Superstars turn out for Sandy concert

DAVID BAUDER
Last updated 16:58 13/12/2012

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Music and comedy royalty struck a defiant tone in a benefit concert for super storm Sandy victims, asking for help to rebuild a New York metropolitan area most of them know well.

The sold-out Madison Square Garden show was televised, streamed online and aired on radio all over the world. Producers said up to 2 billion people could experience the concert live.

"When are you going to learn," comic and New Jersey native Jon Stewart said. "You can throw anything at us - terrorists, hurricanes. You can take away our giant sodas. It doesn't matter. We're coming back stronger every time."

Jersey shore hero Bruce Springsteen set a roaring tone, opening the concert with Land of Hope and Dreams and Wrecking Ball.

He addressed the rebuilding process in introducing his song My City of Ruins, noting it was written about the decline of Asbury Park, New Jersey before that city's renaissance over the past decade. What made the Jersey shore special was its inclusiveness, a place where people of all incomes and backgrounds could find a place, he said.

"I pray that that characteristic remains along the Jersey shore because that's what makes it special," Springsteen said.

He mixed a verse of Tom Waits' Jersey Girl into the song before calling New Jersey neighbour Jon Bon Jovi to join him in a rousing Born to Run. Springsteen later returned the favour by joining Bon Jovi on Who Says You Can't Go Home.

Adam Sandler hearkened back to his Saturday Night Live days with a ribald rewrite of the oft-sung Hallelujah that composer Leonard Cohen never would have dreamed. The rewritten chorus says, "Sandy, screw ya, we'll get through ya, because we're New Yawkers.

Sandler wore a New York Jets T-shirt and mined Donald Trump, Michael Bloomberg, the New York Knicks, Times Square porn and Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez for laugh lines.

The music lineup was heavily weighted toward classic rock, which has the type of fans able to afford a show for which ticket prices ranged from US$150 to Us$2,500. Even with those prices, people with tickets have been offering them for more on broker sites such as StubHub, an attempt at profiteering that producers fumed was "despicable."

"This has got to be the largest collection of old English musicians ever assembled in Madison Square Garden," Rolling Stones rocker Mick Jagger said. "If it rains in London, you've got to come and help us."

In fighting trim for a series of 50th anniversary concerts in the New York area, the Stones ripped through You've Got Me Rockin' and Jumping Jack Flash.

Jagger wasn't in New York City for Sandy, but he said in an interview before the concert that his apartment was flooded with 2 feet (60 centimetres) of water.

Eric Clapton switched from acoustic to electric guitar and sang Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out and Crossroads. New York was a backdrop for Clapton's personal tragedy, when his young son died after falling out of a window.

Roger Waters played a set of Pink Floyd's spacey rock, joined by Eddie Vedder for Comfortably Numb. Waters stuck to the music and left the fundraising to others.

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"Can't chat," he said, "because we only have 30 minutes."

The sold-out "12-12-12" concert was being shown on 37 television stations in the United States and more than 200 others worldwide. It was to be streamed on 30 websites, including YouTube and Yahoo, and played on radio stations. Theaters, including 27 in the New York region and dozens more elsewhere, were showing it live.

Proceeds from the show will be distributed through the Robin Hood Foundation. More than US$30 million was raised through ticket sales alone.

The powerful storm left parts of New York City underwater and left millions of people in several states without heat or electricity for weeks. It's blamed for at least 125 deaths, including 104 in New York and New Jersey, and it destroyed or damaged 305,000 housing units in New York alone.

Other concert performers were to include Long Islander Billy Joel ("New York State of Mind") and New Yorker Alicia Keys (Empire State of Mind). Even Liverpool's Paul McCartney has a New York office, Hamptons home and a wife, Nancy Shevell, who spent a decade on the board of the agency that runs New York's public transit system.

E Street Band guitarist Steve Van Zandt said backstage that musicians are often quick to help when they can.

"Yes, it's more personal because literally the Jersey shore is where we grew up," he said. "But we'd be here anyway."

The concert came a day after the death of sitar master Ravi Shankar, a performer at the 1971 "Concert for Bangladesh" considered the grandfather of music benefits. That concert also was in Madison Square Garden.

- AP

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