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WTC Heroes in Song and Praise
Artists Honor the Heroism of New York City's Selfless Souls
by Timothy Tilghman
The Concert for New York City at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, October 20, 2001, was a fundraising extravaganza to benefit the families of rescue personnel who sacrificed their lives trying to save more victims trapped in the burning Twin Towers of the World Trade Center complex in the Wall Street district of Manhattan Island.
One half telethon, one half Irish wake and one half house party, the Concert for New York City was an emotional evening for the artists and audience alike. David Bowie walked on stage without introduction and sat cross-legged before a keyboard with minimal stage lighting to perform the Simon & Garfunkel song "America". Bowie then launched into the signature song of the evening, "Heroes", backed by the Paul Shaffer house band. The audience rocked to the classic song in memory of those lost on 9-11-01.
Comedian Billy Crystal appeared on stage throughout the concert as the Garden emcee. He made several topical quips about the current anthrax scare, "With all the celebrities and performers here tonight, someone thought this was an awards show, but we couldn't get anyone to open envelopes". His other antigen remark was, "I've been backstage at a lot of concerts, but I've never seen musicians run away so fast from white powder".
Major television and film stars made pitches for donations during the live broadcast from the Garden. Robert DiNero, Harrison Ford, Chris Kattan, Meg Ryan, Julia Stiles, and Mark Wahlberg all kept attention on New York City's municipal servants. Firefighters, policemen, paramedics, and Port Authority Police were escorted on stage during the course of the program to introduce the musical acts as they made their way on stage in preparation to perform.
Will Farrell appeared on stage with men two posing as Secret Service agents to portray his President George W. Bush impersonation. His live bit was both humorous and serious at different moments. One funny quip was in reference to McCartney's 1973 album wherein Farrell punned the leaders of Afghanistan would now be known as the "Taliban On The Run". Fellow SNL alumnus Adam Sandler reprised his Opera Man persona for an outrageous serenade on stage.
Comedian Mike Myers, a Canadian, mentioned the late John Lennon as having been a resident of New York City. Mick Jagger minced no words when he said, "If there's anything to be learned from this, it's that you don't fuck with New York". The most intense remark was made by an Irish Fireman living in Queens who gave out his address and challenged the evil devil behind the attacks on the United States to come and get him personally.
Late in the program, Crystal introduced a large contingent of New York professional sports figures to come out on stage. Both male and female athletes walked on one after the other to the roar of applause from the Garden. The steel workers who have been cleaning up the aftermath of the attack nonstop also received an honorable mention on stage.
A Void in the Global Village
The crucial difference between the two benefit concerts held in New York City and the District of Columbia during the third weekend of October 2001, was that the focus of the concert at Madison Square Garden was all about the tragedy thrust upon the heroes, victims, and survivors of the inhuman attacks that swept across our nation in September.
Families of the heroes and victims held up their photographs of loved ones with messages of love and affection. Handmade posters identified many of the missing and departed. Cameras would search out pictures no matter how small to share them with the Garden and the viewing audience. Tattoos, patches, medals, and personal effects were displayed to remember those lost in the catastrophe.
Many survivors were welcomed on stage to impart stories of heroism and loss. Rescuers and survivors were reunited on stage for the first time since the attack on New York City. Spouses and children were invited on stage to share a small moment about their lost loved one. Moving tales from family and friends about heroes and heroism was the order of the evening.
The tragedy even hit home with artists on the bill. The Backstreet Boys lost an important member of their tour entourage, Daniel Lee, on one of the four highjacked planes from 9-11. The boy-band dedicated their appearance in memory of Lee. The following afternoon, the Backstreet Boys opened the United We Stand concert at RFK by singing the National Anthem. With a sizable percentage of those lost being foreign nationals trapped in the collapse of both WTC Twin Towers, these attacks constitute an affront against the entire free world.
Sadly, the RFK Stadium concert in Washington, D.C., promoted as United We Stand in support of the Pentagon heroes was more about the inexcusable excess of ego demonstrated by a Pop Prom Queen and King staging a television presentation. This charity production was no where nearly as organized as that in NYC. The D.C. event was launched at 1:00 pm, but began falling behind schedule, eventually running very, very late until 12:25 am.
The Who Rocked Madison Square Garden
One act received an overwhelming welcome by the Garden audience - The Who. The response during their micro-set was absolutely astounding. Their brief but powerful performance generated the loudest applause. The three surviving members of the classic British Invasion rock group truly raised the spirits of this audience with their presence on stage.
The Who's song selections were somewhat conservative including "Who Are You", "Baba O'Riley", "Behind Blue Eyes", and "Won't Get Fooled Again". The band's performance, however, was totally over the top. Since 1996, The Who have been turning up on the international tour circuit with more frequency, which only fortifies their musicianship together.
Guitarist Pete Townshend, vocalist Roger Daltrey, and bassist John Entwistle answered the call to appear at the event from McCartney. Ironically, Entwistle had already scheduled a charity performance with the John Entwistle Band at B.B. King's Blues Club in NYC on the very same night. John was doing double duty on the bass for a worthy cause. Kudos to The Ox!
Daltrey played an acoustic guitar during "Who Are You" with the Union Jack flag emblazoned behind the band on the video monitors. It was touching to see this nod of thanks to the nation of Great Britain, which immediately rallied to our aid following the attacks on 9-11.
Daltrey's vocals during "Behind Blue Eyes" were on the mark. The band was looking fit and sounding great. Townshend was all windmills and leaps during his soaring lead guitar solo on "Won't Get Fooled Again", embellished by the projection of the Statue of Liberty and the Twin Towers in the rising sun. The audience were on their feet during their entire 25 minute set.
Zak Starkey, son of Ringo Starr and a percussionist in his own right, was behind the skins once again, sporting a full beard. Joining the veteran British rockers on stage at the Garden was keyboardist John Carin who had performed previously with The Who on the 1996/97 Quadrophenia tours. This was my fourth time seeing The Who at the Garden, and my 25th time seeing the band live.
Magical Moments of Music
Several singers and songs stood out among the many talented and heartfelt performance at the Garden benefit. Jon Bon Jovi's mellow "Living On A Prayer" became an anthem of hope. Billy Joel sang a rousing rendition of "New York State Of Mind" and the ominous "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)". Melissa Etheridge delivered a crowd-pleasing version of "Born To Run" despite having both microphone and guitar problems during her mini-set.
Macy Gray's quirky rendition of the Beatles classic "With A Little Help From My Friends" was a pleasant surprise. James Taylor's "Fire And Rain" was wonderful to hear. John Mellencamp and Kid Rock dueted on "Pink Houses", an American tale about the strength of communities. "Superman (It's Not Easy)" performed unplugged by Five For Fighting was one of the more heartfelt performances, lifting the spirits of the those most affected by personal loss.
Healing Prescription from Britons is Medicinal Music
The heavy hitters of the bill at the Garden were the royalty of British Rock. Internet maverick David Bowie opened the Concert for New York City with a cover of "America". Paul Shaffer's house band backed him for his glorious "Heroes", which was dedicated to the heroism of 9-11. Eric Clapton appeared on stage with guest Blues guitarist Buddy Guy. Together they performed "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man" and "Everything's Gonna Be Alright".
Elton John sat the piano and sang solo on "I Want Love" and "Mona Lisas And Madhatters". He was joined on stage be fellow pianist Billy Joel to sing a duet on "Your Song". Throughout the concert, firemen and policemen were passing their hats on stage to be worn by the artists, actors, politicians, and comedians. Before their duet commenced, Elton blurted out, "I always liked a man in uniform", which unleashed a major giggle in the Garden.
A surprise guest at the event was the unannounced appearance of Keith Richards, chief guitarist for the Rolling Stones. He walked out unintroduced with Mick Jagger. The Glimmer Twins performed "Salt Of The Earth", which the Stones have only performed live during the final dates on the 1989 Steel Wheels Tour in Atlantic City. Keith sang the opening verse just like the classic 1968 recording.
"Miss You" was chosen for its reference to Central Park during the bridge of this 1978 Stones monster disco hit. Jagger at 57, pranced about stage proving he still personifies a Peter Pan presence. Richards patrolled the stage with his guitar ready for action. One camera panned to catch a Fire Engine Company patch that incorporated the Rolling Stones logo as part of their official insignia. With 2002 being the 40th Anniversary of the Rolling Stones, a major tour is anticipated for next year.
The Man from Apple
Sir Paul McCartney personally visited two Manhattan firehouses within blocks of Ground Zero the day before the event to hand out tickets to the Concert for New York City. In media promotions for this concert, McCartney answered the never-ending question of his post Beatles career with a resounding "No", deflecting yet another attempt from an insatiable public hungry for Paul to reunite with George and Ringo on stage as the Threetles.
Bouncing out on stage, comic Jim Carrey proclaimed, "Good morning New York City!" He then stated, "If somebody said to me six months ago I would be on stage with David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Mick Jagger, and Paul McCartney, I would have said - Now Pass Me The Bong!" These musical legends gathering together for such a cause displays their courage, character and compassion.
Next, Carrey proceeded to leap into the audience to bodysurf and was caught by the crowd. Once on stage he said, "Now that takes real trust". Steve Bushemi, a fireman turned actor returned to fire fighting, ran up on stage with Carrey. Carrey paused, and then announced the moment everyone had been waiting for .......
Paul McCartney opened his set with the 1965 Beatles B-side rocker, "I'm Down", jamming on his Beatles Hofner Bass guitar. He premiered two new songs in performance, "Lonely Road" and "From A Lover To A Friend", from his forthcoming disc Driving Rain. He sat at the piano to perform a moving vocal on "From A Lover To A Friend". Sir Paulšs new quartet featured guitarist Rusty Anderson, keyboardist Gabe Dixon, and drummer Abe Loboriel.
Beginning his most famous composition in the history of recorded music, McCartney sang a cappella before being complimented by a string quartet on "Yesterday". Paul's vocals were flawless as he delivered one of the most powerful performances of his entire career. The audience sang along in harmony on this classic Beatles ballad.
McCartney's new anthem "Freedom" was composed specifically for this event. His debut of "Freedom" at the Concert for New York City was a fitting tribute to the lives lost on that Tuesday morning. McCartney returned to the piano for his encore of the 1970 classic, "Let It Be", featuring Eric Clapton on lead guitar, Billy Joel on keyboards, and Sheryl Crow among many as guest vocalists joining in on the rousing chorus. Macca's band was a group of young musicians he utilized on his new studio album.
"Freedom" was reprised by Paul, inviting Eric Clapton to lay two lead guitar solos during this second presentation. All the artists on the bill and the audience were singing the poignant lyrics of Freedom, I'm talking about Freedom, I will fight for the right, To live in Freedom. McCartney was moved by the unfolding tragedy of September 11 to compose this song especially for his benefit performance in memory of the heroes, victims, and survivors.
Paul McCartney's first visit to America was landing at La Guardia Airport on February 7, 1964. Coincidentally on 9-11-01, he was sitting in a plane on a NYC tarmac when the attack on the WTC twin towers began to unfold. Being in the Big Apple gave him a personal perspective of the carnage and devastation, motivating him to become involved. Paul also recognized the danger his father had once placed himself in during World War II, acting as a Liverpool volunteer fireman.
Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss
Political figures SD U.S. Senator Tom Daschel, NY Governor George Pataki, NY US Senator Hillary Clinton, X-President Bill Clinton, and NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani all addressed the Garden on stage during the concert performance. Daschel droned on and on too long without really having any relevance to being there. Pataki was briefer and received a hearty welcome from an Empire State audience.
What was incredibly sensational was the fact that the Garden audience began jeering Sen. Clinton as she walked up to the microphone, refusing to yield to allow her to speak. Unlike the other polls who began in a normal tone then raising their voices, she began in an almost harangue-like tone just to get her message across. Her face appeared flustered and surprised by this. That's showbiz, baby.
Inexplicably, the audience was gentler and kinder to the other Clinton half. He received the same response when approaching the microphone, but for some reason, only half of the Garden continued to heckle him while he spoke. Clinton actually found some appropriate words to share with the audience. However, it was more interesting listening to the disparaging comments being hurled at Clinton by the municipal rescue workers seated in section 224.
True affection and admiration erupted as New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was introduced on stage by Michael J. Fox. The Garden audience could not contain their emotions and respect for this Mayor who has lead the Big Apple through its most difficult period in modern history. Many remarked they wished he could seek a third term as NYC Mayor to continue his stewardship of the city overseeing the ongoing recovery and reconstruction efforts.
Mayor Rudy made another one of his famous predictions ..... stating his conviction that the New York Yankees would secure their 38th pennant to go on to the World Series. The Garden cheered wildly in support of his forecast as the Yankees would indeed clinch the American League Conference title. Unfortunately, the Yankees lost the seventh game of the 2001 World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the ninth inning, two outs away from victory.
Seeing Mayor Rudy open the season premiere of Saturday Night Live on September 29 and proclaim the famous catch phrase was fantastic. This Mayor is going to be missed by more than just New Yorkers when he exits office. One of the complications of the attacks on 9-11-01 was the interruption of the NYC mayoral primary, which was later held on September 25.
This Commemorative Concert is Coming Out on Disc
A few artists did not appear on stage after being billed on the official Concert for New York City T-shirt. Bono and The Edge from U2 were the biggest no-show. Latin singer Marc Anthony did not make an appearance at the Garden either. McCartney had revealed to the media that he personally invited the three surviving members of Led Zeppelin to perform at the Garden, but no word was has surfaced about their response to his invitation. The lone oddity was a satellite feed of Janet Jackson, performing on stage from Pittsburgh.
Perhaps the only major speed bumps during the concert were the incessant and overindulgent video segments created by Hollywood exiles boasting about their native New York City roots and love of the Big Apple. These film shorts only ate away at the valuable stage time for this incredible cast of classic British rock icons.
Bowie, Clapton, and Jagger only played two songs each. Without these monotonous video presentations by Woody Allen, Edward Burns, Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, Jerry Seinfeld, and Kevin Smith, more actual broadcast time could have been granted for additional on stage performances by these musical legends.
A double CD set of selected performances from the Concert for New York City is being released on November 27 to further fundraising in aid of the families most impacted by the reign of terror on 9-11. Paul McCartney has issued a CD single of "Freedom" with all sales from this powerful song being donated to the charity fund.
C4NYC setlist: David Bowie: "America", "Heroes" * Bon Jovi: "Living On A Prayer", "Wanted Dead Or Alive" , "It's My Life" * Jay-Z: "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" * Goo Goo Dolls: "Iris", Tom Petty's "American Girl" * Billy Joel: "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)", "New York State Of Mind" * Destiny's Child: "Emotion", Gospel Medley * Eric Clapton w/Buddy Guy: "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man", "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" * Backstreet Boys: Medley, "Quit Playing Games With My Heart" * Melissa Etheridge: "Come To My Window", Bruce Springsteen's "Born To Run" * The Who: "Who Are You", "Baba O'Riley", "Behind Blue Eyes", "Won't Get Fooled Again" * Mick Jagger & Keith Richards: "Salt Of The Earth", "Miss You" * Macy Gray: "With A Little Help From My Friends" * James Taylor: "Fire And Rain", "Up On The Roof" * John Mellencamp: "Peaceful World", w/Kid Rock: "Pink Houses" * Five For Fighting: "Superman (It's Not easy)" * Janet Jackson: "Together Again" * Elton John: "I Want Love", "Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters", w/Billy Joel: "Your Song" * Paul McCartney: "I'm Down", "Lonely Road", "From A Lover To A Friend", "Yesterday", "Freedom", "Let It Be" * Finale: "Freedom"
Performers: David Bowie * Jon Bon Jovi * Jay-Z * Goo Goo Dolls * Billy Joel * Destiny's Child * Eric Clapton w/Buddy Guy * Opera Man * Backstreet Boys * Melissa Etheridge * The Who * Mick Jagger & Keith Richards * Macy Gray * James Taylor * John Mellencamp w/India.Arie & Kid Rock * Five For Fighting * Janet Jackson via satellite f/Pittsburgh, Pa * Elton John w/Billy Joel * Paul McCartney w/Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow & Billy Joel
Comedians: Jim Carrey * Billy Crystal * Will Farrell * Jimmy Falon * Chris Kattan * Mike Myers * Adam Sandler * David Spade * Howard Stern
Left with NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani at the Baltimore WTC on June 15, 1998.
The Twin Towers over my shoulder, in NYC for the Crossroads Benefit at MSG on June 30, 1999.
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