Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Rock royalty in Sandy benefit show

Eric Clapton performing at The Concert for Sandy Relief at Madison Square Garden in New York (Starpix/AP)

Musicians were so intent upon helping victims of Superstorm Sandy that they did not seem to want a benefit concert in New York to end.

The final notes of Alicia Keys' Empire State of Mind closed the star-studded show nearly six hours after Bruce Springsteen set a roaring tone with Land of Hope and Dreams.

In between, the Madison Square Garden stage hosted a mini-Nirvana reunion with Sir Paul McCartney playing the part of Kurt Cobain, a duet between Coldplay's Chris Martin and former REM singer Michael Stipe, Kanye West wearing a leather kilt and enough British music royalty to fill an old rockers' home.

The sold-out show was televised live, streamed online, played on the radio and shown in theatres all over the world. Producers said up to two billion people were able to experience it live.

"I know you really wanted One Direction," Martin, speaking onstage at 12.15am local time, said of the popular British boyband. "But it's way past their bedtime. That's why you get one quarter of Coldplay." Stipe joined him for that band's "Losing My Religion".

Jersey shore hero Springsteen 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.

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.

Ticket prices ranged from 150 dollars (£93) to 2,500 dollars (£1,550). Even with those prices, people with tickets had been offering them for more on the internet, an attempt at profiteering that producers said was "despicable".

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

Proceeds from the show will be distributed through the Robin Hood Foundation. More than 30 million dollars (£18.6 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 was 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.