Rock music royalty, including the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters and Paul McCartney, joined in a stellar line-up to raise money for victims of superstorm Sandy.
The “12-12-12” concert at Madison Square Garden brought a Who’s Who of rockers under one roof for the event, which was broadcast live across 37 US television networks and a multitude of Internet livestream sites, as well as radio. Organizers expected two billion people to tune in worldwide.
Musicians also included The Who, Jon Bon Jovi, Eric Clapton, Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys, Chris Martin, and rapper Kanye West, who lit up the Twittersphere by performing in a black leather skirt.
While music stars strutted their stuff, movie and TV performers including Leonardo DiCaprio, Chris Rock, Susan Sarandon, Whoopi Goldberg, and political humorist Jon Stewart fronted a telethon drive or appeared in the arena to appeal for funds in the event organized by the Robin Hood Foundation.
The phone bank was literally wall-to-wall with celebrities, among them Chelsea Clinton, the increasingly high-profile only child of former president Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Mega-stars with New York and New Jersey roots said the October 29 hurricane-strength storm, which killed about 120 people in the United States, had humbled them.
“I’ve never seen anything remotely close to what Hurricane Sandy was,” Bon Jovi said before being joined on stage by fellow New Jersey star Springsteen. “This storm lasted a day. The effects of it are going to last a lifetime.”
Coldplay frontman Chris Martin performed a duet with surprise guest Michael Stipe of R.E.M. fame, and McCartney sang in the show’s finale alongside a reunion of surviving members of 90s grunge rock band Nirvana.
Between the high-powered rock anthems, comedian Adam Sandler played a more unusual song with a cheekily rewritten version of Leonard Cohen’s ballad “Hallelujah.”
“Hallelujah, Sandy screw ya, we’ll always rule ya, coz we’re New Yorkers,” ran the chorus to the feisty homage to the Big Apple and neighboring New Jersey that had some in the crowd in tears of laughter.
But even the funnymen showed their serious side at the event.
Stewart, of “The Daily Show,” recalled his boyhood on the Jersey shore and praised the area’s “working-class” heroes. He then called on the crowd of 13,000 to give a standing ovation to the police officers of Seaside Heights, a beach community that was torn apart in the storm.
Demand for seats quickly turned tickets into gold dust. The StubHub site listed one ticket at $10,400, and before the first note played, tickets and other sales had raised $32 million for the fund-raising drive.
At the end of the night, Robin Hood director David Saltzman said “tens of thousands” of people had made donations, adding that the money would be “distributed in a matter of days, weeks, months — not years.”
Mega-storm Sandy slammed into New Jersey on October 29 before rolling up through New York City, bringing hurricane-force winds to the densely populated region and leaving massive flooding and ruined infrastructure in its wake.
Even now, tens of thousands of people remain without electricity, hot water or heating in the New York area.
Many people in the hardest-hit beach communities have lost their entire homes, just as the winter cold sets in.
The White House has asked Congress to send $60.4 billion to aid rebuilding efforts, but the money has yet to be approved. The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have estimated damages as high as $82 billion.
The storm killed 120 people in the United States after carving a deadly path through the Caribbean.