Photo Credit, Courtesy of CNN
Although broadcasted live on HBO for the whole world to see, it seemed as though every media site was offering their own link to the unprecedented live-stream of the star-studded “12/12/12” Concert for Sandy Relief.” Although a completely different tragedy, one can’t help but recall the eerily similar show, “The Concert For New York City,” following 9/11. And just like that night nearly eleven years ago, the same theme seemed to echo across the 6+ hour Madison Square Garden show: resiliency.
As each elite musical act churned out energetic, crowd-pleasing sets, New Yorkers and New Jerseyans were constantly reminded that everything was going to be okay. With a reported 2 billion people watching, so did the entire world. After footage of the storms destruction and first-responders populated the jumbo screen, New Jersey’s favorite son Bruce Springsteen, along with his E-Street Band kicked off the show with a set that sent a clear message to the world: we will persevere. The Boss ripped through new tunes “Land of Hope and Dreams and “Wrecking Ball” before inviting fellow New Jerseyan Jon Bon Jovi onto the stage, trading lines from the timeless rocker “Born to Run.” Pink Floyd front man Roger Waters, decked out in his usual black tee immediately followed with a set of Floyd classics that included “In the Flesh,” “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2,” and “Money.”
Perhaps in one of the shows many highlights, Waters then summoned grunge icon Eddie Vedder to join him for a killer rendition of Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.” The Pearl Jam front man nailed the vocals as if it were 1992.
Following Adam Sandler’s delivery of a hilarious rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (with Sandy-inspired lyrics), Bon Jovi returned to the stage with his band and rocked through their hits “My Life,” “Wanted Dead or Alive” (guitarist Ritchie Sambora on his signature double-acoustic) and “Livin’ on a Prayer.” The band returned the favor to Bruce and brought him out for the acoustic Jersey anthem “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.”
The audience was then treated to a mellowed Eric Clapton, offering some acoustic blues on “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” and then plugging in for an electric “Crossroads.” The Rolling Stones ripped through a brief set of “You Got Me Rocking” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” We’re sure the audience didn’t mind, as the Stones were gearing up for their own live pay-per-view event this Saturday from New Jersey, celebrating their 50th anniversary.
Proud New York native Alicia Keys sat behind the piano and served up a jaw dropping rendition of “Brand New Me” off her new disc Girl on Fire. After losing herself in a soulful rendition of “No One”, Keys proclaimed her love for her hometown, telling the crowd “My city, New York, is the most incredible city, the most resilient city.” This sentiment never left the building.
Just as they did for “The Concert for New York City” in October od 2001, The Who might have been the night’s show stealers. Although at some points visibly straining to hit those notes, lead singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist Pete Townsend tore through “Who Are You’” “Pinball Wizard” and “Baba O’Riley.” Townsend dazzled the crowd with his usual windmill antics. The crown ate it up.
In one of the more notable performances that will surely be a topic of water-cooler conversation was rap’s resident whiner Kanye West. Trying his hardest to rival up a mostly rock-centric crowd, West powered through recent hits “Clique” and “Mercy” before a melody of classic tracks including “Jesus Walks,” “All of the Lights,” “Touch the Sky” and “Gold Digger.”
It wouldn’t be a benefit show at MSG without Long Island native Billy Joel taking charge behind the grand piano. Joel nearly stole the show with “Miami (2017),” “ Movin’ Out,” “New York State of Mind,” Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Only the Good Die Young.” Chris Martin then showed up with only an acoustic guitar, joking to the audience as he told them “I know you really wanted One Direction, but it’s way past their bedtime.” Martin strummed through “Viva La Vida” before surprising audiences with R.E.M. crooner Michael Stipe on a duet from his own band’s “Losing My Religion.”
The night of course ended with Paul McCartney’s usual closing spot, wowing the crowd with Beatle songs “Helter Skelter” and “Blackbird” and pleasing Wings fans with “Let Me Roll It,” “1985” and an explosive “Live and Let Die.” Without a doubt the biggest surprise of the night is when McCartney took center stage and announced to the audience that “…some guys asked me to go and jam with them, so I showed up, ready to jam. And in the middle of it these guys kept on saying ‘we haven’t played together for years ‘”. The band was non-other than Nirvana, and out came original bassist Krist Novoselic, guitarist Pat Smear and of course Foo Fighter Dave Grohl behind the drums. And so marked the first time the band had performed onstage together in roughly 20 years, rocking through Grohl’s new tune to accompany his upcoming documentary covering legendary L.A. recording studio “Sound City.”
A fitting end to a jam-packed night, Keys returned to the stage to send the crowd off with the majestic chorus to the New York anthem “Empire State of Mind.” If you wish to donate to the Robin Hood Relief Fund to aid hurricane victims, please call 1-855-465-4357 or visit www.121212concert.org.