Jon Bon Jovi performs during the "Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together"… (NBC )
With the response to the storm known as Sandy still an ongoing concern, and the full scope of the destruction just only now becoming clear, what, exactly, can a bunch of famous people do to help?
Simple: What they do best. Draw eyes and ears to a TV screen so that they can get a message out. On Friday night in New York, that message wasn’t “buy our music,” but “donate money.”
“Everywhere she went she spread darkness,” host Matt Lauer explained of the storm in his introduction to the broadcast on NBC affiliated networks, after Staten Island-born Christina Aguilera sang an honest, emotional version of her classic, “You Are Beautiful.” Her tone was strong but somber, a mood that extended through the first few performances. New Jersey native Jon Bon Jovi was shown touring the damage in his home state, listening to stories of families whose lives were forever changed by Monday’s storm. Back in the studio, he offered a stripped-down version of “Living on a Prayer,” a song whose meaning seemed perfectly tailored for Jersey inspiration.
Billy Joel, born in Brooklyn, sang a rendition of his “Miami 2017,” from “Turnstiles,” but rewrote some of the lyrics to address the power and devastation of Sandy. Rather than sing of churches in Harlem, he sang of the wreckage on Staten Island. One of the most powerful performances of the night, Joel’s choice was inspired.
Then Joel, on piano, was joined by Steven Tyler, Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Fallon and others for a version of the classic New York meditation “Under the Boardwalk” – confirming that even a Bostonian like Tyler can transcend regional beefs to help a rival in need. The combined collection of singers, led by Fallon, certainly wouldn’t have passed any audition – but this was a charity event, so we can leave it at that. (Let’s just say that Bruce Springsteen should never stand behind Fallon on any stage.)
In between most segments were pleas for help that offered stories from those affected by the storm. A man looking for family photos, a bar owner, a group of Jersey neighbors. It’s here where any sort of hard sell became unnecessary. The music, however emotional it was, had nothing on the reality facing millions in the northeast.
-- Randall Roberts
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