This is the last of its kind: there won't be a 13/13/13, for obvious reasons (not to mention the outside chance that the world as we know it ends next Friday). As for the benefit concert, I wouldn't say that this is the last--it still seems to be working as a project. I love the way this musical community comes together for an event such as this. One can be cynical and say, "Why don't they just give a couple of million dollars, instead of performing?" That person doesn't understand that they are giving of what is most dear to them, their talent and their time. There is a trade-off, though: most of them have a professional agenda, and it's definitely good publicity--in this case it applies particularly to Billy Joel.
As telethons go, this was definitely a good one, though it skews a bit old and white. Nobody seems to be policing the clock--some performers go extremely long, while others show restraint--I guess they don't have anywhere to go later.
The censor with his finger on the button had a busy night repeatedly cutting the seven words not allowed on TV!
Brief Reviews of the Talent
Bruce Springsteen--I came in during the middle. B.S. in good form from his recent touring, did "Born to Run" and that can't be bad. B
Roger Waters -- He's touring with "The Wall", so had his light show going. Included some "Dark Side"; "Comfortably Numb" with Eddie Vetter was a real highlight. A-
Bon Jovi--tolerable; at least did "Dead or Alive", their best song. Paid back the invite Bruce gave him during his set. B-
Eric Clapton - The best overall set of the night: "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" (acoustic); "Got to Get Better in a Little While"- great choice for the night; "Crossroads". The small band with just bass and drums with E.C. worked really well; a good change from some of the oversized ensembles. A
Rolling Stones - some crappy new song--not even the good one, "Gloom and Doom", which would've been kind of appropriate; "Jumpin' Jack Flash." Jagger has enough energy, had a couple of good wisecracks ("now NY has to come and help if it rains in London", "best collection ever of old British rockers") and it's good they showed, but basically a cameo. Keith must finally be on his last legs, performance-wise; Charlie Watts (the drummer--an original Stone), on the other hand, looks about 10 years younger than Jagger/Richards or Ronnie Wood. C
Alicia Keys--basically an improvised song or two. I liked it; it was heartfelt. B
The Who - they're touring now, so they've got their light show, too. Opened with "Who Are You"--always a good one that shows off their distinctive strengths: dynamics, lyrics, good use of prerecorded bits to augment their playing. Roger's voice is mighty shaky, and Pete's is gone. "The Beach (a/k/a Bell Boy)" - good choice - the clip of Keith Moon singing is both a sweet touch and incredibly stagy. "Pinball Wizard"--what can I say, except that it's a must-see for anyone? "See Me, Feel Me"--the best finale song, no? "Baba O'Riley" - probably not necessary, but always a popular one. "Love, Reign O'er Me". What's this last (acoustic) song - "Have some Tea With Me"? I'm very grateful that Pete Townshend is still making the effort; I hope those waiting for Kanye, Foo Fighters, or Chris Martin aren't too dismayed, because The 'Oo did go awfully long; I'd say that was basically the second set of their live performance, with encores. A
Kanye West - good that he came and performed for all the white folks, presumably mostly rich white folks, in the audience. Obviously not his usual crowd who knows all the words, but it was an interesting performance. Gotta like the reference to King Crimson ('21st century schizoid man"). Definitely an eccentric and intelligent dude; but what's with the skirt? B
Billy Joel - I've heard this was his idea--he's the Bob Geldof of the current age; it will do some good for his career, as there's a whole generation that has not heard of him. He starts with a complete song, with all the bells and whistles, written especially for the occasion: I'll call it "I've Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway"--a good line. I'll say this for him: He does have a prolific pen, good piano skills. "I'm Moving Out"; "I'm In a New York State of Mind". "In the Middle of the Night". "You May be Right". "Only the Good Die Young." I guess if it's his show, he gets to go long, too. He is a very old-fashioned performer; basically '50's style doo wop and crooning. B+
Chris Martin - Wearing a suit and tie? "Viva La Vida" (acoustic guitar)- my favorite Coldplay song, a tough way to perform it. Brings out Michael Stipe of R.E.M., who's suddenly looking very old--is he well? Martin oozes talent, he sounds like he has a cold. They do "Losing My Religion". Last song is "Us Against the World" (I had to look it up), with Martin switching to piano. A
Dave Grohl - The Foo Fighters guitarist is playing drums, as he did with Nirvana, with Nirvana bass player Chris Novoselic, Paul McCartney on bottleneck slide, and another guitarist, and they play a Nirvana-like song. An interesting novelty. B-
Paul McCartney - Looks like Sir Paul's got a real band behind him, but the song selection is a bit deficient. His face is much too young to be 70-something: Is he Botoxing? "Helter Skelter"; some new song ("Let Me Go There"?); some Wings song; brings out Diana Krall for another new one: "What If it Rains" (or is it "My Valentine"?)--this one written for his wife, Nancy, I'm thinking she's number 4. "Blackbird"--I didn't know it had political connotations about the civil rights movement until this moment, as it's surely not obvious, but not inconceivable, either. (Maybe it's part of his standard shtick; I know he likes to do this song live.) B-
Alicia Keys does a song called "New York" to close it.
Presenters and some comments thereof: Billy Crystal (some provocative political jokes)--testimonial for Long Beach, Adam Sandler (good example of the corny, funny song caricatures he used to do on SNL--"Hallelujah"), Jimmy Fallon--all excited, Chelsea Clinton--she was never introduced--she sounds just like her Mom; Puff Daddy and Olivia Wilde (also not introduced)--an incredible story of the hospital evacuated (didn't catch the name), Jon Stewart--Seaside Heights, Stephen Colbert--his jokes' tone seemed a little off, Steve Buscemi--good to see him relatively normal, not in role--First Responders, Chris Rock--Staten Island; Seth Myers and Bobby Moynihan- Bobby's "drunk uncle" from SNL, it's not one of their better gigs. Jake Gyllenhall - also Long Beach (wild hair/beard look; is it for a role?); Blake Lively--lovely girl--Fairfield, CT. Brian Williams - on a lot, as always charming, cool, with his amazingly asymmetrical face. Jason Sudeikis, Katie Holmes - Red Hook. Red Hook's tape got bumped for an ad--Ion channel finally they got tired of waiting to put on their WWE. After a few minutes of searching, I found the continuation on AMC--bless them!--during "Helter Skelter" with Paul and his band. So I don't know if I missed any music...
The charities: I do appreciate what they are doing, and they make a good case that the people need help. I like that they have been suggesting that some things will not be built back the way they used to be; in some cases it's just not the smart thing to do.
The Sponsors: Chase, Samsung, Delta. No doubt there are considerable expenses--the venue, the stage setting, the TV production. I wonder if they are paying any of the artists. That's enough of a plug for them.
My highlights (in order): 1) Eric Clapton's set; 2) Chris Martin with Michael Stipe; 3) Eddie Vetter with Roger Waters; 4) The Who--especially the songs from "Tommy".
Good that the Nirvana guys got together (and some credit to Dave Grohl--it's probably hard to go back to drums after you've been the front man/guitarist), but I'd say they need to work on more material before they are ready for the killer revival (if they have any desire at all to do that).