Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Don Henley Jam In L.A.

Motown legend commands stage at celebration with help from Paul Simon and Don Henley.

LOS ANGELES -- If ever there was a memorable, albeit

borderline-surreal, moment in the history of rock, it happened Saturday night

when legends Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon and Don Henley took the stage

together at Royce Hall at UCLA.

"We're jammin' at Royce Hall," the crowd chanted during the event. Teaming

with more than a thousand tuxes and formal dresses, the celebration more

resembled a parent's night gala than it did a musical benefit.

Motown pioneer Wonder, at his keyboard at center stage, pounded out the

instrumental part of his 1972 hit "Superstition,"

smiling that blissful, toothy smile and waving his head from side to side

in his characteristic sway. Meanwhile, folk-rock institution Paul Simon, in

a gesture that seemed to say "I don't really know this song, either,"

handed ex-Eagle Don Henley a tambourine and grabbed the shakers for himself.

As if that weren't strange enough, the hosts for the evening, actors John

Lithgow and Paul Reiser, as well as flute performers James and Jeanne

Galway, entered the palm-tree-decorated stage and began making noise on

their respective noisy percussive instruments.

These were the bizarre closing moments of "Royce Hall Encore, Celebrate the

Return," a benefit held Saturday night to celebrate the reopening of the

University of California at Los Angeles' landmark Royce Hall, which

suffered severe damage in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. The benefit

raised more than $1.5 million for the School of Arts and Architecture.

As one of the campus's first four original structures, the hall -- which

seats 1,829 people -- has been the main venue for performances by the UCLA

Center for the Performing Arts since 1929. The crowd, while as enthusiastic

as any teenage rock fans, largely comprised adults who had forked over

considerable hunks of cash for the effort to restore the building and

reestablish Campaign UCLA, a fund-raiser to support students and programs

in the arts. Tickets to the performance were $75, but attendees who wanted

dinner, too (an after-the-show ordeal organized by the likes of Steven

Spielberg and David Geffen), paid between $500 and $5,000.

Henley, Simon and Wonder each performed four songs separately before

collaborating on four encores, the first a jamming version of Simon's 1973

hit "Loves Me Like a Rock," for which each performer sang a verse onstage.

When they finished, Wonder asked Simon to sit next to him on the piano

bench, while Henley stood at a microphone behind them. They exchanged

flattery: Wonder reminisced on hearing the Simon and Garfunkel staple

"Bridge Over Troubled Water" for the first time; Simon commented on

inducting Wonder into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; and Wonder sang the

chorus of the Eagles classic "Hotel California."

"Now I want to hear this," Wonder demanded next, and sang, "Coo-coo-c-choo

Mrs. Robinson." Stopping, he looked at Simon, as if to give him his cue

into the classic single "Mrs. Robinson," perhaps best known from the

soundtrack to the film "The Graduate." Obliging him, Simon got up, strapped

on his guitar and played the song's opening guitar line, eliciting claps of

recognition from the audience.

With Wonder and Henley singing the chorus, it provided a true moment of

tri-legend unity, resonating the timelessness of not only the song but also

these performers.

Prior to Henley and Simon joining him, Wonder (donning a purple suit,

silver shirt and his ever-present sunglasses) opened his miniset on piano

with his 1969 sing-along hit "My Cherie Amour." With the hall's amazing

acoustics, his high, soulful voice carried beautifully. Wonder switched to

his keyboards for another hit, "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," which he

introduced by coaching the crowd to sing "You Are My Sunshine."

"You're off-key, and you already messed up," he teased them.

Though he appeared delighted to be performing and was intent on instilling

a celebratory mood in the hall, it was Wonder who commanded the most

serious moment of the night. "I cannot let this day go by without

addressing the fact that Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated 30 years

ago today in Memphis," he said, speculating, "maybe that's why it rained

today in L.A." He reminded the audience to "remember those who still have

less opportunity ... those who are hungry, jobless and forgotten." He

concluded, "We must all give our best to do as Martin Luther King said 30

years ago yesterday -- to reach that mountaintop."

Standing up behind his keyboard, he performed an extended, jazzed-up and

powerfully moving version of the national anthem on harmonica.

Wonder then switched back to piano for a rocking version of "Higher

Ground," from his 1973 album, Innervisions. His impassioned delivery

roused some in the crowd to flail their tuxed and jeweled arms in the air.

Dressed in a baseball cap, jeans and a blue T-shirt, Simon added to the

nostalgic mood of the day, playing his '70s hits "Me and Julio Down by the

Schoolyard" and "Slip Slidin' Away," during which he jiggled playfully

behind his guitar. In a suit, Henley performed three love songs that

spanned his career: a song from his forthcoming album, "My Wedding Day"; an

earlier solo hit, "The Heart of the Matter"; and the '74 Eagles classic

"Best of My Love," in addition to a new semirocker, the sardonic "Shredding

the Documents."