The Black Ball

David Bowie, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, Jay-Z, Clive Davis and Mike Mills of R.E.M. all made their way into New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom on October 25th for the fourth annual Black Ball. The annual fundraiser honored Bono – rock star and activist – for his groundbreaking and crucial work in the AIDS movement in South Africa. Nick Reding, founder and executive director of Sponsored Arts for Education (S.A.F.E.), Kenya and Dr. Pasquine Ogunsanya, Medical Director of Alive Medical Services, Uganda will also be honored for their passion and tireless dedication to fighting the AIDS crisis in Africa The event – part honors banquet, part pop concert – opened with thundering drums and hyper-kinetic dancing from Zulu troupe Juxtapower, whose lunges and kicks jump-started an evening that was long on both sentiment and showmanship.

Debuting a hefty cache of songs from her forthcoming As I Am, Keep a Child Alive global ambassador Alicia Keys served as a kind of de facto MC. She egged along the ten-piece band and took pains to connect her material to the evening’s overriding theme. Her new songs are warm and relaxed, firmly rooted in gospel and late Sixties R&B. “Like You’ll Never See Me Again” was a gorgeous slow-burner, built around a twinkling piano arpeggio and a melody that steadily swells. The empowerment anthem “Superwoman” was insistent and affecting, Keys spilling out its refrain, “Even when I’m a mess / I still put on the vest / with the ‘S’ on my chest” over spry, bounding chords. Her rendition of “No One” felt triumphant, gaining a kind of power and determination with each pass through its chorus.

If she could have taken on the rest of the night’s performances alone, the super=charged Keys probably would have accepted the challenge. After a low-key rendition of “Every Day is a Winding Road,” Sheryl Crow joined Keys for a duet on “I Shall Believe.” Gwen Stefani duetted with Keys on an elegiac version of “Sunday, Bloody Sunday,” with Keys’ vocals lingering in the air, long, haunting and elegant.

Metropolitan Opera singer Kathleen Battle joined Keys for a haunting rendition of the semi-obscure U2/Pavarotti collaboration “Miss Sarajevo.” Bono himself strode onstage near the night’s end to duet with Keys on their 2005 collaboration “Don’t Give Up.” Leaning hard into his phrases, the U2 leader used volume and emphasis to drive the song upward. Near the conclusion, they were joined by members of the Agape Orphanage’s children’s choir, whose appearance transformed the song from well-meaning sentimentalism to a kind of anthem. Their voices rang out together, a single word over and over, louder every time: “Africa.” – excerpted from J. Edward Keyes, Rolling Stone

2007 Corporate Sponsors

Title Sponsor
Conde Nast Media Group

  • Impilo (Zulu for Life)
  • The Elma Philanthropies
  • Keith & Inga Rubenstein
  • RCA Music Group
  • Ted Forstmann
  • Tudor Investments
  • Ubuntu (For Humanity)
  • IMG
  • Uthando (For Love)
  • EMI Music Publishing
  • MTV Networks
  • Ithemba (For Hope)
  • Giorgio Armani
  • AVON
  • BET Networks
  • Bloomberg
  • Clarins Group USA
  • Clear Channel Radio
  • Steven A. and Alexandra M. Cohen Foundation, Inc.
  • Peter Edge
  • The Elma Philanthropies
  • Geller & Company / Willkie Farr Gallagher
  • HBO
  • Live Nation
  • News Corporation
  • P & G Beauty
  • Saks Fifth Avenue
  • David Saltz
  • Sony/ATV Music Publishing
  • The Walt Disney Studios
  • We TV
  • William Morris Agency
  • WMI