LOS ANGELES - Be it concert or charity auction, Bruce Springsteen can bring any event to a crescendo.
Springsteen briefly took over auctioneering duties before being honored as MusiCares person of the year Friday night, exhorting the crowd to bid on a signed Fender electric guitar by amping up the deal. The 63-year-old rock 'n' roll star moved the bid north from $60,000 by offering a series of sweeteners.
"That's right, a one-hour guitar lesson with me," Springsteen shouted. "And a ride in my Harley Davidson sidecar. So dig in, one-percenters."
That moved the needle past $150,000. He added eight concert tickets and backstage passes with a bonus tour conducted by Springsteen himself. That pushed it to $200,000, but he wasn't done.
"And a lasagna made by my mother!" he shouted as an in-house camera at the Los Angeles Convention Center cut to his 87-year-old mother Adele Ann Springsteen.
And with an extra $250,000 in the musicians charity's coffers, Springsteen sat down and spent most of the evening in the unusual role of spectator as a string of stars that included Elton John, Neil Young, Sting, Kenny Chesney, John Legend, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, Patti Smith, Jackson Browne took the stage two nights before the Grammy Awards.
"Here's a little secret about Bruce Springsteen: He loves this," host Jon Stewart joked. "There's nothing he'd rather do than come to Los Angeles, put on a suit ... and then have people talking about him like he's dead."
Alabama Shakes kicked things off with "Adam Raised A Cain" and over the course of the evening there were several interesting takes on Springsteen's voluminous 40-year catalog of hits. Natalie Manes, Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite played a stripped down "Atlantic City." Mavis Staples and Zac Brown put a gospel spin on "My City of Ruins." John added a funky backbeat to "Streets of Philadelphia." Kenny Chesney offered an acoustic version of "One Step Up."
Jim James and Tom Morello burned through a scorching version of "The Ghost of Tom Joad" that brought the crowd out of their seats as Morello finished the song with a fiery guitar solo. And Mumford & Sons took it the opposite way, playing a quiet, acoustic version of "I'm On Fire" in the round that had the crowd leaning in.