Taking place at New York’s Madison Square Garden last night, the 12.12.12 Benefit concert for Hurricane Sandy gathered some of the biggest names in American and British music to join forces in raising money for the Robin Hood Relief Fund.
The biggest and brightest of them being Paul McCartney, the legendary ex-Beatle closing out the marathon charity show with an all-star cast of musical friends to deliver a set mixing material from The Fab Four, Wings, and his own solo catalogue.
The moment that everyone was waiting for after intensifying hype and speculation was of course Macca fronting a Nirvana reunion between drummer Dave Grohl, bassist Krist Novoselic, and on/off second guitarist Pat Smear on a brand new song called ‘Cut Me Some Slack’.
“So recently, some guys asked me to go and jam with them,” McCartney said on stage by way of introduction, adding: “I finally understood that I was in the middle of a Nirvana reunion,” referring to the secret rehearsals he and the surviving members of the grunge band spent together, after Grohl contacted McCartney to help put something together for the Foos frontman’s forthcoming documentary, Sound City.
The result was ‘Cut Me Some Slack’ a swampy blues rock, with some grizzly riffage and typically monster drumming from Grohl with a bit of a ‘Helter Skelter’ flavour to it – just as Krist Novoselic described when he tweeted ahead of the A-lister performance: “It is a new song that’s kind of Helter Skelter meets Scentless Apprentice. It rocks with a heavy groove. St. Paul is powerful.”
Speaking to Fuse.TV, one of the many websites that simulcast the 12.12.12 concert online, Dave Grohl said of the collaboration:
“It’s a song that we wrote and recorded, no-one has ever heard it before so nobody knows it exists. I think people were expecting us to do a Beatles song or a Nirvana song, but when I first called Paul to see if he would come jam with us none of us wanted to do a Beatles song or a Nirvana song, we wanted to do a new song so we wrote and recorded a new song in a day and it’s heavy as fuck.”
The Nirvana alumni weren’t the only stars of McCartney’s set, which included a duet with jazz singer (and Mrs. Elvis Costello) Diana Krall on ‘My Valentine’, as well as a huge chorus-led finish of ‘Empire State Of Mind’ starring Alicia Keys.
Other highlights of McCartney’s set included an explosive rendition of ‘Live and Let Die’, complete with dazzling pyrotechnics, a neat take on obscure Wings track ‘1985’, and three Beatles cuts in ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’, ‘Blackbird’, and opening his set ‘Helter Skelter.’
While it was up to the Beatle to bring the concert home, it was up to The Boss to get things started. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band opened the show with two cuts from this year’s Wrecking Ball, including ‘Land Of Hope And Dreams’ and the title track.
Springsteen also spoke to the amassed about seeing his beloved Jersey Shore affected by Superstorm Sandy: “It was painful to see it damaged… because it’s inclusive… I pray that that characteristic remains on the Jersey Shore, that’s what makes it special.” Then delivering a touchingly fitting rendition of ‘My City Of Ruins’ including a few snatches of Tom Waits’ ‘Jersey Girl’.
The Boss then closed out the set by trading lines on an impassioned ‘Born To Run’ with fellow Jersey musician Bon Jovi.“I think people were expecting us to do a Beatles song or a Nirvana song, but when I first called Paul to see if he would come jam with us none of us wanted to do [that], we wanted to do a new song… and it’s heavy as fuck.”
– Dave Grohl
In fact, famous duets seemed to be the top trend for the evening, with Roger Waters finishing a set dotted with Pink Floyd classics (including ‘Another Brick In The Wall Pt. 2’, ‘Money’, and ‘Us And Them’) with ‘Comfortably Numb’ featuring endearing Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder for the choruses.
Later, be-suited and blue-eyed Coldplay frontman Chris Martin broke up his short acoustic set with a surprise appearance from Michael Stipe of R.E.M. infamy to perform ‘Losing My Religion’, with Martin supplying guitar and backing vocals for the 52-year-old singer taking the lead. The Coldplay frontman joking at its conclusion that Stipe “came out of retirement for that song and now he’s gone right back in!”
Other performances included Bon Jovi, delivering a best-of set including Bruce Springsteen returning the cameo favour of ‘Who Says You Can’t Go Home’; Guitar god Eric Clapton delivering an acoustic ‘Nobody Knows When You’re Down And Out’ and an electric, literally and figuratively, version of ‘Crossroads.’
The Rolling Stones checked in with ‘You Got Me Rocking’ and ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, showing that they’ve been rehearsing to fine form for their 50th Anniversary shows; and fellow British rock veterans The Who offered a longer, burly set with classic cuts like ‘Pinball Wizard’, ‘Baba O’Riley’, and ‘Love Reign O’er Me’. Causing a stir at the family friendly event when guitarist Pete Townshend told the crowd of billions worldwide to: “Have a fucking beer!”
From the American set, Alicia Keys delivered a two song set of soul-charged vocals and masterful piano, while Chris Rock introduced “humble” hip hop superstar Kanye West.
Decked in a leather kilt, West delivered a massive medley of Clique / Mercy / Power / Jesus Walks / All Of The Lights / Diamonds From Sierra Leone / Diamonds and Touch The Sky. With his requisite showboating, he also brought stadium-sized performances (but shortened versions) of ‘Gold Digger’, ‘Good Life’, ‘Runaway’ – with an attempt at a romanticised breakdown complete with vocoder – and closing with ‘Stronger’.
Benefit concert regular and New York native Billy Joel followed, drawing heavily from his 70s-era with ‘Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)’, ‘Movin’ Out’ (Anthony’s Song)’, and ‘New York State Of Mind’. The songwriter/pianist still found time to squeeze in a quick rendition of ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ as well as 90s hit ‘River Of Dreams’ and early 80s stomper, ‘You May Be Right’.
The musical nadir came with Adam Sandler, performing a novelty rendition of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, with the title refrain reworked as ‘Sandy Screw Ya’. The Hollywood comedian was one of several celebrities helping promote the concert, including Billy Crystal, Susan Sarandon, a very bearded Jake Gyllenhaal, Jon Stewart, Jimmy Fallon, Steve Buscemi, and Blake Lively (to name a few).
You can view the full setlist for the 12.12.12 Benefit Concert below:
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Land of Hope and Dreams
My City of Ruins
Born To Run (w/ Jon Bon Jovi)
In The Flesh
The Happiest Days of Our Lives
Another Brick In The Wall Pt. 2
The Ballad Of Jean Charles de Menezes
Us and Them
Comfortably Numb (w/ Eddie Vedder)
It’s My Life
Wanted Dead or Alive
Who Says You Can’t Go Home (w/ Bruce Springsteen)
Living On A Prayer
Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out
Got To Get Better In A Little While
The Rolling Stones
You Get Me Rocking
Jumping Jack Flash
Brand New Me
Who Are You
See Me Feel Me/Listening To You
Love Reign O’er Me
Tea and Theatre
Clique > Mercy > Power > Jesus Walks > All Of The Lights > Diamonds From Sierra Leone > Diamonds > Touch The Sky
Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)
Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas > New York State Of Mind
River Of Dreams
You May Be Right
Only The Good Die Young
Viva La Vida
Losing My Religion (w/ Michael Stipe)
Us Against The World
Let Me Roll It
My Valentine (w/ Diana Krall)
Cut Me Some Slack (w/ Dave Grohl, Pat Smear and Krist Novoselic)
I’ve Got A Feeling
Live and Let Die
Empire State Of Mind (w/ Alicia Keys)