the Single Source for the Concertphile
A Capitol Concert
Honoring the Pentagon Heroes
United We Stood on our feet for hours on end
by Timothy Tilghman
United We Stand was a essentially a television production in desperate need of a full house of fans in the stands to convey an illusion, presenting the event for broadcast on television as a humanitarian charity effort. Alternative titles for the actual 11 hour long concert might have been 'United We Please Stand By' or 'What More Can I Stand' as stagehands lumbered about on stage to set up and break down after each performance.
Coincidentally, ABC got lucky that the weather was wonderful at RFK Stadium on Sunday, October 21, 2001. One could not have asked for a more pleasant day to hold an all day affair outside. The weather was comfortable, and the temperature fell slowly late into the evening without ever getting too chilly too early under a starless sky.
This event was actually a staged spectacular rather than a tribute concert. The audience were merely extras needed as spectators to record a star studded array of performers for a television special broadcast on November 1. I made the drastic mistake of ordering my concert ticket online. If I had only waited and showed up outside the venue, I could have scored a seat on the walk for one third the face value of the ticket! Scalpers and individual music fans were hawking fistfuls of open seats.
Unfortunately, the concert was marred by amplification bouncing at the back of the stadium, drumbeats echoing over the live music on stage, repeated microphone problems, camera crews not always in focus, and sound levels out of sync for many performances. Stage preparation between acts was not conducted in a timely fashion. The stage may have been swarming with stagehands, but nobody coordinated their actions.
Besides emcee John Stamos, the few notable celebrities to greet the stadium crowd were Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey, soccer player Mia Hamm, D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, Miss Washington D.C. Shawn Evans, and U.S. shadow-Senator Paul Strouse. After James Brown's set, a stagehand came out with a long ladder to place white tape over the question mark after the concert's subtitle WHAT MORE CAN I GIVE (?). Since the ? itself appears on the ticket stub, several of us pondered the motivation behind this action during an early intermission.
Teenage Girls Rule Chart Success
It was no big surprise roving packs of female teenyboppers were in the stands squealing and wailing over their favorite boy bands. Darling John Stamos, the ABC anointed host of the program, was serenaded with the chant "Uncle Jessie" from the young girls in the audience several times during his stage appearances.
Both the Backstreet Boys and 'NSYNC were on the bill together - literally hours apart. As an impartial observer, the B-Boys actually take time to sing and project their collective stage persona. 'NSYNC, on the other hand, is more preoccupied with calisthenics choreography for their synchronized dance moves. 'NSYNC seemed to generate a louder reception, but that may have been because more of them had waited longer for this group to appear on stage.
The Backstreet Boys had the prime position of launching the United We Stand concert with the "Star Spangled Banner" sung a cappella. Their early set contained the selections "I Want It That Way", "Shape of My Heart", and a new song "Drowning". With a starting time of 1:00 pm, many ticket holders were still streaming into the stands during their set.
It was dark by the time 'NSYNC took the stage. Parents chaperoning gaggles of young girls were getting antsy as the concert wore on with many adults asking their charges whether they wanted to stay until 'NSYNC had performed or leave early. The N-Boys began their set with "Pop". They also sang "Tearin' Up My Heart", "Bye Bye Bye", and "This I Promise You". During their set, 'NSYNC asked the audience for a moment of silence to remember those lost at the Pentagon.
The lead singer for Train, Pat Monahan, solicited screams of desire from the teenybopper crowd as well. Their brief mini-song set consisted of "Meet Virginia" and "Droplets of Jupiter". The band's posturing on stage wavered unevenly from that of rock'n'rollers to wanna-be babe magnets.
Even when P. Diddy, Puff Daddy, Puffy Combs, Sean Combs, or the Puff Meister appeared on stage outfitted in battle fatigues, his arrival rivaled the applause reception bestowed upon Aerosmith. Ole Puffy rapped around the stage like a possessed evangelist. His animated set included "Bad Boy for Life", "It's All About the Benjamins", "Come With Me", and "I'll Be Missing You" complimented by a choir for the survivors of 9-11.
Instead of observing a moment of silence, Mr. P.D. challenged the RFK crowd to make as much noise as possible during a repetitive triple wave throughout the stadium stands. Several of his rap segments contained samples of songs from Queen, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, Diana Ross, and The Police, leading one to retort his musical originality is only exceeded by his prolific talent.
Aerosmith Knocks the Rafters of RFK Stadium
The mic stand was draped in red, white, and blue scarfs. The lead guitarist jammed on a Stars & Stripes guitar. The lead singer was wearing an Old Glory floor length jacket. The hottest live set of the 11 hour long event belonged to Aerosmith. "We've got something you can't kill", Tyler announced, "Freedom, love, God, liberty and the pursuit of rock 'n' roll!" He even recited lines from "America the Beautiful".
The boys from Boston banged out four bombastic hits, "Living On The Edge", "Don't Want To Miss A Thing", "Just Push Play", and their 1975 classic "Walk This Way" during a brief 20 minute set. Aerosmith was the only serious rock band on the bill at UWS. The stadium audience was clearly animated, up on its feet chanting the band's name in unison. I only saw the A-Boys live once before in December 1989, and they rocked their way at RFK.
Young and old alike were singing along to "Don't Want to Miss A Thing". During "Just Push Play", Tyler was belting out the lyrics through a megaphone for effect, revealing his painted finger nails. For his guitar solo on "Walk This Way", Perry held his guitar up behind his head and played the lead effortlessly.
Aerosmith's third leg of their 2001 Just Push Play Tour is currently underway, but the band was compelled to participate in this worthy endeavor. Lead guitarist Joe Perry mentioned his personal visit viewing the Pentagon and wore a black D.C. police jacket in a display of solidarity. Aerosmith had another engagement to perform later that evening and demonstrated their commitment by chartering their own flight, Aero Force One, to reach their headlining concert in Indianapolis.
Musical Moments of Magic
Rod Stewart was the only British artist on stage at UWS. Stewart appeared on stage with a large band, sporting women dressed in red miniskirts. Stewart launched into the Faces classic "Hot Legs" with projections of WWII pinups and performed his recent solo hit "Forever Young".
Rod the Mod characteristically kicked out soccer balls into the field audience. Stewart delivered a heartfelt set, dedicating "Rhythm Of My Heart" to the Allies, engaged in maneuvers in Afghanistan. The tall blonde on saxophone was one of the many talented musicians in his band who attracted a lot of attention.
Several major American icons were on the bill. It was a rare treat to have James Brown, Al Green, Carole King, and Bette Midler all perform during the same afternoon. Although the show had begun to be running behind and stage set up between gigs was entirely too long, all of these artist were able to deliver micro-sets.
James Brown began his set with "Living In America". His band was a massive ensemble, featuring synchronized gyrating women. "Killing Is Out, School Is In", "I Feel Good", and "Sex Machine" were all subsidized by Brown's fancy footwork on stage. Al Green came out bouncing on stage ready to perform an upbeat set that included his signature song "Let's Stay Together" and "Take Me To The River".
Carole King was backed by Rod Stewart's stage band. She sang her staple "So Far Away" and debuted a song from her new album, "Monday Without You". Bette Midler sang a well received "From A Distance" and the surprise "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy". Her final selection of "The Rose" was another major crowd-pleaser.
Huey Lewis and The News was the inaugural rock band on stage, opening with "Heart of Rock'n'Roll" to jump start the stadium. "Power Of Love" sent a positive message for the future. The micro-set by America was a stunning unplugged performance, featuring three acoustic guitars and bass guitar arrangement. The audience responded enthusiastically to their classic "Sister Golden Hair".
Young Country singing sensation Billy Gilman has a tremendous future if his career is judged by his ability to recover singing "One Voice" a cappella after his backing tapes began to falter. The girls let loose when Billy smiled on stage. The outstanding female vocal performance must go to Pink for her unplugged performances of "My Vietnam" off her new album and her incredible rendition of "Me And Bobby McGee".
The Goo Goo Dolls were one of two acts on both bills in NYC and D.C. that did double duty over the weekend. The Dolls opened their UWS set with "Slide", but performed "Iris" and "American Girl" only at both charity concerts. Destiny's Child also appeared at both the Garden and RFK Stadium.
Lights ..... Camera ..... Intermission!
Host John Stamos did not walk out on stage until after Billy Gilman's impressive a cappella version of "One Voice". Stamos was joined by Kevin Spacey, one of the few guest stars to put in an appearance at the benefit and make a pitch for the fund to help support the victims of the Pentagon tragedy.
Once again as during the Concert for New York City, Janet Jackson was projected live on the jumbotron via satellite feed performing "All For You" from on stage in Charlotte, NC. Ms. Jackson was looking mighty fine. Her workout on stage night after night has ribbed her stomach to perfection.
An announcement that the Washington Redskins had won their first football game this season, 17-14 against the Carolina Panthers in overtime, brought the crowd a momentary respite from sitting on their rears during time lags in between set preparations which was business as usual for the 11 hour concert.
Stamos appeared on stage for the second time following the Goo Goo Dolls set to record his closing comments. He had to do this twice after stating another city name as host to United We Stand. His segments for the ABC program were filmed out of sequence, soliciting both cheers and jeers from the crowd. Taping his introduction for the Michael Jackson finale was rather comical.
Having attended both charity concerts, there are striking differences between the two of them. Many more women were in attendance at RFK Stadium as opposed to the municipal personnel who were invited as honored guests at the Garden. Some 5,000 prime tickets on the Garden floor were distributed to the heroes and families in NYC.
There were no loved ones holding up photos of the missing or victims from the Pentagon attack. There were no rescue workers welcomed on stage to introduce the performers. There were no moving stories about acts of heroism and sacrifice. There was no real thrust on the part of ABC to personalize the tragedy of 9-11.
Several one hit wonders sang live vocals to the accompaniment of recorded backing tracks. These dubious performances included: Krystal - "Supergirl!", Christina Milian - "AM to PM", Ce Ce Peniston - "Finally" (she projected herself well), O-Town - "All Or Nothing", and Usher - "U remind Me". The gloved wonder could have phoned in his performance as several media sources have reported he lip-synched his vocal on the lone number he performed prior to the big finish.
Mariah Carey put on a good facade for her stage appearance. Curiously, she was out of her element while on stage. She lost sight of the cause remembering those who suffered on 9-11. Her 11 minute prance about on stage was dwarfed by the stage production time stagehands needed to prepare for her overblown entrance.
Many of the girls and women seated around me began barking openly, complaining about her slinky black dress. Was this outright jealousy over her ability to flaunt herself in that skimpy dress? So many catty remarks, one would think they were expressing personal anger over the pretty Prom Queen's coronation on stage.
Her overproduced set didn't really connect with the audience. Although "Never Too Far"/"Hero" was dedicated to the spirit of the evening, the lifeless audience could not muster the enthusiasm necessary after her tardy stage performance. Seats began to empty all across the stadium in the stands and on the floor.
Carey's big number, "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life", was simply ridiculous. Her shameless self promotion of the film Glitter during her performance was totally out of touch. The choreography for this had her emerging from the center of a large monolith with male dancers, a motorcycle prop, and a troupe of dancing girls in white glitter dresses with oversized white feathers surrounding her on stage. Her stage posturing bordered on neuroses.
By the time the grand finale was ready for taping, many of the event's major performers had already left the building because the television production had been running so far behind. By the stroke of midnight, many seats on the field and in the stands were hemorrhaging heavily. Announcements were made that D.C. Metro would be running an extended timetable, and patrons were reminded to remain patient for the main event.
Mick Jagger had volunteered to perform at RFK Stadium, but declined later after learning ABC had bought into Jacko's grandiose charity presentation/promotion concept. After witnessing the two finales orchestrated separately by Mariah Carey and Michael Jackson, it becomes crystal clear that Jagger would not have fit in with their plans of being crowned Homecoming Pop Queen and King of 2001.
Aaron Carter, Bon Jovi, M.C. Hammer, Kiss, Ricky Martin, Carlos Santana, and Matchbox Twenty were all reported in the media as participants, but these acts failed to perform on the bill. Even Britney Spears and Bruce Springsteen were rumored to be performing, but did not post.
Smoke, Mirrors, Pomp & Circumstance
It became painfully evident that this event was more of a staged happening being choreographed for television packaging then a tribute benefit for the lost loved ones of the Pentagon. It is sad that a major television network and a mega-sensation would unconsciously conspire to place their corporate and commercial concerns above the contribution made by members of the audience who donated both their money and personal time to participate in the stadium at this fundraising function.
Shortly before midnight, comic Chris Tucker delivered some form of an introduction for Jacko, but it was only a dead end. Stamos had to tape his final segue before the big shoe could commence. Prepping his stage entrance, a video with "We Are The World" as instrumental music projected images of Jackson as an international humanitarian shown comforting children of multiracial complexions.
Running out on stage after midnight, the audience managed to erupt in euphoria at the eight wonder of the world live on stage. Michael Jackson sang a song from 1988, "Man In The Mirror". Taking the lyrics to heart about making a change, Jacko resembled a wax figure of himself up close on camera. During the performance, images of JFK, RFK, JFK Jr., MLK, Mother Teresa, and Jesus were splashed upon the monitors as MJJ posed before a stage fan for a windblown effect.
Some of his tired tricks were hand-me-downs; such as being lifted over the crowd in a cherrypicker. Jagger did this on the Stones' 1981 Tattoo You Tour. Firing confetti glitter into the audience from strategically placed pipes was done on the Bridges to Babylon Tour by - you guessed it - the Rolling Stones in 1997. However, using dry ice to produce clouds of stage smoke and spewing debris into the stadium was an odd way to end a concert in remembrance of attacks that reigned this same kind of junk in their aftermath.
Embarrassingly, the grand finale was flawed by lack of preparation on the part of the performers. None of the singers appeared to know the words to "What More Can I Give", and there was the recurring problem of hit or miss microphones malfunctioning. Technical problems did seem to plague many performers throughout the 11 hour charity marathon. In an incredible move on the part of MJJ as patrons were leaving in droves, he stated his desire on stage for a reshoot of the finale. After yammering into the mic for two minutes about his displeasure over the botched version, he was interrupted and informed that this was not an option.
With all of the media criticism following his two 30th anniversary concerts at the Garden literally right before the terrorist attacks, one has to wonder what motivated Jackson to commandeer the United We Stand event ..... possibly to fortify sales of his new release Invincible? Composing "What More Can I Give" also reeks of self-absorbed aggrandizement to foster a cause by tying oneself to it for publicity purposes.
And as if irony dealt a winning hand during the final edit, because of a contractual prohibition with CBS airing Michael Jackson's 30th Anniversary Celebration taped at the Garden from September, his solo stage performance of "Man In The Mirror" from the RFK gig conveniently found its way onto the cutting room floor.
Commemoration and Remembrance
Washington, D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams unveiled an addition to RFK's Pantheon of Heroes. A permanent new memorial sign reads September 11 Heroes as a tribute to fallen family and friends on that tragic date. The United States Post Office issued a new 34 cent commemorative Philatelic adhesive stamp entitled United We Stand on October 24 as a gesture of national remembrance and support for the heroes, victims, and survivors of those attacks.
The United We Stand event is estimated to have raised $3 Million dollars from ticket sales of 46,000 + stadium seats. A projected 150 US radio stations are reported to have carried live broadcasts throughout the course of the concert. The stage performances were edited for an ABC Television premiere broadcast on November 1.
Concert patrons were given miniature United States flags as they passed through turnstiles to attend the UWS benefit at RFK Stadium. Many times throughout the day during many performances, the fans in the stands cheered loudly and waved their palmsize flags in patriotic fervor.
Michael Jackson's new charity single "What More Can I Give" is the English title. Another Spanish version, "Todo Para Ti" ("Everything for You"), will be released featuring Mariah Carey and Celine Dion. Carlos Santana has recorded a guitar solo on the backing track.
Oddly when Jackson left the stage after his lone number "Man In The Mirror", he dropped the U.S. flag he had wrapped around himself on the stage. Before the hyped finale of "What More Can I Give" could commence, a stagehand was sent out to fetch Old Glory up off the stage. This insensitive act pretty much summed up the essence of the King of Poop's inflated ego, awash in his own conceit.
UWS setlist: Backstreet Boys: "Star Spangled Banner", "I Want It That Way", "Shape of My Heart", "Drowning" * Krystal: "Supergirl!" * Huey Lewis and The News: "Heart Of Rock'n'Roll", "Living In A Perfect World", "Power Of Love", "Working For A Living" * James Brown: "Living In America", "Popcorn/Killing Is Out, School Is In", "I Feel Good", "Sex Machine/God Bless America" * Billy Graham: "One Voice" * O-Town: "All Or Nothing" * Usher: "U Remind Me" * Christina Milian: "AM to PM" * Carole King: "So Far Away", "Love Makes The World", "Monday Without You" * Al Green: "Let's Stay Together", "Amazing Grace/Together reprise", "Take Me To The River" * Pink: "My Vietnam", "Me And Bobby McGee" * Bette Midler: "From A Distance", "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy", "The Rose" * Ce CE Peniston: "Finally" * Aerosmith: "Living On The Edge", "Don't Want To Miss A Thing", "Just Push Play" * America: "Sister Golden Hair" * P. Diddy: "Bad Boy For Life", "It's All About The Benjamins", "Come With Me", "I'll Be Missing You" * 'NSYNC: "Pop", "Tearin' Up My Heart", "This I Promise You", "Bye Bye Bye" * Janet Jackson: "All For You" * Destiny's Child: "Survivor", the Bee Gees' "Emotion", "Walk With Me" * Rod Stewart: "Hot Legs", "Forever Young", "Rhythm Of My Heart" * Goo Goo Dolls: "Slide", "Iris", "American Girl" * Train: "Meet Virginia", "Droplets Of Jupiter" * Mariah Carey: "Never To Far/Hero", "Last Night A DJ Saved My Life" * Michael Jackson: "Man In The Mirror" * Finale: "What More Can I Give"
Performers: Backstreet Boys * Krystal * Huey Lewis and The News * James Brown * Billy Gilman * O-Town * Usher * Christina Milian * Carole King * Al Green * Pink * Bette Midler * CE CE Peniston * Aerosmith * America * P. Diddy w/Faith Evans * 'NSYNC * Janet Jackson via satellite f/Charlotte, NC * Destiny's Child * Rod Stewart * Goo Goo Dolls * Train * Mariah Carey * Michael Jackson w/Macaulay Culkin, Fabolous, Mya, Angie Stone & Chris Tucker
Concert Fan Concertphile@yahoo.com
the Single Source for the Concertphile ©