Though Sting has been relatively absent from the music world this year, his track “The Empty Chair” with J. Ralph from the Jim, The James Foley Story is up for Best Original Song, so he attended the event tonight to perform it.
Performing solo onstage with a single spotlight on him, Sting stood atop a chair to render an intimate, acoustic performance in honor of James Foley, the subject of the film documentary his track was nominated for this year. It takes a special kind of artist to render a performance of a song about a chair while using a chair as a prop, but despite the on-the-nose setting there, Sting was as moving as he always is.
The film his song was included in is a documentary tribute to the fallen journalist James Foley, who was kidnapped in Syrian while reporting on the Syrian Civil War, and then gruesomely beheaded on video in August 2014. The film was directed by Foley’s childhood best friend Brian Oakes and premiered at Sundance last year, before an official release on HBO last February.
This was a somber moment in a show whose other musical performances were fairly upbeat — Justin Timberlake kicked off the show with an exuberant rendition of “Can’t Stop The Feeling,” and 16-year-old Auli’i Cravalho upstaged Lin-Manuel Miranda for their Oscar debut performance of “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana. Watch all of the Oscar performances here.