|The Concert for New York City|
|Dates||October 20, 2001|
|Location(s)||Madison Square Garden|
|Founded by||Paul McCartney|
The Concert for New York City was a benefit concert, featuring many famous musicians, that took place on October 20, 2001 at Madison Square Garden in New York City in response to the September 11 attacks. Aside from performing for charity, the concert was an attempt to honor the first responders from the New York City Fire Department and New York City Police Department, their families, and those lost in the attacks and those who had worked in the ongoing rescue and recovery efforts in the weeks since that time.
The concert was organized by Paul McCartney and included many legendary British contemporaries, including The Who, David Bowie, Elton John, Eric Clapton and Rolling Stones bandmates Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. American artists included Bon Jovi, Jay-Z, Destiny's Child, the Backstreet Boys, James Taylor, Billy Joel, Melissa Etheridge, Five for Fighting, Goo Goo Dolls, John Mellencamp with Kid Rock, and a humorous performance by Adam Sandler as "Operaman." Paul Shaffer acted as Musical Director for the show and various celebrities and political figures including Howard Stern and Rudy Giuliani appeared between the acts.
Many athletes also appeared between the acts including Joe Torre, whose Yankees were on their way to competing in their fourth consecutive World Series. The concert also included several short films made by New York City's most notable filmmakers such as Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, and Kevin Smith.
Over 60 stars that participated in the concert signed unique memorabilia backstage at Madison Square Garden that were later auctioned off to support the Robin Hood Foundation. The autographed items included three large posters of the concert and three customized 24" drumheads. Other items included a complete drumset and guitar.
Much of the crowd itself was extremely emotional, with victims' family members and colleagues holding up portraits of the dead. Two speakers were booed: actress Susan Sarandon (for plugging New York mayoralty candidate Mark Green), and actor Richard Gere (for speaking about non-violent tolerance). Gere did acknowledge the crowd's jeering at his pacifist stance, stating, "That's apparently unpopular right now, but that's all right." Repeat broadcasts and the DVD version of the concert were digitally edited to remove the booing and replace it with dubbed cheering for Hillary Clinton.
Adam Sandler's appearance as Operaman was a comic highlight of the evening. He sang a humorous song about the greatness of New York City, the end of Rudy Giuliani's term as mayor, the New York Yankees who were in the middle of playing in the 2001 ALCS, the musical acts that preceded him on stage (in which he mentioned that Destiny's Child gave him a "bone-ah"), and Osama Bin Laden's cowardice, including the line "Osama says he's tough, Osama says he's brave/Then tell me why Osama is shitting in a cave!"
Musically, the audience responded most fervently to The Who, roaring as they came on stage with a roiling "Who Are You", drowning out the band on the famous "It's only teenage wasteland" refrain of "Baba O'Riley," and reaching a peak of excitement with "Won't Get Fooled Again." The backdrop for the band consisted of an American flag alongside a British flag, showing solidarity. Vocalist Roger Daltrey's final words to the crowd of first responders and their families were: "We could never follow what you did." This performance would turn out to be bassist John Entwistle's final performance in America with The Who; he died of a heart attack only eight months later. Multi-instrumentalist Jon Carin, who had worked with the band during the group's 1996-1997 tours, played keyboards in place of longtime keyboardist John "Rabbit" Bundrick.
Other highlights included David Bowie's opening tandem of Paul Simon's "America" and his own "Heroes", dedicated to his local ladder company, and New York's own Billy Joel's "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)" where Joel says after singing it, "I wrote that song 25 years ago, I thought it was gonna be a science fiction song. I never thought it would really happen. But unlike the end of that song...we ain't going anywhere!" Elton John's sentimental "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" was also well received, among other performances. After The Who's performance, FDNY firefighter Mike Moran spoke to the audience, explaining that his brother was killed on 9/11, and that the victims would not be forgotten. He ended by saying "In the spirit of the Irish people, Osama Bin Laden, you can kiss my royal, Irish ass!" which was met with wild cheering and applause. Moran removed his cap and concluded with, "This is my face, bitch!" which was, again, met with cheers from the crowd.
When Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, the two surviving members of The Who, were given the Kennedy Center Honors in December 2008 for their contributions to American culture, a tribute performance of "Baba O'Riley" was delivered by Rob Thomas. In the end refrain of "teenage wasteland", a full choir of FDNY firemen was revealed behind a curtain - bellowing the refrain - in gratitude for The Who's performance at The Concert for New York City, seven years prior.
In order of appearance:
The following short films were shown during the concert, here sorted by director:
"Sounds from a Town I Love" (sometimes incorrectly referred to as "Sounds from the Town I Love") is a 2001 comedy short film of approximately three minutes, written and directed by Woody Allen. The film was first shown during The Concert for New York City. The film consists purely of cell-phone conversation snippets of twenty-two random people walking through the streets of New York City. Ranging from complainers to neurotic worriers conversing about bizarre or amusing situations, they and their comments are unrelated to one another. The film ends with a message from Woody Allen: "I love this town."
John Cusack introduced the film with a message from Woody Allen: "I apologize in advance for my short movie. The cause was so worthwhile that I could not say no when approached to contribute something to this wonderful show. I did the best I could. If you hate it, I will try to make it up to you somehow in the future." In addition to longtime Allen collaborators Marshall Brickman and Tony Roberts, among the people seen in the film are Austin Pendleton, Griffin Dunne, Michael Emerson, Bebe Neuwirth, and Celia Weston.
In 2004 Rolling Stone magazine selected this concert, along with the earlier America: A Tribute to Heroes telethon, as one of the 50 moments that changed rock and roll. It was also voted the #4 greatest moment in the history of Madison Square Garden. On December 7, 2008, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey of The Who received Kennedy Center Honors from the President of the United States, and after several musicians performed their music, the finale was a surprise chorus of New York City police officers and rescue personnel who had been touched by their performance.
The concert was broadcast live on VH1 October 20, 2001, and over $35 million was raised. An additional $275,000 was also raised with a connecting auction. The five-hour broadcast was executive produced by Greg Sills & Fred Graver. The producer was Paul Flattery and the director was Louis J Horvitz (who has directed many of the Oscar broadcasts). It was written by Stephen Pouliot and Paul Flattery. The concert was recorded by David Hewitt and Mark Repp on Remote Recording's Silver Truck. The entire uncut version of the 5 hour concert was rebroadcast on VH1 Classic January 1, 2008. It was nominated for an EMMY for best music/comedy special (Greg Sills, Fred Graver and Paul Flattery) and for best production design (by SNL vet Keith Raywood).
An encore of the entire concert ran on September 11, 2011 to commemorate the 10th anniversary, commercial free and unedited, from 4 to 10pm.
A double CD of the event was released by Sony on November 27, 2001, containing 32 tracks.
The concert was released by Sony both on DVD and VHS on January 29, 2002, both only in NTSC format for the US/Canadian market. The two-tape VHS set has a total running time of 296 minutes, while the double DVD is 245 minutes, i.e. 51 minutes shorter.