NEW YORK — New Jersey shore hero Bruce Springsteen opened a benefit concert for victims of Superstorm Sandy on Wednesday by making a plea that what made his boyhood home special not be forgotten when it is rebuilt.
Music royalty from the Rolling Stones to Kanye West, including several artists with direct ties to the New York metropolitan area, gathered at Madison Square Garden for a concert being televised, streamed online and aired on radio all over the world.
Springsteen and his E Street Band began the show with a roar, singing “Land of Hope and Dreams” and “Wrecking Ball.” He addressed the rebuilding process before his song “My City of Ruins.” He noted that the song was written about the hard times suffered by Asbury Park, N.J., before a renaissance over the past decade.
He lauded the Jersey shore as an inclusive area, where the rich and the poor can find a place.
“I pray that that characteristic remains along the Jersey shore because that’s what makes it special,” Springsteen said.
He mixed “My City of Ruins” with part of Tom Waits’ “Jersey Girl” before bringing neighbor Jon Bon Jovi out to sing “Born to Run” with him.
Comic Billy Crystal got an immediate laugh by taking a shot at a Long Island lighting company that drew criticism for the slow pace of power restoration after the storm hit the area on Oct. 29.
Roger Waters played a set of Pink Floyd’s spacey rock, joined by Eddie Vedder for “Comfortably Numb.” Waters stuck to the music and left the fundraising to others.
“Can’t chat,” he said, “because we only have 30 minutes.”
The sold-out “12-12-12” concert was being shown on 37 television stations in the United States and more than 200 others worldwide. It was to be streamed on 30 websites, including YouTube and Yahoo, and played on radio stations. Theaters, including 27 in the New York region and dozens more elsewhere, were showing it live. More than 2 billion people were expected to have access to the performance.
Proceeds from the show will be distributed through the Robin Hood Foundation. More than $30 million was raised through ticket sales alone.
The powerful storm left parts of New York City underwater and left millions of people in several states without heat or electricity for weeks. It’s blamed for at least 125 deaths, including 104 in New York and New Jersey, and it destroyed or damaged 305,000 housing units in New York alone.
Other concert performers were to include Long Islander Billy Joel (“New York State of Mind”) and New Yorker Alicia Keys (“Empire State of Mind”). Even Liverpool’s Paul McCartney has a New York office, Hamptons home and a wife, Nancy Shevell, who spent a decade on the board of the agency that runs New York’s public transit system.
The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger said he wasn’t in New York for the storm but his apartment was flooded with 2 feet of water.
“Imagine you hadn’t known it was coming,” he said in an interview. “It would have been pretty dire. I think it’s good to do events to support people in the area where you’re very familiar with. I mean, I’ve been coming here for a long time.”
Other artists expected to perform included Eric Clapton, Dave Grohl, Chris Martin and The Who.
It’s a lineup heavily weighted toward classic rock, which has the type of fans able to afford a show for which ticket prices ranged from $150 to $2,500. Even with those prices, people with tickets have been offering them for more on broker sites such as StubHub, an attempt at profiteering that producers fumed was “despicable.”
The concert came a day after the death of sitar master Ravi Shankar, a performer at the 1971 “Concert for Bangladesh” considered the grandfather of music benefits. That also was in Madison Square Garden.