mixed crowd that included children, grandparents and Tom Hanks to its feet during both of his appearances.
He took the stage early in the evening for a somber version of “Prayer for the Dying” as a tribute to Aaliyah, who volunteered to perform at the benefit before she died in a plane crash in August (see “Aaliyah Killed In Plane Crash” ). Rashad Haughton, Aaliyah’s brother, introduced Seal after presenting Jenkins and the concert’s charity, Step Up Women’s Network, with a check for $41,000 from the Aaliyah Memorial Fund.
British singer Julia Fordham, who opened the event, also included a tribute in her 15-minute set, performing a song she wrote for Minnie Riperton, the “Lovin’ You” soul singer who died of breast cancer in 1979 at the age of 31.
Costa, all attitude behind her bright red shades, chimed her way through a funky set that included the hit “Like a Feather” and her new single, “Everybody Got Their Something,” which she turned into a rally anthem for women by declaring, “This song is about a guy who f—ed me over.”
Crazy Town and Sugar Ray followed with hit-filled sets that were nothing out of the ordinary except for the latter’s Mark McGrath blending “Fly” into the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” from the balcony of the theater.
Lil’ Kim tried dropping her familiar raps over last summer’s “Lady Marmalade” cover to open her set, but struggled to match her parts and was interrupted when the track suddenly shut off.
Remy Zero took the stage for a rock-solid set that included a few tracks from their new album, The Golden Hum, including the single “Save Me.” Singer Cinjun Tate, who looked and sounded like R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, was a crowd favorite. At one point during the band’s performance, an audience member yelled out, “Finally some talent!”
The next set saw Deftones and Jurassic 5 mixing it up together. Chino Moreno and crew played “Change (In the House of Flies)” and other emo-metal tunes from their White Pony before providing the backdrop for Jurassic 5′s “Great Expectations.” Moreno scratched his guitar strings like a turntable and added in a few words here and there. The Los Angeles hip-hop outfit, minus their superstar DJs, followed with the title track of last year’s Quality Control.
Jenkins followed up on his promise to pack the benefit full of collaborations, bringing up Liz Phair and Seal during Third Eye Blind’s set.
Phair took over vocals on “Jumper,” performed her hit “Supernova” with Third Eye Blind backing her, then dueted with Jenkins on her song “F— and Run.” Jenkins called the Exile in Guyville cut “one of my favorite naughty songs.”
Seal kicked off his stirring set by debuting the ballad “Love Is Better” from his upcoming album, Togetherland.
“We are going through some rough times right now,” Seal said, alluding to the September 11 terrorist attacks. “I have faith that we will get through this. History shows that good always triumphs over evil.”
Answering a standing ovation, Seal closed out the show with an acoustic version of his breakthrough hit, “Crazy.” “We’re never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy,” he sang.
They were the perfect words to define the event.