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 of water.
The Who weaved Sandy into their set, showing pictures of storm devastation on video screens during “Pinball Wizard.” Pete Townshend made a quick revision to the lyrics of “Baba O’Riley,” changing “teenage wasteland” to “Sandy wasteland.” The Who and West didn’t follow the Stones’ lead, and played lengthy sets that disrupted the show’s momentum.
Keys, a New York native, asked the audience to hold their cell phones high for her song, “No One,” triggering a sea of light that is the modern version of an earlier generation’s holding cigarette lighters in the air. “We love you,” Keys said, “and we’ll make it through this.”
Keys’ “Empire State of Mind” is this century’s most indelible song about her hometown. Billy Joel performed one of the last century’s favorites, “New York State of Mind.” Joel’s “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)” sounded prescient, with new Sandy-fueled lyrics smoothly fitting in. He was also the only artist to mark the season, working in a little of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
Liverpool’s McCartney has strong New York ties, including a Manhattan office, Hamptons summer home and a third wife, Nancy Shevell, who spent a decade on the board of the agency that oversees New York’s public transit system. Backed by Diana Krall, McCartney performed “My Valentine,” a song he had written for Shevell.
Otherwise, McCartney kept things lively. His James Bond theme “Live and Let Die” set off a light show and he opened his set with the Beatles’ screamer “Helter Skelter.” His big surprise was inviting Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear _ all ex of Nirvana _ to jam on a punky new song.
An energetic West worked up a sweat in a hoodie, black leather pants and a black skirt. He told the audience that he had friends displaced by Sandy who were staying at his house, before getting the crowd swaying with a version of “Gold Digger.” He ended his set by shouting, “I need you right now!” tossing his microphone and stalking off stage.
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.
“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. The theaters showing it included 27 in the New York region.
Proceeds from the show will be distributed through the Robin Hood Foundation. More than $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 140 deaths, including 104 in New York and New Jersey, and it destroyed or damaged 305,000 housing units in New York alone.
Many of the artists told personal stories of friends or family affected by the storm, like Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi.
“I had to hold back the tears really,” he said about visiting the devastation in New Jersey. “My mom’s house (in Point Pleasant, N.J.) got trashed. They had to evacuate her. She’s living with me until we fix it up.”