Anytime a concert features Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Kanye West, the Rolling Stones, Eddie Vedder and The Who, it’s a Pop Culture Has AIDS bylaw that we have to watch it together and live blog it. Since one of us is in Peru and the other has a newborn, that’s easier said than done. But we persevered. We made it through almost six hours of dinosaur rock to bring you our trenchant insight and analysis.
Will The Dilemma be totally in the bag for aging classic rockers? Will David Simon Cowell misdirect his classist political rage? Will we viciously turn on New York City firefighters like a small but efficient pack of wolves. Will the prospect of a reunited Nirvana with Paul McCartney replacing Kurt Cobain kill us dead? Read on, friends.
At 7:30 Eastern time, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band take the stage at Madison Square Garden to open the show.
David Simon Cowell: I’m having trouble finding it on TV here. Can’t believe that Peruvians don’t want to rebuild Seaside Heights… fucking selfish. Ah, found it. MGM Channel.
The Dilemma: Springsteen opening with Land of Hope and Dreams. W/ horns which is good, but a bad choice to open. Needed something to get the corporate-dollars crowd fired up early.
DSC: it may be a measure of my feelings about the NYC area that my general feeling about holding this concert is “come the fuck on.”
TD: Yeah, I might question your objectivity there.
DSC: Holding an international benefit concert for almost inarguably literally the largest concentration of wealth in the world? At least don’t ask for fucking donations from Indonesia.
TD: I’ve got no moral problems here. If this was for an earthquake that hit Chicagoland, you’d be weeping and on the phones giving money.
DSC: Mrs. Cowell pointed out that the annoying part of this is that it’s the first time an affected area has thrown a concert for themselves. Makes it feel self important or something.
TD: Both of you have a hatred for NYC that blinds you. I pity your forthcoming child.
Springsteen follows Land of Hope and Dreams with Wrecking Ball, My City of Ruins/Jersey Girl, and Born to Run with guest Jon Bon Jovi.
TD: Disappointed with his song choices. Would have liked to hear a full Jersey Girl. And Sandy. This is the standard disaster set for Springteen.
DSC: Dominican Republic? NYC has balls. International numbers are at the bottom of my screen btw. You know all that money your father who you’ve never met sends you? you should send it to rebuild some vacation homes.
TD: BUT THERE IS A ROLLER COASTER IN THE OCEAN
DSC: best tourist attraction since DJ Pauly. Sartorially, Springsteen definitely beats Bon Jovi. And in every other way.
TD: How erect do you think JBJ is right now? Poor Richie Sambora.
DSC: Poor Alec John Such.
DSC: Odds JBJ shaves his chest?
TD: 1000% Atlantic City w/ Eddie Vedder > Born to Run w/ JBJ
After Springsteen, The Dilemma must leave the chat for a while to feed his stupid needy baby. His is unable to type during a cavalcade of atrocities, beginning with Roger Waters, and continuing with Fat Adam Sandler wearing a Jets shirt committing one of the great atrocities against mankind in our history.
DSC: they just said this concert was organized by harvey weinstein and jim dolan. I consider my case rested.
DSC: Your son just made you miss a group of black teen dancers doing a routine to “brick in the wall pt. 2” wearing Fear Builds Walls t-shirts. It was then slowed down to an acoustic version that name checked terrorism victims.
DSC: Adam Sandler and Paul Schaeffer just took the stage. Singing a take on leonard cohen’s Hallelujah about Sandy… for reals. Hallelujah… Sandy screw you.
DSC: I’ve never hated a baby more than i have right now for making you miss this.
DSC: Ben Stiller was without power for nine days… WHYYYY?
TD: I can’t process some of the things I just saw. I saw everything, btw. And now my son can’t unsee Roger Waters in his sexy black catsuit. Or Kristen Stewart single-handedly bringing back heroin chic. I mean…that Adam Sandler thing….my God.
DSC: I brought some Peruvians in while you were gone… when I explained to them that 22K investment bankers lost power for a few days in Hoboken, they literally ripped off their garments.
TD: Eddie Vedder achieve the nigh impossible…he made me like a Pink Floyd song. (Vedder guested on Comfortably Numb.) My child and I got to bond while watching Roger Waters preen around the stage like a peacocking joke.
DSC: I thought the Waters backup singer/Gilmour stand-in was the worst possible version of Vedder in an alternate universe.
TD: I also want to know why Adam Sandler ate one of the E Street band keyboardists before his set.
DSC: I heard that i missed Springsteen in his natural role… replacing the singer from Sugarland
TD: Bon Jovi joined Springsteen for one of the great rock songs of all time. Springsteen joined Bon Jovi for…whatever the fuck that was.
DSC: I was thinking on my wine walk that Bon Jovi, while OK, is certainly one of those bands I’m willing to throw over in the passage to the next generation
TD: meaning what?
DSC: There’s a limited number of bands that you could possibly push to your kids… they are one I’d be like “yeah they were fine” and leave it at that. And that’s not to hate on them… they were my first real concert after all, and they blew the doors off Rosemont Horizon.
TD: Oh yeah, I’m not going to the mattresses for Bon Jovi.
We get one of the intermittent pitches for cash with celebrities answering phones and Chris Christie receiving one of many standing ovations for the night.
TD: Why is that gay pirate answering the phones?
TD: I think Chris Christie and Adam Sandler have been eating at the same Jersey Turnpike Roy Rogers.
DSC: I’m picturing a guy from Italy calling Mike Richter… “Uh, I’m kind of a big deal.”
DSC: New York is so much different from all those other communities hit by a hurricane and just decided to give up.
TD: I can’t wait for Chicago’s next major disaster. Oh wait…
DSC: We had a fire… bet you never heard about it… because we’re taciturn midwesterners.
TD: Less talk…more rock.
TD: Also less of Adam Sandler denigrating beloved songs by aging icons made even more beloved by dead icons.
Eric Clapton ambles out on stage and takes a seat with his trusty acoustic guitar.
TD: ughhhh Clapton
DSC: like Clapton, but not when he’s sitting down.
TD: Good at guitar, not so much with the singing or songwriting.
DSC: Hating clapton is a completely indefensible stand.
TD: Don’t hate him, he just bores the fuck out of me.
DSC: Over the hill, but for overall career, near the top for individuals. Of course, like everybody, that ended after 20 or so years
TD: Virtuosic instrumentalists don’t impress me much (Shania Twain reference) when they try to be frontmen if they’re ill-suited to that role. Like Clapton. He’s a charisma vacuum. I like Layla and all, but have zero interest in his solo stuff.
DSC: Don’t see him that way at all… his peak saw other frontmen… plus, I never saw him as a virtouso show off like Jeff Beck or whoever, but more of a curator.
DSC: Cream? Blind Faith? Derek &the Dominoes? Incredible songs
TD: I like all those Clapton bands, don’t love any of them.
DSC: It’s fair to say I love Cream… one of the top 5 ’60s bands, and clearly the most underrated.
/trying not to say the Kinks bc it would make Musky Canadian and Stephen Malkmus Motherfucker too happy.
DSC: Clearly more influential than Beach boys… could argue against any but the Beatles, really, since they invented hard rock/metal… all lines go through them to black sabbath etc etc. Love Creedence, like the Kinks, but importance-wise they aren’t even in the conversation
TD: A sportsjacket and jeans sums up Eric Clapton so perfectly.
DSC: At least the kinks aren’t… could make one for Creedence for bringing country and rock together
TD: I think Credence is getting more important by the day, with influence on southern rock, alt country, etc. And I don’t find Cream particularly important. Supremes?
DSC: I mean, if you go from the 60s ur-generation of serious rock, Beatles brought in pop/orchestral, Creedence country, Cream metal, Velvet indie… Beach Boys overlap Beatles (and clearly lose)… Stones might get left out in some ways since they were more derivative than forward looking. Supremes are a different thing… don’t really think of them as a “band”
TD: Beach Boys again take on more importance in modern era w/ indie music
DSC: Disagree. Myth of brian wilson yes… actual music not really. Think it’s pretty clear that Cream was the first to bring that real heavy sound, and are a direct line to bands like GNR and Nirvana
DSC: Have to say though… one of my first big concerts was him at Alpine Valley (opener Stevie Ray Vaughn’s last show btw)… so early I bought the program… there was a section dedicated to Clapton’s personal designer Versace… found that odd even at 13ish
Chelsea Clinton comes on stage for a charity pitch, followed closely by a manic Jimmy Fallon introducing the Rolling Stones. The Stones play “You Got Me Rocking” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”
DSC: Over/under on Chelsea Clinton’s highest position in society?
TD: Senator. I think she’s turned out more fuckable than the Bush girls.
DSC: That’s a bold call
TD: I like the vibe she’s putting out there.
DSC: the hot blond one who works for NBC is still higher, but that’s hate fuck.
TD: Hey, it’s Jimmy Fallon, here to hijack another benefit. Will he take lead vocals on Sympathy for the Devil this time? Will he replace Macca as the new Cobain?
DSC: He’s the new Letterman… that’s enough
TD: in a good way?
DSC: Irony… god, grandpa
TD: I can never tell with you kids. WHY ARE THEY MAKING US WAIT FOR MACVANA?
DSC: I love this parade of people who’d never set foot on the Jersey Shore now that they’re not poor like their parents extoll its virtues. ROBIN HOOD FOUNDATION… HAHAHAHAHA
TD: Is there a word Jimmy Fallon uses more than “awesome”? Stones up now?
TD: Can’t believe they’re not the closer.
DSC: Good venue to sell their PPV.
TD: “I’ve always wanted to say this…here they are…the Rolling Stones!!” — Jimmy Fallon just now. “I’ve always wanted to say this…here they are…Guns N Roses!!” — Jimmy Fallon at the VMAs years ago.
TD: Really? Opening with the 5th best song from Voodoo Lounge?
DSC: Mick has gone from awkward to creepy. It’s official
TD: Have to play the song with the doc title in the lyrics.
DSC: Say what you will about Clapton/boring, but at least he’s not fighting Father Time
TD: I prefer fighting the dying of the light. Aging gracefully is a sucker’s game.
DSC: Not if it looks like this
TD: PS I’m getting a toupee and a convertible.
DSC: Don’t think you have to give up, just adapt a la Willie or Dylan etc.?
TD: Not if giving up sounds like 2012 Clapton.
TD: OK there has to be a middle ground between Claton’s snoozefest and Jagger’s repulisve aping of his 20-year-old self’s dance moves.
DSC: I think the common ground is that you need to go through an awkward middle age, and live long enough to come out the other side.
TD: Would have liked to have seen Lennon get a crack at it. He had the awkward middle age down.
DSC: Lennon for sure would have adapted… would like to think Cobain too… very good signs for Vedder.
DSC: Who’s in the forgotten/awkward middle age now that will have a Rennaissance?
TD: Mellencamp. Petty. Are the Stones coming back later? Just 2 songs?
DSC: Eminem sticks out to me for some reason, although hip hop is still uncharted in this area
DSC: Thank God. I literally disliked that more than Roger Waters or Clapton
DSC: NYC nurses kept their patients alive, unlike all those other nurses from lesser places.
TD: NYC nurses have that New York attitude. And that saves lives.
Alicia Keys comes out to inject some youth and energy (?) into the proceedings.
TD: “This is everybody’s city” — Alicia Keys. Do you hear that, you cold-hearted, inferiority-complex-riddled Chicagoan??
DSC: I don’t hate Alicia Keys, but don’t understand her appeal. Why did Alicia Keys last over, say, Macy Gray?
TD: pals with Hova
DSC: Still confused about Kanye being there but not Hova
TD: Hova is a dad now and as you’ll soon find out, that is a full-time job. Still confused about why Chris Martin is here.
DSC: Maybe that’s the Kanye thing… if they break out Homecoming and are like FUCK YOU NYC… I will literally weep.
TD: I hope they play it but change all the lyrics to be about NY
DSC: HOW DARE YOU
DSC: Now I’m seriously nervous.
Steve Buscemi appears surrounded by firefighters for a long, brutal segment.
TD: Will someone kill Nucky already?
DSC: Thing I like about firefighters is their humbleness
DSC: Firefighters are so nice in the abstract.
TD: I want Richard Harrow to massacre these firefighters.
DSC: Why is this still going on?
TD: Longer than the Stones’ set
DSC: Can I sign something to agree to risk fire if I never have to pretend firefighters are heroes?
..and here come The Who!
TD: Stop calling yourselves The Who. Only half of you are left. They should just play all the CSI songs. What’s worse? Jagger still doing those dance moves in 2012 or Townsend still doing his guitar windmills and such in 2012?
DSC: Janner. Jagger. And Jann Wenner.
TD: That’s their supercouple nickname.
DSC: The Who looks dignified next to The Stones.
TD: Bring back Buscemi.
DSC: BTW, they’re playing with the ghost of keith moon
TD: I can’t even… Worst offense to decorum and dignity tonight? Keith Moon’s ghost? Adam Sandler’s Hallelujah? MacVana?
DSC: Sandler for sure.
TD: I’m half expecting a Cobain hologram at this point.
DSC: More interested in MacVana than scandalizd.
TD: If there’s one thing “Hallelujah” was crying out for, it’s a comedy version. A Yankovic-ing, if you will
Here comes Kanye to play in front an aging, arrhythmic, snowy white crowd.
DSC: Loving the leather kilt.
DSC: Love the starkness… the average viewer must the tsp-tsking themselves to death
TD: He’s great live, but he falls prey to the common hip hop trap of getting too medley-happy
DSC: in this context, probably for the best… not for a general concert
DSC: WHERE IS HOVA?
TD: Do you lose any respect for Ye since he’s involved with Kardashian?
DSC: Naw… he should be dating the equivalent of Marilyn Monroe (and, yeah, that’s what we’ve got these days)
DSC: What’s the equivalent of the great mass of people our age and older who reject hip-hop on its face?
TD: Don Draper’s generation rejecting rock
DSC: sure, but that was in 1965 (?) a few years after the Beatles… in rock development, Kanye is at least the Led Zeppelin years
TD: There’s also a racial component to this, more so than with rock (which did have some of that)
Billy Joel comes on for a longish set, opening with his disaster porn song, Miami 2017.
TD: He must get so happy when disasters hit NYC. Watch the royalties flow in like Prince in 1999.
DSC: It’s almost midnight on the east coast on a Wednesday, btw. Might not be the best format for raising money.
DSC: Maybe it’s just because you can see him at the piano, but Joel always seems cognizant of the selling out aspect of his life. He just comes across with a here’s-another-drink-monkeys thing… maybe i’m projecting piano man.
TD: No I think you’re right for the most part. I mean, he hasn’t written a song since 1992. And passion is missing from most of his live performances. When he played Miami 2017 at the FIRST Sandy benefit, it was the first time in years it looked like he was trying.
DSC: I mean, his selfishness gave me my beloved Padma on Top Chef, so I can never hate that part of him.
TD: And he’s a drunk, which is never bad. And he has a white Clarence Clemons.
TD: I don’t think there’s been one truly interesting song choice tonight. And far fewer collaborations/guest spots than I expected.
DSC: Kanye was pretty interesting… in that i’m sure it was the first time a huge swath of this audience heard anything like that. And they all fucking hated it.
Billy plays River of Dreams.
DSC: This song is the WOOOORRRRSSSTTTTT
TD: I like it. For late-period Joel.
DSC: the phrase “late-period Joel” hahahaha
TD: What freaks me out is that late-period Joel was 20 years ago. And that’s the very end of late-period Joel. The death rattle.
TD: He literally needs to catch his breath.
DSC: this is a fucking long concert for i-bankers to sit through… 4:30 and two sets to go
Billy talks about the post-Sandy hardships facing New York and New Jersey.
TD: Connecticut shunned again. Nice.
DSC: What? you mean the shores of NJ and CT took the brunt but it’s all about NYC? what are the odds?
TD: I wonder how angry Billy Joel is that he looks how he looks.
After Billy wraps up, Blake Lively takes the stage to talk about the true victims of Sandy.
TD: FINALLY SOMEONE HAS THE COURAGE TO TALK ABOUT THE NUTMEG STATE’S TRAGEDY
Thank you, Blake Lively!
TD: /gets season pass to Gossip Girl
/moves Savages up Netflix queue
/rewatches The Town
Chris Martin comes onstage solo, with an acoustic guitar.
DSC: Not even a piano? Why not just take joel’s piano
TD: And some bullshit late-period Coldplay song? If this doesn’t call for Everything’s Not Lost, what does?
DSC: The only reason i can stomach coldplay is they bring the piano.
TD: I do like the suit though. Instead of his usual outfit hand-crafted from recyclables, with “Free Trade” scrawled on his arm.
TD: There’s a mic set up next to him.
Surprise guest Michael Stipe joins Martin for “Losing My Religion.”
DSC: OK that was fucking cool
TD: I’m feeling all kinds of feelings right now.
DSC: I love Chris Martin for that… that’s the way Michael Stipe should be treated
TD: Yeah and it sounded excellent. Out of gratitude, I won’t even mock him for his incorrect humblebrag about being the youngest one on the bill.
TD: MacVana dead ahead. Genuinely curious for the new song MacVana wrote.
TD: Was not expecting this night to turn into me reflecting on the loss of two of my favorite bands of all time. That’s real pain. Fuck these Sandy people.
DSC: Yeah, it’s definitely had a fraught/solid lineup. nirvana, pearl jam, r.e.m., springsteen, joel, stones, beatles, who.
TD: Even knowing what I know about them, I’m still kind of shocked at how the Stones mailed it in.
DSC: yeah, i was surprised too
TD: Seemed like the kind of occasion they’d turn it on for.
Quentin Tarantino, Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz introduce Paul McCartney.
DSC: Ddds Django Unchained is Weinstein cCmpany? 1000000000000 %
TD: This is a very personal issue for Christoph Waltz. Love Q’s outfit.
DSC: Jaime Foxx is still confused why Kanye didn’t ask him to do Golddigger
TD: At least Jamie Foxx didn’t break out his Shenehneh character to sing a funny version of Sunday Bloody Sunday or something.
Paul McCartney and his generic backing band open with Helter Skelter.
DSC: good song
TD: stealing it back from U2
DSC: If you could get a full album with someone backed by nirvana, what singer would you pick?
TD: 1) Scott Stapp. That’s a tough one bc Cobain’s voice was so unique
DSC: The one that pops out to me is Jack White, because you’d need someone with a full guitar sound.
TD: That might actually work.
DSC: Plus, while he’s different, he comes from a similiar place, authenticity wise.
TD: Pretty disinterested in solo Macca until Grohl et al get out there.
DSC: For sure… he’s on the list of bands on this thing i’d never go see live on their own.
DSC: “I wrote this song for my ex-wife Heather Mills.” YOU FUCKING WHORRRRRREEEEE
DSC: “Ladies and gentleman, Diana Krall”… it keeps getting better.
TD: They are really making this a slog to get through to MacVana.
DSC: Is this the latest Macca has ever played in real time?
TD: Live Aid?
TD: There’s only one proper way for this night to end: All-star jam of Do They Know It’s Christmas? — sent out to the people of Staten Island.
At long last….MacVana!
TD: God I really want MacVana to play Rape Me.
DSC: That would literally be the greatest thing ever.
TD: Before all this, had Macca ever heard a Nirvana song?
TD: Pat Smear batting cleanup?
DSC: Macca loves the Germs.
TD: I hope Novoselic repeats his SNL move of throwing his bass up in the air and letting it him him in the head.
DSC: I’m not sure he could life the bass above his head these days. Love that he’s still annoyingly weird though.
TD: The crowd seems…perplexed.
DSC: it is a perplexing moment. If it was just the sound that came from the four of them, i’d illegally download an album.
TD: I mean, it’s not bad.It’s not good.
DSC: No, but it’s ok… grohl played on that awesome Backbeat soundtrack, so feel like they have some common ground.
TD: The highlight was watching Pat Smear ignore Macca when Macca came over to jam with him. Props to McCartney for trying, but his voice isn’t built for hard rock.
DSC: Why not play “I’ve Got a Feeling” with Nirvana? Glad Pat Smear can pay his rent, but a missed opportunity.
TD: If you had asked me to list the most likely people to be the first one to sing a song with a reunited Grohl/Novoselic/Smear, I don’t think McCartney would have made my top 1,000. I think Courtney Love would have ranked higher.
A crew of hefty NYC firemen take the stage and mill around taking pictures with McCartney while Alicia Keys closes things out with the bad version of Empire State of Mind.
DSC: How many firemen in nyc haven’t shook macca’s hand at a benefit? 20?
TD: Why is this on my television right now?
DSC: Why is this about firemen exactly?
TD: I keep expecting to see Andy from Parks & Rec up there.
DSC: I mean, 9/11 i can see more even though it’s bullshit, but this?
TD: Worst all star jam ever? Macca, Keys, and 75 fat firemen?
DSC: Drunk firemen heckling Alicia
TD: Macca in a fireman hat is my new highlight of the night.
DSC: Yeah, this is weird
TD: 12.12.12. Macca in a fireman hat. Never forget.
DSC: hey, we have the most famous muscian is alive… let’s have him sway with 75 fatties at 1:15 a.m.
TD: Chances Alicia Keys gets gang raped backstage?
DSC: i yearn for the day nyc firemen are praised for something having to do with actual fire
TD: Worse to be gangraped by: a bunch of NYC firemen, The Rolling Stones, or the Who?
DSC: macca’s getting felt up. “I haven’t felt something that hard against me since i divorced Heather.”
TD: God I hate McCartney’s mugging. YOU’RE NOT THE CUTE ONE ANYMORE.
DSC: he’s too good to play wtih nirvana for a few songs, but not too good for whatever this is?
TD: He might as well give a fireman a handie backstage.
TD: Somewhere, Blake Lively is talking up the Connecticut Cause.
DSC: I can’t believe I actually watched that whole thing
TD: Seriously. Alright, I gotta get to bed.
TD: some things never change