NEW YORK — Call the "12-12-12" benefit show "The Concert for New York City" 2.0. Eleven years after the benefit concert in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was held at Madison Square Garden, many of the same top musicians came together to raise money for those suffering from Superstorm Sandy, including Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Billy Joel, The Who, Eric Clapton and Bon Jovi.
Those singers set a serious tone Wednesday night, wearing mostly black and gray onstage as they encouraged people to call and donate money to those affected by the devastating storm that took place in late October, killing about 140 people and damaging millions of homes and properties in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and other areas.
Alicia Keys, who grew up in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen, closed the night with her New York anthem "Empire State of Mind," as doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers and others joined the piano-playing singer onstage. They ended the night chanting "U.S.A."
Keys was one of two women who performed at "The Concert for Sandy Relief." Diana Krall backed McCartney, who sang his solo songs, Beatles songs and played the role of Kurt Cobain with Nirvana members Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear during the nearly six-hour show.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band kicked off the night, performing songs like "My City of Ruins," ''Born to Run" with Bon Jovi and some of Tom Waits' "Jersey Girl."
"I pray that that characteristic remains along the Jersey shore because that's what makes it special," the New Jersey-born rocker said.
E Street band guitarist Steven Van Zandt said backstage that musicians and entertainers always show up when tragedy hits.
"It's more personal because literally the Jersey Shore is where we grew up ... but we'd be here anyway," he said. "You don't see oil companies here, you don't see insurance companies here, the Wall Street guys, with all due respect, they're not waiting in line to help anybody, so we're here."
The sold-out show was televised live, streamed online, played on the radio and shown in theaters all over the world. Producers said up to 2 billion people were able to experience it live.
But the night wasn't all serious: Comedy helped break up the weightiness of Sandy's devastation, including jokes from Jon Stewart, Chris Rock, Stephen Colbert and Adam Sandler, who performed a hilarious parody of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Even Coldplay's Chris Martin brought on the jokes.
"I know you really wanted One Direction," Martin said of the popular British boy band. "But it's way past their bedtime."
Martin was joined onstage by Michael Stipe, as they sang R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion." And there was another collaboration with Roger Waters and Eddie Vedder on "Comfortably Numb."
The participants, many natives of the area and others who know it well, struck a defiant tone in asking for help to rebuild sections of the New York metropolitan area devastated by the storm. About half of the performers were British.
"This has got to be the largest collection of old English musicians ever assembled in Madison Square Garden," said Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones, who performed two songs. "If it rains in London, you've got to come and help us."