NEW YORK — For an evening that was all about “giving,” Bill Clinton, Bono, Wyclef, Shakira, Chris Rock and Alicia Keys made sure they gave the audience an evening to remember — and be inspired by — on Saturday night at the Apollo Theater.
“CGI and MTV Present: Giving – Live at the Apollo” capped the three-day philanthropic summit convened by the former president’s Clinton Global Initiative — heads of state, celebrities and others made 245 pledges regarding health, the environment and more during the push. The event was co-sponsored by thinkMTV.
On Saturday night, the former president and his companions hoped some of that success spilled over into the crowd, which was a mix of young activists and celebrities. The show airs October 12 on MTV at 8 p.m. ET.
Fitting for the hallowed halls of the Apollo, rock legends Jerry Lee Lewis and Solomon Burke opened the evening with a grand collaboration — which also served to celebrate Lewis’ 72nd birthday. Shortly after that, host Sway introduced Clinton, who took the stage and told the audience about his one-time ambitions to play at the world-famous Harlem venue.
“All my life I wanted to perform at the Apollo,” he said, recalling invites he received to amateur night and his unsuccessful attempts to woo Wynton Marsalis to join him so he wouldn’t get booed.
“I’m getting close,” Clinton continued. “My office is around the corner. But this is the closest I’ve come, tonight.”
The 42nd president certainly made the best of his long-awaited opportunity.
“Young people have more power to make a change than any other time in history,” he said, citing technological advances such as the Web. The theme was echoed throughout the night.
According to Clinton, community forums like MySpace and YouTube help like-minded young people come together far more easily than with previous generations.
Shortly after his opening remarks, Clinton was joined onstage by his invited guests, whom he described as “givers” — referencing his recently released book “Giving” and the night’s overarching message.
Sway brought together Clinton, Bono, Keys, Rock and Shakira for a discussion of their various charities and organizations — and what young people can do to make a difference in the world.
During the chat, which was moderated by Sway, Shakira called everyone in the crowd to action. “This is a moment in history to act as a global community … of citizen activists,” she said.
The Colombian star has been very active in recent years, helping children and natural-disaster victims in Latin America. On Saturday, she revealed that her charity foundation Latin America in Solidarity Action would donate a whopping $40 million to helping victims of natural disasters in Peru and Nicaragua.
For her part, Keys also rolled out a new effort. The Keep a Child Alive foundation, for which she is a spokesperson, is launching a “Good Cents Initiative” that will encourage businesses to make small contributions to help children with AIDS get the medicine they need.
After each person on the star-studded panel spoke, the conversation was opened up to the audience Q&A-style. A question from a New Jersey college student led to the liveliest moment of the night. He asked them how students such as himself could get more involved in service work when also taking a full course load.
“Well, I bet if you were the one with AIDS, you’d make some time,” Rock said, joking and launching the crowd into laughter.
But the former president empathized with the crowd member and encouraged students with overwhelming time commitments not to be embarrassed if they could only give a few hours a week — or even a few hours a month.
“[Service] is so narcotic,” Clinton explained. “You’ll probably start giving four hours, then six hours, and drop anything else.
“Just start where you are,” he added.
“That sounds like a song title,” Bono intercepted, drawing more laughs. “Edge, get to it.”
“We gotta hurry up, though,” Rock cut in. ” ‘Cause [this kid] has got to get back to work.”
Clinton, however, reeled the conversation back in, telling the pair not to make too much fun of the student. The former president then revealed his own regrets about letting time go by in his younger life when he didn’t do anything for his community, and the shame it brought him.
“But a little matters,” he urged.
“I don’t know if my generation is aware of how much power we have,” Keys said earlier. “If we realize how we can really shake it up.”
Keys, along with Shakira and surprise guest Wyclef, capped the night’s festivities with a series of memorable performances.
The R&B chanteuse gracefully performed a new track, the stirring “Superwoman.” Wyclef played two songs, “If I Were President …” and a cover of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” after which Shakira gave a striking performance of “Underneath Your Clothes.” Following that, ‘Clef and Shakira brought the crowd to its feet with the Colombian singer’s “Hips Don’t Lie.”
“I think our generation has a tremendous power,” Shakira said earlier in the evening. “Bigger than my parents’ generation. Because of the Internet and technology. We communicate better. We have so many tools. We have a voice and it needs to be heard.
“We can be the architects of change,” she said.
Tune in to “CGI and MTV Present: Giving – Live at the Apollo” on October 12 at 8 p.m. ET on MTV.