The audience included Billy Idol, Sandra Bernhard, Dennis Quaid, Harry Dean Stanton, Leonard Cohen and Richard Thompson, but the real star power was onstage at LA's Coconut Grove when Cinemax taped its tribute to Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Roy Orbison (to air early next year). In addition to Elvis Presley's old band (guitarist James Burton, drummer Ronnie Tutt, bassist Jerry Scheff and pianist Glen Hardin), Orbison was backed by Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and Tom Waits. Supporting vocalists were Jackson Browne, J.D. Souther, Bonnie Raitt, Jennifer Warnes, k.d. lang and Steve Soles, best known for appearing in Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue. The group ran through almost twenty Orbison classics, including "Only the Lonely," "Running Scared," "Blue Bayou" and "In Dreams," plus a few new songs, including one written by Costello.
The all-stars, though, didn't spend much time in the spotlight: all of the lead vocals were done by the man in the black fringed jacket and shades, sounding almost exactly the way he did thirty years ago. "I said to those guys, 'You wanna go up against Orbison?' "said musical director T-Bone Burnett, laughing. "Not only is he just about the only one of the rock & rollers his age who's still alive, but he still sings those songs in the same key as the originals. Nobody does that."
Every time Orbison effortlessly hit one of his high notes, he drew a huge grin from Springsteen, who shared a mike with Orbison on "Uptown" and "Dream Baby" and took guitar solos on "Ooby Dooby" and "Oh, Pretty Woman." "It was fun," said Springsteen afterward, his arms draped around Orbison's neck. "Lotta fun, playing guitar with James Burton and just being there with this guy." Then the Boss headed out the door, still humming "Dream Baby."