While there have been many benefit concerts to help the Tri-State area recover from Hurricane Sandy, the 12-12-12 show at Madison Square Garden proved to be one for the ages. Just based on the advertised line-up, this show was destined to go down with the Concert for Bangladesh and Live Aid as a show for the ages. It just seemed like superstar, after superstar, after superstar. But now that the dust has settled, the show has been broadcast, and MSG has been home to a temporary rock and roll hall of fame, we can sit back and discuss what is surely one of the most epic concerts in recent history.
When the crowd began to shuffle in, the MSG sound system warned everyone to find their seats, as the show would start promptly at 7:30. Seriously, this was repeated over, and over, and over, until the show started. Every five minutes. But eventually, as anticipated, Bruce Springsteen took the stage at exactly 7:30 and the crowd went nuts. He played a set full of relatively new songs that were lyrically appropriate for the situation – ‘My City Of Ruins’, ‘Wrecking Ball’, etc. The highlight was the closer – Jon Bon Jovi joined Bruce on stage to perform a New Jersey All-Stars rendition of – what else – “Born To Run”. I thought it was awesome – and you could literally see Chris Christie (Governor of NJ and diehard Bruce Springsteen fan) in the audience New Jersey jizzing his pants.
After a couple of jokes from Billy Crystal, Roger Waters hopped on stage. He had announced the night before on Jimmy Fallon that he’d bring out Eddie Vedder for ‘Comfortably Numb’, but his awesome take on ‘Another Brick In The Wall’ with a small dance crew was a pleasant surprise. Not to mention hearing ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ classics like ‘Us and Them’ and ‘Money’. The big surprise though was Eddie Vedder completely nailing his part in ‘Comfortably Numb’. It was perfect, and you would’t expect it. It just worked. Perfectly. Even if you can see Vedder reading the lyrics from his hand. (Yeah, go watch it again – that happened).
Surprise surprise – Adam Sandler pops up with a new original song about Hurricane Sandy. Paul Schaffer joined him on the keys and back up vocals, but Sandler stole the show with a hilarious new song parody that joins the ranks with his classics. To the tune of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallellujah’, the chorus was ‘hallellujah/sandy screw yah/well get through ya/cause were new…york….ers’, with references to oh so clever topical references like Mark Sanchez, Jason Kidd, Original Rays Pizza, and Times Square porn.
Bon Jovi did a mini-set of their own, busting out classics like ‘Living On A Prayer’, ‘Dead Or Alive’, and ‘It’s My Life’ before bringing Bruce Springsteen on stage to reciprocate Bon Jovi’s earlier appearance. Eric Clapton popped on-stage with an acoustic guitar and showed why he is a guitar god. The guy just goes on stage and owns it.
Guitar God Eric Clapton showed why he’s earned that title, eschewing the obvious ‘Layla’ jam for the more obscure ‘Nobody Knowns You When You’re Down and Out’ before closing with ‘Crossroads’. He then passed the stage off to Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones. The Stones tried hard as they might to fit all the energy of a two hour show into a 15 minute set, but it seemed as if they left the stage just as the crowd had got amped up during ‘Jumping Jack Flash’.
After a brief set from Alicia Keys (including an awesome rendition of ‘No One’), the British rock invasion continued with a set from The Who. Their set was longer than the earlier set from The Stones, but probably a little shorter than Springsteen’s. They busted through a bunch of songs, including memorable hits ‘Baba O’Riley’ and ‘Pinball Wizard’.
The night’s least fitting artist, Kanye West, jumped onto the stage wearing some sort of black kilt, or cheerleading skirt, that you either loved or hated. While this may be the only time ever that Kanye follows The Who, he actually brought a contrasting energy into the arena. He ran through a verse and a chorus from almost all of his big hits – reaching back to ‘Touch The Sky’ and ‘Gold Digger’, all the way through ‘Mercy’ and ‘Power’. Particularly memorable was a really strong mid-set ‘Jesus Walks’ and ‘Stronger’ to close.
Billy Joel may have stole the show next with his set consisting of hit after hit. Of all amazing artists who shared the stage, it seemed like Joel just completely owned the crowd for the 45 minutes or so that he was on stage. After opening with the eerily appropriate ‘Miami 2017′, he went straight into crowd favorite ‘Movin’ Out’, then a brief ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ before busting into ‘New York State Of Mind’. The songs just kept coming, and it’s clear the Tri-State area has a soft spot in our hearts for Billy Joel. By the time he closed with ‘Only The Good Die Young’, it seemed as if he had the crowd in the palm of his hand.
Coldplay’s Chris Martin took the stage with an acoustic guitar to do a chilled out version of Viva La Vida, which is kind of a weird song without all the energy of the production.It was made up for when Martin brought our a surprise guest – REM’s Michael Stipe – who has been pretty silent since REM broke up last year. Martin backed Stipe while he sung REM’s mega-hit ‘Losing My Religion’. Martin closed his brief set with Coldplay’s ‘Us Against The World’, but this served just as a brief warm up for the main event.
After all that, only one man could really appropriately close this show. Sir Paul McCartney took the stage and immediately went into a rocking version of Helter Skelter – the guy’s still got it – before busting out a few classics from his Wings years. A mid-set version of The White Album classic ‘Blackbird’ was a real treat and personal highlight. But everyone was really waiting for the big social media rumor to surface – McCartney would be joined by Dave Grohl, Pat Smear, and Krist Novoselic for what was being billed as a Nirvana re-union. The irony is that Kurt Cobain had stated, “I love the Beatles, but I hate Paul McCartney”. The guys hadn’t played together in 20 years. They performed a new song that they had written together – and it was fucking awesome. It may be hard to appreciate it on first listen, there’s a lot to take in, but the song, entitled ‘Cut Me Some Slack’, is a great hard rock tune from a collection of legendary musicians. Everyone seemed to doubt that adding McCartney to Nirvana was a good idea, but something there clicked. Apparently Courtney Love (Cobain’s Widow) telling TMZ she was not amused” by McCartney’s involvement.
The pyros came out for a rocking version of ‘Live and Let Die’, which could have probably closed the show itself. But instead of a traditional superjam, McCartney brought out first responders to stand on stage while Alicia Keys sang the appropriate ‘Empire State of Mind’ to close the show.
After nearly six hours of music, I think it’s safe to say 12-12-12 lived up the the hype and price tag, and will surely go down in history as one, if not the, greatest concert of all time. For the most part, the night went off with little in the means of technical difficulty, no act really disappointed, and there were some highlights, surprises, and once in a life time collaborations. The show will probably be re-broadcast countless times, and an album and DVD will probably make the Robin Hood Fund tons of money – but either way, I don’t think anyone is forgetting this concert any time soon.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – Land of Hope and Dreams, Wrecking Ball, My City of Ruins, Born To Run (w/ Jon Bon Jovi), Living On A Prayer
Roger Waters – In The Flesh, The Happiest Days of Our Lives, Another Brick In The Wall Pt. 2, The Ballad Of Jean Charles de Menezes, Money, Us and Them, Comfortably Numb (w/ Eddie Vedder)
Adam Sandler – Hallelujah Parody (w/ Paul Shaffer)
Bon Jovi – It’s My Life, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Who Says You Can’t Go Home (w/ Bruce Springsteen), Living On A Prayer
Eric Clapton – Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out, Got To Get Better In A Little While, Crossroads
Rolling Stones – You Get Me Rocking, Jumping Jack Flash
Alicia Keys – Brand New Me, No One
The Who – Who Are You, Bell Boy, Pinball Wizard, See Me Feel Me/Listening To You, Baba O’Riley, Love Reign O’er Me, Tea and Theatre
Kanye West- Clique > Mercy > Power > Jesus Walks > All Of The Lights > Run This Town > Diamonds From Sierra Leone > Diamonds > Touch The Sky, Gold Digger, Good Life, Runaway, Stronger
Billy Joel- Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway), Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song), Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas > New York State Of Mind, River Of Dreams, You May Be Right, Only The Good Die Young
Chris Martin- Viva La Vida, Losing My Religion (w/ Michael Stipe), Us Against The World
Paul McCartney- Helter Skelter, Let Me Roll It, 1985, My Valentine (w/ Diana Krall), Blackbird, Cut Me Some Slack (w/ Dave Grohl, Pat Smear and Krist Novoselic), I’ve Got A Feeling, Live and Let Die
Alicia Keys- Empire State of Mind Pt. 2
Roger Waters & Eddie Vedder:
Paul McCartney w/ Nirvana: