Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Dec 13th 2012 12:00PM by Dan Reilly
Larry Busacca, Getty Images for Clear Channel
Sure, at times it felt overstuffed, which is pretty unavoidable for five and a half hours. Paul McCartney, going on an hour later than planned, thanked fans for staying (as if they wouldn't). Mick Jagger, whose Rolling Stones played only two songs, quipped, "This has got to be the largest collection of old English musicians ever assembled in Madison Square Garden. "If it rains in London, you've got to come and help us." Coldplay's Chris Martin pleaded to the audience to donate a dollar for the average age of the performers and admitted that he knew they wanted One Direction instead of him, but it was past their bedtime.
People can gripe all they want, make cracks about how old and British the lineup was -- and it was very old and British, overall -- but there were plenty of moments that hit home for residents of the areas devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
Springsteen kicked off the evening with one of the most inspired sets, opting for more recent songs -- "Land of Hope and Dreams," "Wrecking Ball" and "My City of Ruins" -- before singing a snippet of Tom Waits' "Jersey Girl" then bringing out his neighbor Jon Bon Jovi for "Born to Run." Later, guitarist Stevie Van Zandt praised his fellow musicians for helping out Sandy victims. "We are the lucky ones, no doubt about it, but we're glad to give back," he said. "The E Street Band, when there's trouble, we run towards it, not away from it."
Roger Waters performed an uneven set that started strong with "In the Flesh?" and later hit on Pink Floyd's "Money," an odd choice considering the fundraiser aspect of the evening. He closed with Eddie Vedder, sharing vocals on "Comfortably Numb." He even made a point of kissing the Pearl Jam frontman on the head at the beginning of the song. Afterward, he said, "I stopped singing at one point to kiss him. And that's weird. I never do that!"
Adam Sandler and Paul Shaffer then did a parody that turned Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" into "Sandy Screw Ya." It was not funny. Let's not think about it ever again.
Jon Bon Jovi came back with his band -- you know, Bon Jovi -- to rock through some of their hits, with Springsteen coming back out to duet on "Who Says You Can't Go Home." They closed it with "Livin' on a Prayer" of course.
Eric Clapton went classic next, and slightly obscure. With all the classic-rock radio hits he has, his three-song set touched went with "Nobody Knows When You're Down and Out" and "Got to Get Better in a Little While" from Derek and the Dominos, then a laid-back version of Cream's "Crossroads" cover. Mr. Slowhand himself barely said anything, playing it cool and unassuming like he has for years.
Though they were allotted the same time as Clapton, the Stones' set was a letdown in terms of quantity, not quality. Out of all their hits, they chose to perform "You Got Me Rocking," a 1994 cut from their Voodoo Lounge album, then drawing out "Jumpin' Jack Flash." Guess we'll have to pony up for their pay-per-view special on Saturday night to see the goods.
Alicia Keys ventured out for a quick two-song set, playing "Brand New Me" and "No One" while imploring the crowd to hold up their cell phones (no more lighters in the air). Then it was time for the Who.
Revving up with "Who Are You," Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend were in fine form. There were some missteps -- Keith Moon's from-the-grave vocals on "Bell Boy" didn't match up with the giant projected video, and closing with 2006's "Tea & Theatre" was a strange decision -- but when they were on, they killed it. "Pinball Wizard" into "See Me, Feel Me" then "Baba O'Riley" showed they still have it, with Townshend's windmills adding the excitement and overpowering the distraction of Daltrey's varying degrees of chest-baring.
Kanye West, of course, played it unpredictably, going well over his allotted 10 minutes. Donning a leather skirt, he gave what at that point was probably the most energetic performance since Springsteen's, plowing through a medley of "Clique," "Mercy," "Power," "Jesus Walks," "Run This Town," "Diamonds From Sierra Leone," "Touch the Sky," "Gold Digger," "Good Life," "Runaway" and "Stronger." Naturally, he dropped his microphone and walked off stage as the last song ended.
Billy Joel kept up the energy with his set, his Long Island roots adding to the emotional weight of the evening. "New York State of Mind" was a huge crowd pleaser, his '90s hit "River of Dreams" a surprisingly stirring sing-along and closer "Only the Good Die Young" brought things home on a high note.
Chris Martin had the unenviable task of following that as a solo act but he surprised the audience by inviting R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe out to perform "Losing My Religion." Even Coldplay haters can't deny that it was great.
And that brought us to the main event, Sir Paul McCartney himself. Leading with "Helter Skelter," his set touched on all parts of his career: Wings tracks "Let Me Roll It" and "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five," his recent ballad "My Valentine" with Diana Krall on piano, and a solo take on "Blackbird." Many fans knew that he was performing with the surviving members of Nirvana, but it was still a surprise to hear what they did: A new song he wrote with Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear called "Cut Me Some Slack." The track was as heavy as anything McCartney's done, and the other musicians were clearly overjoyed to be rocking out with him.
Macca wrapped things up with a firework-assisted "Live and Let Die," then surprised the audience by asking first responders to join him on the stage and bringing back Alicia Keys to sing "Empire State of Mind." It was a no-brainer that the song was going to be played at some point in the evening, and the heartwarming gesture to honor the brave citizens of the tri-state area. It was a bit disappointing that the rest of the star-studded lineup didn't return for some special performances, but after a marathon night like that it was also a perfect time to end it. After all, how much more could anyone ask for with this bill?
Additional reporting by Cameron Matthews.