The Concert for New York City Sept 12, 2018 10:52:46 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Sept 12, 2018 10:52:46 GMT -5
The Concert for New York City (2001)
Held: October 20, 2001
Held: October 20, 2001
Dozens of artists and filmmakers gather barely a month after the September 11th terrorist attacks to commemorate a city and a nation with an unbelievable concert — The Concert for New York City.
As far as unapologetic, public displays of nationalism go, The Concert for New York City is one of the most credible and earnest — with real heart behind its theatrics. The five-hour benefit concert was held on October 20, 2001 at New York's iconic Madison Square Garden, after the city was left rocked but not destroyed by the September 11th terrorist attacks. Assembled on a tight schedule, in just a couple weeks, and featuring a lineup of celebrities and musicians only rivaled by Woodstock, this is one of the few concerts you could call a must-see, even seventeen years later.
The concert opens, rather fittingly, with David Bowie performing two heartfelt renditions of his famous songs, "America" and "Heroes," setting the somber but passionate tone of what's to come. Intermittently breaking up the musical acts are short films from the likes of famous New York directors or comedy bits by A-listers Billy Crystal and Adam Sandler (who gives one of his finest performances as the "Operaman," lamenting Rudy Giuliani's inevitable departure and Derek Jeter's ability to "break the applause meter"). Capping off the concert is a twenty minute encore from Paul McCartney, who performs his song "Freedom," written for the occasion, along with other favorites like "Yesterday" and what proves to be a tear-jerking rendition of "Let it Be."
The purpose of all this you might ask? On top of raising money to benefit families, first responders, EMS workers, cops, local police, and countless individuals affected by the attacks, performers make it abundantly clear that there is more to this concert than raising money. "We're showing the world we're not hiding in caves," Billy Crystal says during the first leg of the concert, but rather, that New York and its people are taking a break from around-the-clock news coverage, funerals, and stomach-turning images that have now been burned into society's collective retina. The first several rows of the concert are all taken up by FDNY and NYPD and their families, most of whom holding mass-cards and images of fallen brothers, sisters, and relatives in what also proves to be an emotional scene, especially when scored to the sounds of Melissa Etheridge and James Taylor.
The aforementioned short films come from filmmakers all of a different status. Martin Scorsese's "The Neighborhood" shows him taking his youngest daughter through the neighborhood in which he grew up, as the two sample food from locally famous mom and pop shops and interact with shopowners and fellow neighbors. Scorsese's brief short ends with him recounting his experiences with dyslexia, the kind that makes his mouth say "right" when his brain is thinking "left." He relates it back by saying every time he wants to say "America," the words "New York" find a way of slipping out, in an earnest declaration that his soft smile can't conceal. Other films are "Come Rain or Come Shine," a poignant tone-poem from Spike Lee, celebrating the sports and colorful culture of New York City, "Sounds from a Town I Love" from Woody Allen, which winds up being hilarious and introduced by John Cusack, who reads a self-deprecating preface from Allen, and "Why I Love New #%!&@ York" from New Jerseyian Kevin Smith, which serves as a touching reminder of the state's dueling residents — something that was even broken when New Jersey fire departments rushed over to assist in trying to contain the burning Trade Towers.
There are too many great quotes throughout this concert to cite. Salma Hayek, at one point, calls it "chaotic" and "glorious," which I feel is about the best way one can sum it up. A noteworthy bit comes towards the end — one that shows the recency and the mood of those still shaken by the attacks — from Richard Gere, whose call for turning angry energy into compassion and a refusal to incite violence is met with resounding "boos." In another late short film, historian Kenneth T. Jackson remarks how no matter who we are, regardless of race, ethnicity, and background, we can go to New York City and feel welcomed because of the diversity on display in every borough. A late walk-off appearance by Jim Carrey, who introduces McCartney as the final set, mentions how he has a strong feeling that the attacks and this subsequent concert are the links that have helped propel an end to the "selfish, cynical age" — that's what you call some wishful thinking.
The Concert for New York City fearlessly mixes talent across generations and genres. Regardless of whether it's Jon Bon Jovi, Jay Z, Destiny's Child, Five for Fighting, or several New York athletes taking the stage at any given time, the crowd of first responders and bleeding heart New Yorkers is into it all the more. Even at five hours long, I could've sat for another hour. Even as someone weary and skeptical of the intentions of broad-reaching displays of patriotism, what transpired that faithful October day in New York City doesn't near vitriolic or hateful intentions. It's a well-intentioned and successful call to listen to the music, come together, and take a break from something so consuming and tragic — all while honoring the nation's bravest individuals. The list of events that check all those boxes while simultaneously harboring an evident sense of urgency are unbelievably rare.
Directed by: Louis J. Horvitz.