ARMANI BENEFIT PUTS CROWE CENTER STAGE
Byline: Courtney Colavita
MILAN — Russell Crowe might wear Armani to the Oscars, but when it comes time to rock out, he dresses more like an Australian in the Outback.
On Monday night, Crowe, dressed in jeans, a faded black button-down and a T-shirt, took on the role of rock star during a benefit concert sponsored by Giorgio Armani.
Crowe and his band TOFOG — Thirty Odd Feet Of Grunts — met up at Rolling Stone, a club here, for an invitation-only concert that raised money for the local chapter of Sara Ferguson’s charity, Children in Crisis.
“It was something I wanted to do, but we needed someone with clout, like Mr. Armani, to get my band-mates out here from Australia,” Crowe said, adding a mutual friend had put him in contact with the designer.
The Oscar nominee had been promoting the European release of his latest film, “Proof of Life,” when he decided to take a two-day break to sing and play the guitar at the Armani concert as well as at Italy’s San Remo Festival, which began on Monday.
The Duchess of York, dressed in a black Armani knee-length skirt and silver sequined sleeveless top, introduced the Australian actor and his band to a crowd of more than 1,500 people.
“Italians have always given from their hearts, and now they’re giving from their pockets as well,” she said backstage before the concert.
Almost immediately, Crowe — sporting a beard and an unkempt mane of sandy brown hair — tore into a guitar riff that brought the audience to their feet. The admiration was clearly mutual: “This is definitely the best-looking crowd we’ve ever played to,” Crowe said as he pushed his hair out of his eyes.
A bit unsure during his first song, Crowe quickly relaxed into rock star mode — head-banging and all. He flirted with the crowd, spouting Italian phrases, and seduced the audience with rich vocals. By the end of the hour-and-a-half long concert, even Armani was rocking to Russell’s beat.
Part rock, part folk, with some horns spliced in, TOFOG has been together since 1984. Monday’s concert marked its first performance in Europe.
“It’s a late Sixties-inspired sound. If you take Jim Croce, [Bob] Dylan, Elvis Presley, The Doors, Tom Jones and put them in a blender, what you would get would be something like us — but not really,” Crowe said.
Keeping things ambiguous is part of Crowe’s appeal — whether he’s morphing into screen characters or slipping in and out of rock songs.
“It comes from the same soul. As an actor, I fulfill the needs of a character. When I write [songs], I’m speaking about things that happened to me in real life. And with the concert, I’m giving something to the greater community,” Crowe said.
At press time, organizers did not yet have a tally of how much was raised. Armani donated $15,000. Meanwhile, guests were given an envelope upon entering and asked to make a donation. All proceeds go to Children in Crisis, which is working with two local organizations that provide homes and care for abandoned and abused children.