“If it rains in London, you’ve got to come help us, OK?” Mick Jagger said as the Rolling Stones performed at the 12-12-12 Concert for Sandy Relief to benefit the Robin Hood Relief Fund last night.
Paul McCartney was a little more focused on the U.S. side of Anglo-American relations. “I love New York,” he said before breaking into “Helter Skelter.”
The concert opened with images of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy in October: streets filled with water, boardwalks destroyed, homes ripped apart.
And then the tunes: Bruce Springsteen was first, with “Land of Hope and Dreams.” Billy Joel soothed with a little Christmas music and “New York State of Mind.”
Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam joined Roger Waters for Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.” Jon Bon Jovi traded lines with Springsteen on “Born to Run.” Michael Stipe made a surprise appearance to perform “Losing My Religion” with Coldplay’s Chris Martin. And in the final moments, after a fine “Blackbird” by McCartney, the former Beatle got into some grunge with former Nirvana member Dave Grohl.
The Stones, celebrating their 50th anniversary, started with “You Got Me Rocking” and followed with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Jagger quipped at one point: “This must be the largest collection of old English musicians ever to be assembled in Madison Square Garden.” Besides his bandmates and Waters, he could have been referring to Eric Clapton, McCartney and Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who.
On the younger side -- and a rare female performer -- was Alicia Keys accompanying herself on piano and at one point asking for the audience to hold up their glowing mobile phones instead of the traditional cigarette lighter.
Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Gary Cohn, Goldman Sachs president, Blair Effron, co-founder of Centerview Partners LLC, and David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital Inc. were in the audience at Madison Square Garden with other Wall Street titans. (Cohn, Effron and Einhorn all had cameos on the broadcast as cameras scanned the audience.)
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie were also in the arena, where 15,500 tickets were sold.
“Basically everyone is here,” Cohn wrote in an e-mail as Springsteen slowed down the tempo and talked about Asbury Park and other towns for “everyone, rich and poor” on the Jersey Shore.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of difficult conversations when rebuilding comes along, but I hope that characteristic stays,” Springsteen said, before singing “My City of Ruins,” with the chorus “C’mon, rise up.”
Chris Rock joked, “We fixed everything; Jersey is fixed, Staten Island -- It’s all like Beverly Hills right now.” Then he introduced “the very humble Kanye West,” who wore a sports hoody and what appeared to be a pleated black leather skirt and opened with “Clique.”
Many celebrities -- including Ben Stiller, Susan Sarandon, Martha Stewart and Jimmy Fallon -- worked telephones to accept donations. Every dollar will go to the Relief Fund, with Robin Hood Foundation board members and sponsors paying for the cost of the concert.
“It’s not as expensive as you’d think,” said John Sykes, president of CC Media Holdings Inc., one of the concert producers and a Robin Hood board member. The performers donated their services, as did many vendors of Madison Square Garden, said MSG Holdings Chief Executive James (Jim) Dolan, another producer. Dolan estimated the work force at Madison Square Garden numbered 2,000-3,000.
Beyond the midtown arena, television, radio and internet broadcast potentially expanded the audience to as many as 2 billion, concert organizers said.
Before the concert started, $32 million had been raised, Sykes said. President Barack Obama has requested $60.4 billion from Congress. Repairing the New York transit system could cost as much as $5 billion. Christie said New Jersey repair costs would total more than $29 billion.
The Robin Hood fund will focus on immediate aid such as clothing and shelter and on longer-range rebuilding needs for people affected by the storm.
“We will do this correctly,” said David Saltzman, the Robin Hood Foundation’s executive director. He also confirmed that Jamie Dimon, chairman of JPMorgan Chase & Co., was in the audience, “rockin’ to Kanye, rocking to The Who, rockin’ to the Stones.”
Chase brought in about 100 employees who were affected by Sandy, and Dimon spoke with them at a dinner reception before the concert, according to Chase spokesman Erich Timmerman. There was also a post-show reception, where the employees hung out with some of the players from the New York Knicks and Chase executives.
The idea for the concert came together days after the hurricane hit. Film producer Harvey Weinstein, Dolan and Sykes offered to co-produce a fundraiser similar to the one they had put together after the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attacks. Saltzman quickly accepted, and the three helped assemble top music stars. The consumer division of JPMorgan Chase agreed to become the concert’s presenting sponsor.
“We’ve seen the power of good people like Jim, Harvey and John come together to help others, so I was absolutely ecstatic that they were ready to do it again for our city,” Saltzman said.
“Anytime you see a grassroots movement it is so reassuring,” said Sarandon, who organized a ping pong tournament for the people of Breezy Point that raised $19,000. “It’s nice to feel unified with those people. We’re in such a time of polarization, it’s great people can put all that aside and see other human beings in need and pick up the phone.”
Donations were being accepted at 855-465-HELP (-4357) or www.121212concert.org.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
Muse highlights include Jason Harper on cars, Lance Esplund on art.