It was a concert for the ages, dubbed by some as the biggest concert in music history, as a stunning range of legendary artists and once-in-a-lifetime collaborations brought in the princely sum of $30 million dollars even before the concert started in a benefit for the New York region called 12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief.
The six-hour concert was heavy on rock, as icons like Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Billy Joel, The Who, Eric Clapton and Bon Jovi thrilled the Madison Square Garden crowd with some of their classics. Alicia Keys was one of two women on the bill. The other was jazz singer Diana Krall, who backed McCartney in an intriguing collaboration. McCartney, in addition to singing his solo songs and Beatles songs, also played the role of Kurt Cobain in a mind-bending collaboration with Nirvana members Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear, who reunited to perform a new song called “Cut Me Some Slack.”
According to producers, the up to 2 billion people were able to experience the sold-out show live in a number of forums—live television, streamed online, played on the radio and shown in theaters all over the world.
The money will go to the Robin Hood Foundation, which will be responsible for its distribution to needy people throughout the region.
“We will make sure that that money goes out right away to the most affected (places) in New York City, New Jersey, Long Island, Connecticut,” said David Saltzman, the organization’s executive director, said backstage, according to the Washington Post. “The money that we raised from this concert will be distributed in the days, weeks and months, not years.”
“We’re going to get through this,” New Yorker Billy Joel told the audience, before crooning his classic “Only the Good Die Young.” “We’re just too mean to lay down and die.”
Among the other collaborations were Bon Jovi joining Springsteen and the E Street Band for “Born to Run,” and Springsteen returning the favor on Bon Jovi’s “Who Says You Can’t Go Home”—pairing two of the biggest rock gods ever to come out of New Jersey. Coldplay’s Chris Martin and R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe came together to sing R.E.M.’s classic “Losing My Religion.” Diana Krall joined McCartney for his song “My Valentine,” while Keys and McCartney brought the proceedings to a close with Alicia’s “Empire State of Mind.”
Rapper Kanye West had perhaps the toughest job of the night, stepping into the rock-heavy lineup and trying to move the crowd with some of his biggest rap hits. Wearing a black hoodie and leather skirt over black leather leggings, Kanye started out roaming the stage over the pulsing beats of his current smash, “Clique.” Without his G.O.O.D Music crew to back him up, West coursed through a greatest hits lineup, hitting such high notes as “Mercy,” “Power,” “Jesus Walks,” which brought Yeezy to his knees as he rapped, “I want to talk to God but I’m afraid because we ain’t spoke in so long.”
“All of the Lights,” “Run This Town” and even his portion of Rihanna’s “Diamonds” still didn’t get the crowd going, according to MTV, which said it wasn’t until he ran across the stage during “Touch the Sky” that he finally got their hands in the air, as he closed the set with “Gold Digger,” “Good Life” and “Runaway.”
The lineup wasn’t all musicians. There were some joke tellers in the mix, most of them closely associated with New York: Billy Crystal, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler and Jon Stewart. Stewart jokingly called it “the greatest Hanukkah show ever.”
There were so many Brits in the lineup that Mick Jagger said it was “the largest collection of old English musicians ever in Madison Square Garden.”
“If it rains in London, you’ve got to come and help us,” Jagger said.