Musical legends from Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton to the Rolling Stones and Long Island’s own Billy Joel took to the stage at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night for the nearly 6-hour sold out 12-12-12 Superstorm Sandy benefit show, an all-star effort to raise money for those severely impacted by Sandy in New York and New Jersey.
Penn Station and the surrounding streets were crazy as police and merch hawkers flooded roadways and reporters gathered in the press room, just a curtain away from the call center where celebs like Whoopi Goldberg, Valley Stream Central High School graduate Steve Buscemi, the casts of the Sopranos and SNL, Ben Stiller, Chelsea Clinton and Susan Sarandon, among many others, were taking donations over the phone.
Billions of viewers watched 12-12-12 through television, radio and live stream as Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band kicked off the show, singing “My City of Ruins” with fellow Jersey boy Jon Bon Jovi.
Backstage, former Long Beach resident Billy Crystal was extremely somber as he described his hometown as “devastated.” Crystal grew up on Long Beach’s East Park Avenue and graduated from Long Beach High School in 1965.
Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, who had just performed “Comfortably Numb” with Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder was in higher spirits, telling the press, “I thought [Eddie] nailed it, I just wanted to give him a kiss, it’s very rare that I get that feeling.”
Many of the performers to take the stage were British and Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger told the cheering crowd, “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.”
The Who performed a 30-minute set which included “Pinball Wizard” and “Baba O’Riley.” Pete Townshend changed the lyrics from “teenage wasteland” to “Sandy wasteland” and Roger Daltrey rocked 1973 track “Bell Boy,” paying homage to the late Keith Moon by including a video of Moon singing his vocal part of the song.
And Hicksville native Billy Joel was also there to represent Long Island. The Piano Man sang classics “New York State of Mind,” “River of Dreams” and even “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
Adam Sandler performed “Screw Ya Sandy,” a parody of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” with even a snarky nod to NYC and even the Lohans.
“The bed bug scare of 2010,” he sang. “The Lohans getting busted again and again…Sandy screw ya!”
Comedians Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Chris Rock also brought the funny with Colbert joking that we was going to keep all the funds raised from the show.
Coldplay’s Chris Martin performed an acoustic version of “Viva la Vida” and joked to the audience, “I know you really wanted One Direction, but it’s way past their bedtime.”
Martin then performed a duet with Michael Stipe of REM, singing “Losing My Religion.”
Paul McCartney performed a 40-minute set that included “Blackbird” and “Helter Skelter” as well as “Cut Me Some Slack,” taking the place of the late Kurt Cobain, alongside Nirvana’s Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic.
And one of the most talked about performances of the evening came from Kanye West, who sported a leather kilt over pants, with white sneakers, which caused a Facebook and Twitter frenzy as people talked about Kanye’s “skirt,” which even ended up with its own Twitter page by the end of the night. Chris Rock introduced West, sarcastically, as “the very humble Kanye West.”
Hell’s Kitchen native Alicia Keys, ended the night with “Empire State of Mind,” while Paul McCartney welcomed first responders, firefighters, police officers and doctors to the stage and the show closed with the crowd chanting, “U.S.A!”
One hundred percent of the proceeds from 12-12-12 will go to the Robin Hood Foundation, which had already raised $30 million for Sandy relief efforts before the show even began.
The show’s website, www.121212concert.org, is still taking donations and offering exclusive signed concert memorabilia, including guitars and posters, for auction.
With David Wexler