I actually skipped the first 30 minutes or so. Sorry but Springsteen has never done much for me, and his special guest Bon Jovi even less. Maybe it's because I have never had a true blue collar job and don't relate to the east coast but Bruce has never clicked for me. I'm sure he rocked and was a cool choice to open the event but I guess I'll never know!
So that means I jumped right to Roger Waters. Man, who invited him to this thing? I love Waters and Floyd but if you wanted uplifting, you weren't going to get it here!
He opens with In The Flesh, which is very in your face, then continuing to tell the MSG that we don't need no education. Money and Us and Them are totally aimed at the politicians in attendance and viewing around the world. Maybe not the most appropriate cause at which to get on the soapbox but it was pretty cool.
My only problem with Roger Waters' band doing Dark Side stuff is that Waters doesn't sing on any of it, so it's a bit of a tribute band situation. Those two songs didn't do much for me.
The closer, Comfortably Numb, was good. Eddie Vedder guested to sing the choruses and was excellent. But the whole thing was too heavy for the cause if you ask me.
Next up we had Adam Sandler with Paul Shaffer between sets doing a silly version on Hallelujah that was more appropriate to the cause than Waters' whole set, which says a lot!
Bon Jovi was up next. Skipped most of it. Again, not super into him but Richie Sambora sounded good.
Next up was Clapton, who walked out with a nylon string guitar and sat down. I thought oh no holy shit bossa nova Layla. But no, it was a sweet version of Nobody Loves You When You're Down and Out.
Then a drummer and bass player joined and Clapton picked up his Strat for a funky version of Got To Get Better in a Little While. Nice to see Clapton in a three piece that isn't Cream, and his solo was absolutely off the hook. Next was a jumpy version of Crossroads. The whole set was really stripped down, blues-based jamming. It was cool. Could have as easily been in a bar!
I generally think he is over rated but truth is, Clapton really shines at events like this where he can hand pick four or five tunes that he can really own. But I did think, why didn't Clapton get up with Waters and rip a solo on something? He did lay down sweet leads all over Waters' Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking way back when, but oh well...
The Stones followed. I was pretty excited to see this based on their recent UK and US shows. Interesting set list and decent playing. The opener was really surprising! You Got Me Rockin from Voodoo Lounge. But slower and more groovy, like almost everything I heard on YouTube from those other concerts. The only other song they played was a super slowed down Jumpin Jack Flash.
Two songs? Total tease. But Jagger was tremendous. Still skinny, slinky and jerky, and his voice sounded strong as ever. Woodie sounded great. Had all the licks down. Pretty mellow onstage now that he's sober but gets the job done. Charlie is rock solid but as noted, slower. And fucking Keith. He is absolutely ancient. Shit they all are but somehow it works.
Next up was the first artist who wasn't between the age of 48 and 70. Alicia Keys, born in New York in 1981. I don't know much about her but she played three songs on piano and she was awesome. Fantastic voice, no autotune bullshit. Real singing and real playing. She was also so far the only NY-born artist, which helped her connect with the audience when she asked the whole MSG to put their lit cellphones in the air. Her generation's version of the lighter I guess...
Then it was time to roll out more oldies, with The Who. Wasn't sure I'd dig them or not. Lots of shark jumping lately for example their atrocious Super Bowl appearance. But The Who owned it. From the opening synth of Who Are You they slayed it with reckless abandon. Second song: Bell Boy from Quadrophenia. Are you kidding me? Epic! Using films of Keith from the 1973 tour for his vocal parts was brilliant.
I could have done without Pinball Wizard (ever again) but Baba O'Rielly was on fire (much because of drummer Zak Starkey and bassist Pino Palladino) and Love Rein O'er Me was a surprise electric finish (no Fooled Again) but it worked. The tempo was a little slower, so it was kind of brooding and Daltry really brought it. Daltry and Townshend wrapped it up with an acoustic Tea and Theatre, a newer gentle, introspective tune I have come to enjoy.
So I thought The Who stole the show to this point. Yeah, Daltry's voice has had it and he looks a bit like William Shatner up there, but Pete windmilled away, ripped some blazing leads and sawed at his guitar, while Starkey and Palladino channelled their best Moon and Entwistle. So The Who do six songs and the Stones do two. Weird.
How do you follow up The Who? You don't bother trying so you put Kanye West onstage. Who gives a fuck? Fast forward after 29 seconds. Take fast forward off to see what I am missing and hear Kanye's voice through auto tune. Really? Oh forget it...
How do you make up for that shit? Billy Joel? Close my eyes and his voice sounds exactly the same as it always has. Fantastic! Dude hasn't put out an album in 17 or 18 years but an still bring it at an event like this. Joel is a bit of an anomaly to me. Have a Merry Little Christmas into New York State of Mind was a nice touch. Closing with You May Be Right and Only The Good Die Young was cool.
I have never thought Billy Joel was very legit but over the years he had stuck through it and now has earned a bit of respect. Kind of like Neil Diamond. I dunno maybe I am smoking crack. He was good at this event.
Next up was Chris Marin from Coldplay on an acoustic guitar for some reason. Damn is his stuff singable. He did Viva La Vida and then dragged out Michael Stipe for Losing My Religion. Was pretty cool, actually!
Then the closer was supposed to be Paul McCartney and I feared for my sanity at hearing that dreadful song of his, Freedom. But no, he showed up playing Kurt Cobain in a reformed Nirvana.
Well, first he played some stuff with his usual absolutely killer, rocking band: Helter Skelter, Let Me Roll It, 1985, a new tune called My Valentine, and Blackbird.
But then here we go. No lie. Dave Grohl on drums. Recluse bassist Krist Novoselic. First guitarist Pat Smear. And McCartney. Huh? Did it work? Yeah!
But it was weird! Reminded me of McCartney's side project The Fireman. Dave Grohl plays harder than McCartney's usual drummer, if that is possible. Novoselic looked uncomfortable and strange. McCartney was playing some boxy looking slide guitar thing. The new song co-written by the Nirvana folks and McCartney was called Cut Me Some Slack or something like that. It totally rocked but then it was back to normal and McCartney played I've Got A Feeling and a few others to close it out with Live And Let Die. The Nirvana tune should have been the end. But what are ya gonna do?
All in all a hell of an event and lineup. Jagger said it best when he said this has got to be the largest collection of old English musicians ever assembled in Madison Square Garden!
As with most of these events, there were loads of celebs answering phones and talking between bands. Nothing much to call out except when did Chelsea Clinton get semi-hot?
Here is the McNirvana tune: