A Memorable Night in New York City

The 12.12.12 Sign in Madison Square Garden

In late October 2012, the lives of thousands of residents in the Northeast United States changed forever when Hurricane Sandy caused billions of dollars of unprecedented devastation. Relief agencies and the government will be dealing with the Sandy’s wreckage for years, and many of the areas affected will never be the same as before the storm hit.

In the weeks following the storm, numerous benefits have generated millions of relief dollars to aid Sandy victims. By far the highest profile fundraising event was the “12.12.12 Concert for Sandy Relief” held at Madison Square Garden in New York.I had the good fortune of actually being in the audience for the historic concert, which featured a once-in-a-lifetime lineup of big name performers, including Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, the Rolling Stones, Alicia Keys, Billy Joel, Roger Waters, Eric Clapton, The Who and Kanye West.

I flew to New York City bright and early on Dec. 12 with my friends Marty Student, regional sales manager at WNIR-FM, and Mike Beder, owner of Kent’s Water Street Tavern.

Student was the lucky one who got through online to buy the tickets during a pre-sale for Chase credit card holders. “I was totally stunned,” Student said. “Then it started to sink in we were really going to be there.”

Me in front of the Cafe Wha

We arrived early in Manhattan on Dec. 12, and we spent the day visiting music-related landmarks such as Café Wha in Greenwich Village (a legendary club that has presented everyone from Jimi Hendrix to a very young Springsteen), the Strawberry Fields area of Central Park and the Ed Sullivan Theater, site of the first U.S. Beatles performance and home of the “Late Show with David Letterman.”

We also visited a few tourist-y spots, such as Rockefeller Center, Times Square and Radio City Music Hall.

Our $250 tickets were in the upper level of the Garden, but our sight lines were great and the sound was excellent. At show time, scalpers were reportedly selling the “priceless” ducats for thousands of dollars, but outside the arena I saw very few sellers or buyers.

Springsteen and the E Street Band opened the show with an uplifting “Land of Hope and Dreams” from his recent “Wrecking Ball” CD. In our section we were surrounded by die-hard Springsteen fans, ranging in age from 9 years old to, well – older than me. So you can imagine how nuts things got when fellow Jersey boy Jon Bon Jovi joined the Boss for a raucous “Born to Run.”

Me with Marty Student and Mike Beder

The concert was essentially one highlight after another. Former Pink Floyd mastermind Roger Waters blended classic Floyd hits with compelling visuals, Bon Jovi rocked the house with their sing-along anthems, Billy Joel showed he still has it, Eric Clapton dug deep into his catalog and Alicia Keys looked positively radiant as she commanded the audience during her set.

The Rolling Stones were late additions to the bill, and anticipation was at fever pitch when they took the stage. But they hit a sour note by only playing two songs, which generated a collective “Really?” from the audience. Nevertheless, their killer version of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” still sticks with me.

I had never seen The Who before, and after their performance at the 2010 Super Bowl I was a bit apprehensive about possible “diminishing skills,” but the veteran British rockers did not disappoint. I still am somewhat scarred by seeing the shirtless Roger Daltry however!

It was no surprise that McCartney was selected to end the six-hour concert, but those expecting Beatles classics such as “Hey Jude” (including yours truly) were surprised by some unexpected tunes.

The marathon show ended with McCartney inviting police, firefighters and safety workers on stage as Alicia Keys returned to sing “Empire State of Mind.”  It was the perfect conclusion to a magical night.

The Concert for Sandy Relief continues to raise money for the cause. A CD of concert highlights has just been released, with all the proceeds going to aid storm victims.

More information is available at www.121212concert.org.