On Wednesday night, New York came pouring into everyone’s living room by way of the all-star 121212 benefit concert. Held at Madison Square Garden, the five-hour program was designed as a fundraiser for relief efforts in New Jersey and New York in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Here are highlights, low points, great sounds and big laughs from 121212.
+ Bruce Springsteen – Typically celebratory, The Boss set a mood of purpose and fun. Probably could have done without Bon Jovi’s cameo during Born to Run. But Jersey boys will be boys, even when they hit their 50s and 60s.
+ Roger Waters – A performance that seemed to be more about Waters himself than the matter at hand. A strong band, strong pals (a set-stealing Eddie Vedder on Comfortably Numb) and strong material helped, but the smugness was obvious.
+ Adam Sandler – What in the world prompted Sandler to turn Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah into some deconstructed parody that was as pointless as it was unfunny?
+ Bon Jovi – Polite. Efficient. And like much of their material, not especially memorable. For all its clarity and vigor, sets like this simply make me wonder how Bon Jovi has sustained a fan base for so long. Still, his Jersey connection made him an apt guest.
+ Eric Clapton – A serious, wonderful surprise. Honestly, has any rock celebrity run more hot and cold over the years than Clapton? Last night, he cut the pop schmaltz and cut loose with a wild new power trio and a set that culminated with a joyous Crossroads.
+ Jimmy Fallon – Offered a genuinely heartfelt reflection on the destruction of Coney Island. Thank God they didn’t let him sing this time.
+ The Rolling Stones – A sadly brief two-song set that paired an obscurity (You Got Me Rocking) and a classic (Jumping Jack Flash). Mick Jagger was a tireless frontman. But what a kick seeing 71-year-old Charlie Watts, as always, tastefully tear it up on drums.
+ Stephen Colbert – As usual, hysterical. Typical of his banter was the career advice he said he gave to a budding celebrity backstage. “I told him, Paul McCartney, cut your hair, lose your accent … and grow up.”
+ Alicia Keys – One of the few unaccompanied sets of the night. Singing lines like “put your cell phones in the air” didn’t exactly inspire. But the sleek piano pop-soul of Brand New Me sure did.
+ The Who – Though ragged in spots, its set offered two touching highlights: Roger Daltrey raising his arms to the projected image of the late Keith Moon during Bellboy, and video shots of Hurricane Sandy first-responders as a backdrop for Listening to You.
+ Chris Rock – A heartfelt salute to the submerged Staten Island – “the good part, not the Wu Tang part.” Also of note was his introduction of “the very humble” Kanye West.
+ Kanye West – In an evening heavy on, as Mick Jagger termed it earlier, “old English musicians,” West was the proverbial fish out of water. A nicely stripped-down set, but the heavily sampled songs felt a bit cold in a show dominated by organic rock and soul.
+ Seth Myers and Bobby Moynihan: An interview skit called “Drunk Uncle” that tied Sandler for the most humorless thing in the show. What the hell has happened to Saturday Night Live?
+ Billy Joel – It’s hard to deny the thrill of watching one of New York’s own stepping up to the plate at times like this. That’s especially true when he has a booming, unblemished voice and hometown-referenced hits like New York State of Mind to share.
+ Chris Martin with Michael Stipe – Martin is a pathetic comedian. But he came up with a good line after Stipe exited quickly after a ramshackle duet of Losing My Religion. “He came out of retirement for that,” Martin said. “Now he’s gone right back in.”
+ Paul McCartney – Deviating from the usual run of Beatles hits, Sir Paul bashed it up with Nirvana mates Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, cooed cocktail pop with Diana Krall and devoted half the set to Wings tunes, culminating in Live and Let Die.
To contribute to the benefit, go to www.121212concertorg.