MSN Music Blog - Reverb

Stepping up in Sandy's wake: The '12-12-12 Benefit' concert

The ubiquitous relief event skews old but rocks hard

By MSN Music Partners Dec 13, 2012 2:50AM

By Alan Light
Special to MSN Music


NEW YORK — It might have been the single greatest gathering of talent for a rock show—or it might just have been, as Mick Jagger put it, "the largest collection of old English musicians ever assembled." On Wednesday night, Madison Square Garden hosted the almost six-hour "12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief," bringing together musical superstars of several generations and raising tens of millions of dollars for the Robin Hood Foundation's efforts to help restore and rebuild the areas of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut that were ravaged by late October's Superstorm Sandy.

 Many of the concert's anchors — Paul McCartney, The Who, Bon Jovi, Billy Joel — had also appeared at the Manhattan arena eleven years ago for the legendary "Concert for New York," which followed the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. But if anything, the "12-12-12" show was more rocked-up than its predecessor, with the mellow James Taylor/Paul Simon axis replaced by young guns including Alicia Keys, Kanye West, and Chris Martin of Coldplay.

Still, the vintage of the line-up was a source of some humor throughout the evening. "If you're going to donate tonight," said Martin, "think of a figure that matches the average age of the performers, and I bet we'll raise billions!"


From the evening's very first song, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band thundering through "Land of Hope and Dreams," a few themes were clear: Messages of uplift and perseverance would determine much of the song selection, and these were not going to be strictly "greatest hits" sets. In their meager two-song performance, the Rolling Stones played the largely-forgotten “Voodoo Lounge” track "You Got Me Rockin'" before unleashing an extended, snarling "Jumpin' Jack Flash." The Who mixed several songs from their current tour playing the entire “Quadrophenia” album alongside classics like "Baba O' Reilly" (with Pete Townshend singing "It's only Sandy wasteland") and "Pinball Wizard."

 The "12-12-12" show also included numerous actors and comedians offering tales of heroic efforts in such devastated spots as Red Hook, Brooklyn; Breezy Point, Queens; and much of the Jersey Shore. Most memorable was an appearance by Adam Sandler, backed by Paul Shaffer, delivering a parody of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" that rhymed the title word with "Sandy, screw ya," and lamented both the storm's destruction and the sorry recent fate of New York's sports franchises.


In the press area backstage, the random assortment of celebrities these events always seem to attract — Katie Holmes, Martha Stewart, Tony Danza — were paraded in for photo ops, while some of the performers spoke about the ways in which Sandy hit close to home; Susan Sarandon described losing power in her downtown apartment, while Richie Sambora said "My mom's house got trashed—she's living with me now!"

Onstage, many of the notable moments came from collaborations that could only arise on a night like this. Jon Bon Jovi joined Springsteen for "Born to Run," and Bruce repaid the favor on Bon Jovi's "Who Says You Can't Go Home." Michael Stipe sang a lovely "Losing My Religion" with Chris Martin, and Eddie Vedder nailed the vocal in a duet with Roger Waters on Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb." (Backstage, Waters said that "Eddie was absolutely amazing, it was like a dream come true.")


The most jaw-dropping partnership of all came near the night's end, when the surviving members of NirvanaDave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and Pat Smear — performed a new song with McCartney called "Cut Me Some Slack" off the soundtrack to Grohl's upcoming "Sound City" documentary.  During the song the Beatle joyously wailed and pounded on a cigar-box guitar and Grohl bashed away behind the drums like a crazed Muppet, just like the old days. It was a perfectly-scaled gesture, celebrating the camaraderie and magic of the event without pretending to be any more important than it really was.

The biggest surprise of the night may have been Kanye West, whose position sandwiched in between The Who and Billy Joel didn't bode well, but who responded with a set that built to a ferocious intensity. Dressed in a leather kilt, West kept the stage empty and dark and remained tightly focused in a set that ran twice its allotted ten-minute length; even hits like "Gold Digger" and "Good Life" burned with passion, and demonstrated that he — and the hip-hop he represents in this crowd — belonged on a stage with these giants.

It was after 1 a.m. when McCartney wrapped up his set with "Live and Let Die," and the torch was officially passed when the "12-12-12" show did not end with the expected singalong to "Hey Jude" or "Let It Be," but with Alicia Keys returning to the stage to sing New York City's true 21st Century anthem "Empire State of Mind." In that moment, it was easy to forget the late hour, to feel hope for the victims of this unprecedented natural disaster, and to understand what she was saying: These streets will make you feel brand-new, big lights will inspire you, here in New York.


* Photos by Dave Allocca, AP/Starpix

Dec 13, 2012 8:13AM
Enjoyed all of it till the talentless Kanye West hit the stage then it was time to walk my dogs and edit the Tivo to remove the intermission he provided. I wish this guy would just become an actor. Then he would go away into obsecurity and end up waiting tables!
Dec 13, 2012 8:10AM
Was great show until that boob k. west  came out to guess you call that singing?? Taylor Swift would have been much better than that boob. Anyway goes to show why all the older rockers still have the swagger.   ROCK ON!!!
Dec 13, 2012 8:05AM

Kanye West was absolutely terrible...god-awful

Dec 13, 2012 8:00AM
They may be older, but they are still what rock music is all about.  Take a lesson you Kanye Wests and Justin Beibers - you really don't hold a candle to these elder statesmen.
Dec 13, 2012 8:00AM
I was watching till the narcissistic dress wearing waste of space Kanye West took the stage, I wonder how many people turned it off at that point. I understand the attempt to draw in a broader audience but anyone would have been better, I would rather have seen a Milli Vanilli tribute band than that jerk. RIP to those who lost their lives and prayers to my fellow New Yorkers and Jerseyites, hope the support raised by this concert is well spent.
Dec 13, 2012 7:57AM
Okay, am I alone in totally disagreeing with the author and thinking that Kanye West sucked big time and looked rather ridiculous taking himself so seriously while dancing around looking like Daisy May in leather?
Dec 13, 2012 7:54AM

I did not get to see the whole long did this thing go????  But, from what I saw a couple things..


1) The Stones......2 songs?  Really???  Wouldnt have anything to do with an upcoming pay-for-view concert you have would it???  Left me with a pretty sour taste.


2) The Who......I guess they took up the Stones alloted time.  lol.  I thought they were doing an entire Who concert!  And I have to say, I was pretty impressed.  They really had a GREAT song selection, and did some really energy filled, emiotion filled versions. 


Springsteen of course was great.  He kinda gets overlooked because it's just kind of expected that he will rock the house when he plays.  Bon Jovi.....oy many times am I going to have to hear Dead of Alive in my lifetime.  LOL


I would have loved to see Waters/Veder and McCartney with Dave Frohl.  But, it just got too late.

Dec 13, 2012 7:52AM
To anyone that has knocked this in any way, screw you. All the preformers did awesome!  I  grew up with most of them and while some aged better then others, don't we all. It was a night  raise money and enjoy the show. So if you were there to do anything else other than that shut the f **k up. Maybe open your wallet and give alittle.
Dec 13, 2012 7:47AM
Kanye West absolutely terrible!!!
This is when I turned the TV off.
Dec 13, 2012 7:46AM
What a CONCERT!!!!! What a lineup of musicians giving their all  in support of Sandy's victims.....This will go down in history as one of the BEST Rock shows EVER!!!!  All these mega superstar icons may never come together again.....Wow!!!  What a Show!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
Dec 13, 2012 7:43AM
Girlfriend's son tells me that Kanye West was the main attraction last night. When I asked him what he was smoking he called me a racist...West couldn't even tie the shoes of the performers on that stage last night...What were the organizers thinking???
Dec 13, 2012 7:34AM

I am sorry, but does anyone else think that the E Street band is nothing but a bunch of noise?


There is so much going on that I can't hear a song out of any of it.


How many people can you have on stage at one time? It seems like there is 8 singers and 14 people playing instruments.


Just noise to me.

Dec 13, 2012 7:30AM
Sorry for my mispelled words as I stayed up for the concert and it is too early. I was saying it is always the Rockers that put together the big benefit concerts.
Dec 13, 2012 7:28AM
IT was great, the Tribute to the woman Pastor was wonderful. And it is interesting that from Bangledesh and Live Aid t now it is always the Roxker that come out with the biggest Benefit concerts. Now the Country, Christian,HipHop or Rappers that put it together but the ROCKERS of the era of which I am a part.
Dec 13, 2012 7:21AM

  What a wonderful event that the most decorated performers from around the world took the time and made an extraordinary effort to bring the world together for a common cause, to help those people devastated by Sandy!  Thank you to those who really care!   Oh........then there is the self serving, self absorbed, and no talent, Kanya West !

Is it me, or did he look just a little out of place; certainly not in the league of the others that were there?



Dec 13, 2012 7:17AM
The next "unprecedented disaster" will happen sooner rather than later, and once again we'll be faced with another slap in the face from earth telling us there's too many of us and we're the cause of it all. Keep in mind while we celebrate this event, there have already been far worse natural disasters in other parts of the world and this is simply Americas first taste of what's to come.
I know this isn't comfortable for many of you to talk about, but that doesn't mean it isn't true. The sooner we face the fact we've gone beyond the planets means of supporting our excessive lifestyles and abuses, the sooner we can start instituting REAL hope and REAL change. Solving our overuse of natural resources by replacing lost stuff with more stuff isn't a solution.
This concert, while noble and quite entertaining, is ultimately about as useful as putting a band aid on a sucking chest wound. It won't fix the real problem and serves as nothing more than a temporary fix for an addiction that is ruining our world and us. Wake up people, mother nature is beginning to enact her revenge.

Dec 13, 2012 7:16AM
Great show, enjoyed it. Spent a lot of time at the Jersey Shore in the last 35 years. It really hit home.
Dec 13, 2012 7:11AM
I think overall the concert was good but I couldn't help but wonder why Kanye West was in such a group.  He went on and on and what was with that outfit?  He sort of ruined it for me. It certainly isn't music.    It was nice to see the old timers come out for a good cause.  I hope the money raised really goes to those in need.
Dec 13, 2012 7:03AM
Would have been a great show except for that punk **** bitch kanye talent, no class waste of human space.
Dec 13, 2012 7:02AM
Not only did this concert lift spirits, how about the unemployed it gave jobs to.  If you watched and paid attention it gave recognition to the thousands of responders and volunteers that saved lives.  Not a Kanye fan myself, but there were people enjoying his performance. So any joy that could be given to the multitude at this difficult time is a wonderful thing! As far as the line up...  I thought it was GREAT!! But then, I'm an "old timer".
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