Sean Penn surprised celebrities with a live performance by U2 at his annual benefit for Haiti on Saturday night. The third annual Help Haiti Home benefit, hosted by Penn and sponsored by Giorgio Armani, was held at the Montage Hotel. Joining forces with Penn to host the event were Anderson Cooper and Penn’s agent, Bryan Lourd. Playing live for the first time in four years, the Irish rock band, U2, who are reported to be longtime friends of Penn, played a three-song set.
The Hollywood Reporter reports that as U2’s lead singer, Bono, took the stage with the band, he told the audience, “It’s been a while since we played a hotel lounge. I think the last time was a bar mitzvah.”
The band performed their hits “Desire,” “Vertigo,” and “I Will Follow.” Prior to taking the stage with the entire band, Bono and U2’s guitarist, The Edge, played a stripped-down acoustic set earlier in the evening with Anaelle Jean-Pierre, a singer from Haiti.
U2, formed in 1976 in Dublin, consists of Bono, The Edge, bass guitarist Adam Clayton, and drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. They are well-known for their politically and socially conscious lyrics which also contain Christian and spiritual imagery. Since 1980, they have been involved in numerous charitable pursuits, including Amnesty International, Product RED, the ONE/DATA campaigns and The Edge’s Music Rising, and have partnered with politicians and celebrities for causes such as poverty, social injustice, and disease. U2 is one of the best-selling musical groups of all time, and have sold more than 150 million records throughout the world. U2 giving a surprise live performance at the annual Haiti benefit given by Sean Penn is certainly not out of the ordinary for the band.
Penn’s organization, the J/P Haitian Relief Organization, was formed after the Haitian earthquake of ,2010. It seeks to ensure that the Haitian people have sustainable housing as well as access to emergency health care and education.
The benefit, held on the same weekend as The Golden Globes, was attended by Hollywood luminaries such as Chris Martin, Gwyneth Paltrow, Michael Douglas, Piers Morgan, and Julia Roberts. Also in attendance was Charlize Theron, who is rumored to be dating Sean Penn. British actress Emma Thompson, who proclaimed that “I’m here for awards season and this is the first night I’ve been having a good time,” introduced the U.S. ambassador to Haiti, Pamela White. During her 30-minute speech, White reminded those present that the Haitian earthquake had killed 300,000 people in five minutes and left 1.2 million Haitians homeless.
The event is known to be laid-back and irreverent with plenty of alcohol to fuel the crowd.
Among items auctioned off at the benefit was a Banksy piece, “Balloon for Haiti,” which was purchased by Martin for $1.4 million. Bad boy Charlie Sheen gave $500,000 to the cause and Sean Penn himself donated a vintage El Camino, which sold for $100,000, and almost 70 of his own guns. The guns were for the future use of artist Jeff Koons, who intended to use the guns, fully destructed, in a sculpture, which was offered for auction on Saturday and eventually sold to Anderson Cooper for $1.4 million.
All told, $6 million was raised for the J/P Haitian Relief Organization.
U2’s next act after surprising celebrities at Sean Penn’s annual Help Haiti Home benefit with a live performance is a new album rumored to be slated for release in April.
By Jennifer Pfalz