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CD Reviews:  Various Artists: Concert for New York City

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Sometimes the most tragically awful events can spawn the greatest of results, at least with regard to how it strikes the human spirit. Such was the case on October 20, 2001, when some of the greatest artists of our lifetime assembled on a moment's notice at Madison Square Garden to perform The Concert for New York City. This charity benefit for the Robin Hood Relief Fund was described by one emergency relief officer as, "a break from the horror…a little piece of heaven on earth after being in hell for six weeks." And so it was!

Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, The Who, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Elton John and others, all rushing to the call in a no-frills attempt at raising a historic amount of money for the most monumental of causes. David Bowie opens the night on a fitting note, covering Simon & Garfunkel's "America." Bon Jovi steps in for a blistering three-song set of "Livin' on a Prayer," "Wanted Dead or Alive" and "It's My Life," much of which is done in a more stripped down, mellower, acoustic version than their original. Billy Joel's haunting "Miami 2017" tells an eerie tale of sci-fi destruction that was never suppose to happen, but did. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards deliver an awkward "Miss You," which seems as out of place as their take on "Salt of the Earth" seems appropriate.

The night, however, was stolen by what represents the two-CD set's finest moment, the explosive introduction of The Who. Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend poured more raw, unbridled energy into their scorching medley of "Who Are You," "Baba O'Reilly" and "Won't Get Fooled Again" than nearly every other artist of the evening combined! Not to be forgotten, John Mellencamp impresses with his latest hit, "Peaceful World," before rolling through an extended version of "Pink Houses" which features Kid Rock. Five For Fighting's piano ballad "Superman" is stellar, and fits perfectly with Elton John's "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters." The night concludes with a Beatles montage performed by Paul McCartney and various guests, including Eric Clapton on guitar. 

The Concert For New York City will hold its place in American history as the most unexpected and unscheduled entertainment event of this lifetime, for better or for worse! The recorded product it produced stands as a remarkably beautiful soundtrack for this generation. It serves as an ageless reminder of how quickly life can change, but also how the giving nature and human spirit of our rock and roll heroes can be called upon in an instant for the most memorable of moments.

~Red Rocker


Also see:
America: A Tribute to Heroes (2001)
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