STARS AND STRIPES Remember when the notion of rockers like the Who, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards publicly supporting the police was unthinkable? On Oct. 20, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Billy Joel, and a host of other A-list musicians gathered at Madison Square Garden for a six-hour bash dubbed ”The Concert for New York City.” The event, which McCartney helped organize, raised $14 million from ticket sales (plus a still-undetermined amount from TV viewers’ pledges) for the Robin Hood Relief Fund, which aids victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. It was also a tribute to New York’s cops, firefighters, and rescue workers, 5,000 of whom were admitted gratis. Despite ticket prices ranging from $250 to $5,000, the 18,000-seat venue was sold out.
The pro-U.S. feeling was palpable, from Jon Bon Jovi’s American-flag shirt to the Goo Goo Dolls covering Tom Petty’s ”American Girl.” And while the stars were clearly the Big Apple’s civil servants, the British acts were received like royalty. The Who’s rousing four-song set galvanized the boomer-heavy audience. Jagger and Richards transformed their 1968 ”Salt of the Earth” from a bemused commentary on class to a blue-collar anthem. McCartney capped it off with the Beatles’ ”I’m Down,” a new tune called ”Freedom,” and his upcoming single, ”From a Lover to a Friend” (proceeds of which will go to relief efforts).
Patriotism also reigned the next day at ”United We Stand: What More Can I Give?,” an all-American benefit concert at Washington, D.C.’s RFK Stadium. And — except for limey Rod Stewart — we mean all American. Some 46,000 fans paid $25-75 to hear the Goos recap ”American Girl” and James Brown sing ”Livin’ in America”; D.C.’s Miss America hopeful was on hand; even America, the band, showed up. Old Glory’s image was everywhere, from belt buckles (Backstreet Boy Kevin Richardson) to guitars (Aerosmith’s Joe Perry). At press time, $2.5 million had been tallied and is slated to go to the Pentagon Relief Fund, the Red Cross, and the Salvation Army. (That same day, country stars Clint Black, Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, and others played at the Country Freedom Concert in Nashville for 10,000 fans.)
”We’ve got something you can’t kill: freedom, love, God, liberty, and the pursuit of rock & roll!” yelled Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler. An uncharacteristically animated P. Diddy aimed ”Come With Me” at Osama bin Laden: ”Check this out, terrorists!” he shouted. Planned at eight hours, the overbooked show, which also featured Destiny’s Child and Mariah Carey, lasted nearly 12, due to delays between sets (ABC will air a two-hour version on Nov. 1).
The evening culminated with Michael Jackson performing ”Man in the Mirror” and debuting his just-recorded all-star single, ”What More Can I Give?” with the few artists who had stuck around. Introducing M.J., Chris Tucker suggested mounting concerts like this every day. ”I’m serious,” he said. ”Everybody quit your jobs. Let’s just do this again tomorrow.” Of course, at 12:15 a.m., it was tomorrow.