On Thursday evening, some of the music and entertainment world’s biggest stars came together at the Beacon Theatre for the sixth edition of Love Rocks NYC, the marathon benefit for Gods Love We Deliver produced by famed fashion designer John Varvatos alongside Greg Williamson and Nicole Rechter.
Back in 2020, Love Rocks NYC arrived on the precipice of COVID’s total shutdown of live music. The pandemic-altered event—which allowed only performers, essential personnel, credentialed members of the press, and immediate family—served as the last gasp from New York City before going into lockdown. In 2021, Love Rocks NYC returned to the Beacon Theatre though the majority of the audience did not, as an array of performers delivered a fan-less livestream.
While the pandemic shook the traditions of Love Rocks NYC, it did not falter the mission of God’s Love We Deliver. Last year alone, the non-profit delivered more than 2.6 million medically tailored meals to nearly 10,000 New Yorkers living with and affected by severe illness, and this spring, it will celebrate an extraordinary milestone with the delivery of its 30 millionth meal.
At Love Rocks NYC 2022, back at the Beacon with a capacity crowd and full red-carpet regalia, organizers also extended God’s Love’s sentiment of helping those who need it most by announcing that at least $50,000 of the funds raised will benefit the people of Ukraine as Russia’s invasion of the country continues.
Led by music director and band leader Will Lee (The CBS Orchestra), the Love Rocks house band presented its typical abundance of musical riches—guitarist Eric Krasno, multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell, drummer Shawn Pelton, percussionist Pedrito Martinez, and keyboardists Jeff Young and Ricky Peterson. They were joined on and off throughout the night by a pair of sub-ensembles, the God’s Love Horns and the We Deliver Singers.
This dream house band ebbed and evolved as a string of stars graced the stage. Ben Harper and Danny Clinch teamed up on Led Zeppelin‘s “When The Levee Breaks”; Celisse doubled up on the Zeppelin with searing “Rock and Roll” in her flowing, green, silk suit; Maggie Rose summoned up the spirit of the late Bill Withers with a rendition of “Lonely Town, Lonely Street”; Mavis Staples showed her might on Talking Heads‘ Slippery People and got the crowd on its feet with “I’ll Take You There” (“My family The Staple Singers , we’ve been taking you there for 74 years,” she howled).
Singer, multi-instrumentalist, clarinetist, and poet Allison Russell shimmered in her sequin dress as she performed “Nightflyer” alongside SistaStrings, then linked up with Hozier as the Stevie Nicks to his Tom Petty on “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”. Larkin Poe, another talented sister act, brought hair-raising southern rock flair to the Beacon stage, then brought up Tyler Bryant to help them roar through Rick Derringer‘s “Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo”. Anders Osbourne carried the baton all the way down to New Orleans with help from Ivan Neville on keys, Danny Clinch on harmonica, and Connor Kennedy on guitar with a celebratory romp through Little Feat‘s “Dixie Chicken”.
The house band cleared the stage as Keith Richards and the X-Pensive Winos took over for a rare, three-song live performance. Led with untouchable swagger by the Rolling Stones guitarist alongside Ivan Neville (keys), Waddy Watchel (guitar), Steve Jordan (drums), and “honorary Wino” Will Lee on bass, the band kicked things off with the early ’90s rocker, “999”. Keef then swapped his telecaster for an acoustic guitar before introducing the group and leading them through the Stones’ “You Got The Silver”. A lively take on Some Girls classic “Before The Make Me Run” finally rounded out the Winos’ segment.
Keith Richards and the X-Pensive Winos – “999”, “You Got The Silver”, “Before They Make Me Run” – 3/10/22
The hits kept coming even after the rock and roll icon cleared the stage. Hozier returned with Celisse for a duet on his own “Work Song” before leading a chill-inducing cover of David Bowie‘s “Changes; Melissa Etheridge showed off her magnetic rock and roll grit on The Beatles‘ “Come Together” and her hit, “I’m The Only One”; David Shaw of The Revivalists welcomed his fellow NOLA local Ivan Neville for The Faces‘ “Ooh La La” and threw the spotlight to Larry Campbell for some impressive violin work on The Who‘s “Baba O’Reilly”.
Between the various performances, a parade of comedians and actors took the stage to, as The Sopranos star Steve Schirippa so poetically noted, be “like a bran muffin” and “keep things moving.” From charmingly edible-high comedian Michelle Buteau to Sex and the City favorite Mario Cantone to lauded screen and stage actor Laurence Fishburne, the hosts added a dose of levity to the proceedings—perhaps none more so than Love Rocks veteran/everyone’s favorite wildcard Bill Murray, who took the stage on various occasions to address the theater’s prominent ceiling “death spike,” playfully rib the band, and flex his karaoke capabilities on a performance of Wilson Pickett‘s “In The Midnight Hour” alongside both Jimmy Vivino and former New York Yankee Bernie Williams on guitar.
View this post on Instagram
Warren Haynes, an artist as intricately intertwined with the Beacon as any, offered up the final mini-set of the night. After working through his Gregg Allman collab “Just Another Rider” and a thematically appropriate reading of Otis Redding‘s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, Haynes introduced the night’s final surprise: unannounced guest and Love Rocks regular Jackson Browne. With Browne and Haynes leading the way, the Beacon crowd rose en masse to sing along to “Running On Empty”.
The customary “grand finale” saw nearly the whole star-studded squad take the stage for a collaborative “Like A Rolling Stone”. Keith Richards, it appeared, was among the only hold-outs on the closing number, a move so very “like a Rolling Stone” that everyone in the Beacon and tuning in from home surely gave him a pass.
Love Rocks NYC – “Like A Rolling Stone” (Bob Dylan) – 3/10/22
View this post on Instagram
For more on God’s Love We Deliver and its mission to feed the sick and the elderly with healthy meals, head to the organization’s website.