Article 2012-12-12 Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY

New Meaning for ‘My City of Ruins’

“WE ARE STRONG,” the video screen promised after images of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation. “WE WILL REBUILD.”

And then Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band charged into a mini-set in full gospel mode. “Land of Hope and Dreams,” a song about immigrant aspirations, had a new line jump out of the lyrics at this hurricane-relief benefit: “We’ll take what we can carry and we’ll leave the rest.” His song about Giants Stadium, “Wrecking Ball,” moved the location from the Meadowlands to “Jersey Shore,” and vehemently repeated “hard times come and hard times go.”

Before he sang “My City of Ruins,” he spoke about Asbury Park and its renaissance over the last 25 years, and how “it was painful to see it damaged.” Then he emphasized that what made the Jersey Shore a special place was that it was “inclusive,” not just for the affluent.

Its chorus, “C’mon rise up!” was a hand-waving singalong. Jon Bon Jovi arrived to share lead vocals on “Born To Run.” That’s one hard act to follow — and yes, those empty seats filled up fast.

By Jon Pareles via The New York Times.

An All-Star Concert in Reply to a Storm

There were the Rolling Stones. There were Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and Bon Jovi. There were the Who and Eric Clapton. The two surviving members of Nirvana reunited to sing with Paul McCartney. And there, too, amid all the aging rockers, were Kanye West and Alicia Keys.

Yet those stars made up fewer than half the celebrities who appeared on Wednesday night’s “12-12-12” concert at Madison Square Garden to benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy, onstage and on screen, singing and telling stories of storm-ravaged parts of New Jersey, New York City and Long Island. Organizers hoped their combined wattage would attract billions of viewers worldwide and raise millions of dollars to rebuild the communities that many of the luminaries once called — or still call — home.

Before charging into “My City of Ruins,” Mr. Springsteen offered a tribute to the Jersey Shore, which he said has “always been a special place — it’s inclusive.” Billy Crystal spoke of his hometown, Long Beach, N.Y., saying, “The ocean I used to dream about is now their worst nightmare.” And Adam Sandler performed a rendition of the song “Hallelujah” in which he rhymed — or attempted to rhyme — the word “Hallelujah” with a one-line insult to Hurricane Sandy. Between performances, video montages showed images of the devastation, and Susan Sarandon, Ben Stiller, Chelsea Clinton, Whoopi Goldberg and others appeared on screen from a call center, where they personally answered donors’ calls.

“You really can’t swing a dead cat in here without hitting a celebrity,” quipped Brian Williams, who grew up in New Jersey.

Modeled on star-studded benefits like the Live Aid concerts in 1985 and Live 8 in 2005, the concert was intended to be accessible to two billion people worldwide through an array of radio, television, theater and online live streams. Hundreds of television and radio channels broadcast the event on six continents, and more than 150,000 watched on YouTube at the concert’s peak.

Movie theaters in storm-torn areas hosted free screenings with an estimated 8,500 attendees, who gathered in half-empty theaters to watch celebrities take the stage on their behalf.

At the Clearview Cinemas in Babylon, N.Y., on Long Island, the crowd of mostly middle-age spectators cheered loudly for Billy Joel and Mr. Crystal, both Long Island natives. Debbie Grimmet, who came with three high school friends, had lost two rooms of her Babylon house to the flood.

“It’s nice to know we are not forgotten,” she said. “My friend Maureen said to me, ‘Shouldn’t we be making a contribution?’ And I said, ‘Come on, Maureen, we’re the victims here.’ ”

David Saltzman, the executive director of the Robin Hood Foundation, which organized the event and will distribute the proceeds to relief groups, said the concert was planned to draw donations worldwide.

“There’s never been anything broadcast on a global basis the way this is being broadcast tonight or being streamed online the way this is being streamed online,” he said, “and our hope is good people all over the world will come together and help people who were crushed by this storm.”

About 13,500 people attended the concert, which was produced by James L. Dolan, executive chairman of the Madison Square Garden Company; John Sykes, president of Clear Channel Entertainment Enterprises; and Harvey Weinstein, chairman of the Weinstein Company, the same team behind the Concert for New York City in 2001, which collected more than $30 million for victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Although figures were not available Wednesday night, “12-12-12” is expected to far outstrip that number.

Robin Hood had already raised more than $30 million from ticket sales and donations going into the concert, and organizers estimated that much more would flow in as stars urged viewers to pledge money during the concert. Still more will come in with sales of CDs, DVDs and downloads.

Mr. Saltzman declined to give a specific fund-raising goal, saying only that he hoped to raise “lots of money.” The concert’s production costs were paid for by Chase Bank and other sponsors, so Robin Hood will receive all proceeds from ticket sales. (The ticket sales process itself came under scrutiny when scalpers appeared to be profiting from resales.)

For all the relief efforts, however, some of those affected, like Pam Rose, 43, who attended the free screening at the Marquee Cinemas in Toms River, N.J., say they are still waiting to see their checks from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and insurance companies.

Ms. Rose — whose family has been staying in a recreational vehicle that was purchased after Sandy sent six inches of water into their home — said she hoped the concert’s proceeds would see their way to those in need.

“It’s wonderful,” she said. “We just hope we keep a little bit of the benefit.”

By Vivian Yee via The New York Times.

Sandy benefit concert: Superstars turn out for good cause, but it’s not all good tunes

The 12-12-12 concert to benefit victims of Superstorm Sandy, held at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night, boasted a lineup ranging from aging white English people to other aging white English people. In both spirit and personnel, it resembled the venerable post-Sept. 11 Concert for New York City, with Paul McCartney, Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Eric Clapton and the Who, all returning to perform at the Garden and joined by even more A-list stars.

All artists can be commended for donating their time to a worthy cause. (Donations to Sandy victims can be made here.) But this was a nearly six-hour concert which means there were moments that were awesome … and moments that were the opposite.

Awesome Things That Happened

Bruce Springsteen: Springsteen’s mini-set included “My City of Ruins,” which was written for a then-moldering Asbury Park, played to great effect at the 9/11 telethon and at any number of benefits since, and will now unfairly be known as That Song Bruce Plays When Bad Things Happen.

Jon Bon Jovi duets with Bruce: The Bon Jovi frontman came onstage for a great/weird “Born to Run” and, at least once during the evening, hugged Springsteen with the sort of familiarity the Boss never would have tolerated during Bon Jovi’s hair metal years. Chris Christie isn’t the only New Jersey icon towards whom the Boss has considerably softened.

The Rolling Stones: They played two songs, “You Got Me Rocking” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” each a marvel of acrobatic peacocking and general showing off-ness. The good news: Everyone appears to still be alive, though we’ll have to get back to you on Keith Richards. The bad news: They didn’t do “Shattered.”

Alicia Keys and Billy Joel: Keys and Joel are the benefit concert equivalent of first responders. They always show up, they’re always prepared, everybody is happy to see them and their presence is weirdly comforting.

Chris Martin: He wore a suit, played an acoustic guitar, and generally carried on like the leader of a Merseybeat band in 1961. He seemed genuinely honored to be there, and humbled. He brought out R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe — who hasn’t been either of those things since 1987 — for Stipe’s old band’s mega-hit “Losing My Religion.” Martin then told the viewers that, when trying to decide how much money to donate, they should think of a figure that approached the average age of the evening’s performers. Truer words.

Other Things That Happened

Roger Waters: The former Pink Floyd leader played a dipped-in-amber greatest hits set so long and lugubrious that even Eddie Vedder, guesting on “Comfortably Numb,” couldn’t save it.

Bruce duets with Jon Bon Jovi: The Boss, visibly caked in makeup, joined forces with JBJ for the tragic bronzer explosion/exercise in unintentional irony that was “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” perhaps not the best song to perform for thousands of people who actually can’t go home, because their houses are in the ocean.

Eric Clapton and the Who: Both nicely done, but emblematic of the evening’s main problem — this was an evening of classic rock acts playing their greatest hits.

Kanye West: This was … off, somehow. It was poorly lit with muddy sound, and West seemed ill at ease during an extended medley that included “Power,” “Jesus Walks,” “Stronger” and “Gold Digger,” though he found his footing towards the end.

Paul McCartney fronting the remainder of Nirvana: Sir Paul played a few Wings songs, he did a few Beatles songs, he performed with Diane Krall, like you do at this sort of show. He then brought out Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl and Pat Smear for the Nirvana non-reunion you’ve (never) been waiting for. Not-Nirvana played a strange-but-not-unpleasant, “Helter Skelter”-like new song called “Cut Me Some Slack.” It felt less like a Nirvana reunion than simply like watching Paul McCartney playing with a crack backing band. Painless, really. And witnessing Sir Paul introducing Pat Smear was worth the six-hour run time. (Okay, it wasn’t.)

The grand-ish finale: McCartney, Keys and a host of first responders performing “Empire State of Mind.”

Some lingering questions

Why did Roger Waters play 57 songs over a 10-day period, and the Stones play only two?

Where was Jay-Z?

Why did so many well-known artists — Eddie Vedder, Chris Martin — perform without their bands? Was this a logistical thing, or a high-profile opportunity to get audiences used to them as solo artists?

Why was Jon Bon Jovi dressed like a French mime?

By Allison Stewart via The Washington Post.
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