Thursday, December 12, 2013

One Year Anniversary: The 12.12.12 Concert at MSG

So, hard as it is to believe, one year has indeed passed since the historical 12/12/12 Sandy Relief Concert. In honor of that, I decided to repost this blog entry of my concert review from this show. I had wanted to get a chance to see the film, but could not find any local showings of it, really. It was showing elsewhere, such as the city, but my girlfriend really did not want to go that far.

Still, I did watch the video of it, and relived some of those incredible memories from that night. It's not the movie, but I do intend to review that when I get the chance to, because I do intend to see it someday, sooner or later. Just not in time for this anniversary of the concert, as I had hoped. 

This was going to be such a huge show, and I really, really wanted to go. It featured the most amazing lineup of any concert that I had ever seen before, or ever attended. There were some amazing concert lineups that I had seen, perhaps the top being either the "Vote For Change" finale in Washington, D.C. in 2004, or the Earth First concert in 2007. But this had even bigger, more rare acts, many of whom I had not seen in a very long time, and all in one show! I had not seen the Rolling Stones in just about a decade and a half, Billy Joel since 1998, and had not seen the Who since the 1996 Quadrophenia tour. Eric Clapton I had seen only once, way back in 1994 (could it really have been the greater part of twenty years ago?) as a gift to my father. Chris Martin I had seen once before with Coldplay, back in 2002. All of these acts, and much more, were going to be simply amazing! So, I did what I had to do to obtain tickets.

I really did not want to have to drive into the city, because I hate driving there. The tolls alone are costly, and the parking is ridiculous ($41 for what wound up being a concert that lasted just shy of six hours). Last time I drove into the city, it was also for a concert (Johnny Hallyday back in October), and the parking garage originally wanted $50 for two hours. Ridiculous. It's just so much easier to take public transportation, which for me, usually means the PATH train.

However, I was going to work right after the concert, and so taking the train in would not be a problem, but waiting for a train to come in, then transferring, then getting to the station and having to walk to my car, then race on over to my job all seemed like too much time. I started at midnight, and from what I gathered, the concert was supposed to end at midnight - at least the live television coverage of the vent seemed to indicate that this was when it would end. Who knew that it would go on well past the point when the concert could no longer rightfully be called 12-12-12? At least on the east coast, because it slipped into the 13th no later than during Chris Martin's set.

The traffic was pretty bad. I arrived in heavy traffic trying to cross over at the Holland Tunnel, and heard on the radio while there that there was a half hour wait. I had been wondering if the Lincoln Tunnel, which was a bit further up from where I was coming from, might not be better. But then there was a report that the Lincoln tunnel delays were even worse, with an hour wait going into the city. The roads are pretty crappy, with metal gratings and potholes and heavy traffic and aggressive drivers and too many pedestrians and guys on bikes hugging the roadway. For someone not used to the city, it can be a royal pain. It took quite a while to get there, but since I had left very early (and had initially planned to leave quite a bit earlier than I actually wound up leaving, my arrival was on time, with plenty of time to pick up some souvenirs (a terrible experience), and then get to my seat with a decent amount of time left before the show.

The souvenir stand was ridiculously slow and stressful. A lot of people cutting others off, including some blonde who cut right in front of me. Some people complained (myself included, because it was so obnoxious), and she shrugged and said, in effect, that she had been waiting a long time, and claimed the same thing had happened to her.


In any case, I got a t-shirt for myself (expensive at $40 for a navy blue t-shirt, and the white ones were $25). I got a white one for my girlfriend, because that was the only one that was in her size. I had wanted to get programs, but there were none for sale for the show, which was surprising. So, I got a couple of posters instead, and then headed up to my seat.

The enthusiasm among the crowd was understandably strong, as the announcement continually went on for people to take their seats, as the show would begin promptly at 7:30pm. So excited were they that there was a countdown from 10 seconds to the beginning of the show, which was reminiscent of the tradition of New Year's Eve countdowns.

Then, the show began with a video about the damage that Hurricane Sandy wrought, and how people were trying to cope with it. It served as a sobering reminder to the crowd that, as excellent and exciting as the concert promised to be, that it was for a cause: namely, relief for those who had suffered greatly from the recent Hurricane Sandy.

Don't worry. I won't go on and on about the storm, as I admittedly did in the days and even weeks following, but this does serve as a good reminder that a lot of people in New York and New Jersey particularly are still suffering, and trying to recover.

The show opened up with Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, which was a bit of a surprise. I will admit that, with such legendary names like Bruce and Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones and the Who and Billy Joel (all of whom rank among the best selling artists now for decades), I figured some of the other artists would open, and that the concert would work it's way up as it went along, so to speak.

Bruce had introduced Bon Jovi during his set, and Bon Jovi would return the favor during his set, as the two New Jersey natives helped one another out. Both of them had amazing, and very enjoyable, sets, and the crowd responded big time!

I will admit that it was during the Boss's set that I already began to wonder about the time management of the organizers. How were they going to fit all of this in by midnight, if this set list ran almost half an hour? Not that I was complaining, mind you. But it seemed odd.

The answer, of course, was that some artists would get considerably more time, and some would get the shaft. The Rolling Stones shocked the arena when they walked offstage after performing only two songs. Eddie Vedder only backed up Roger Waters on Pink Floyd material, and Dave Grohl was introduced during Paul McCartney's set, and played only one song with him and the other surviving former members of Nirvana. They performed one song, and it was neither the Beatles nor Nirvana. it was not even a Foo Fighters song. Chris Martin's set was pretty short, as was Eric Clapton's (like the Stones, his set list was also only two songs). More on this as I go along.

As I mentioned earlier, the Rolling Stones only performed two songs, which left everyone there in some shock. We were all a bit surprised, and I am guessing that most people were wondering about the same questions that had crossed my mind at that time. Had their set list been cut short because the concert was running later than expected? Was their set list supposed to be short to begin with, since they were one of the last bands added (even though they were one of the very biggest names on the list - and that's saying something!).

Listening to the radio on my way to work much later on that night, I had heard a radio dj on 1043 mentioning that there had been a rumor that the Stones had perhaps had some kind of arrangement to be seen exclusively on pay per view for this concert, and that perhaps the extremely short set list was a kind of angry protest, although those rumors were dispelled.

The fact that they seemed lively enough would indeed suggest that they were not pissed off, although I can't say for sure. But Mick Jagger had as much energy as ever, and given his age, that is extremely impressive! I hope that I have half as much, hell, a quarter as much energy as he has once I reach that age! He went from one end of the stage to the other, looking very much like the Mick Jagger of decades ago, and even joked that this was "the largest collection of old English musicians ever assembled in Madison Square Garden".  Despite the surprisingly (and frankly, disappointingly) short set, it was a privilege to see the Stones again - my first time seeing them since the "Bridges to Babylon" tour of 1998! Given that they are now touring to celebrate their 50th anniversary, it was a real pleasure to actually see them, since attending this concert will likely knock me out of any real chance of seeing them again in the near future.

If a couple of legendary British rock acts sets were surprisingly short, then perhaps it was also a bit of a surprise that the Who's set seemed, by way of comparison, quite long. Not that they are not legends, or don't deserve a longer set list. But  it was a much longer set, and even after the song that most people, myself included, expected to be their closer, that being "Love Rain On Me", they did not yielded the stage, and in fact, played one more song.

Legendary comedian Chris Rock was pretty funny, and introduced "the always modest Kanye West", before the hip hop artist took the stage, donning a black dress. He stalked around the stage, and it sure felt like the decibel level was raised enormously. Quite a few people in my section left the area, taking advantage of the opportunity to get drinks or go to the bathroom, or whatever else they were doing. I will admit to following suit, at some point. It's just not my cup of tea. I know some fans of Kanye West, and perhaps indeed, I am too old-fashioned or whatever to truly be able to appreciate it. But I think Rock's comments were actually pointed and critical of West, and I would tend to agree with them. In such a concert as this, with such legends, and for such an admirable cause of helping people in need out, it just seemed to me that he could have taken the millions of dollars that he surely has made by now to buy himself more perspective. He seemed angry, just like the other time that I had seen him at the Live Earth concert back in 2007, and just like the time at the music awards show, when he went on stage and tried to undermine Taylor Swift (which I don't care about, only it showed a lack of class and dignity on his part, which he himself later admitted to). While everyone else, including some legends like Paul McCartney, Billy Joel and Bon Jovi, as well as Chris Martin, seemed actually quite humble and privileged to take part in such a concert, Kanye West, by comparison, seemed like a spoiled child, because things were not quite going exactly like he wanted to expected them to. His set did not quite fit

Perhaps the biggest surprise was during Paul McCartney's set, when he suddenly talked about a Nirvana reunion before introducing David Grohl, and then the rest of the surviving former members of Nirvana - Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear. All together, with Sir Paul, they performed an entirely new song, which is evidently called "Call Me Some Slack". Prior to the show, nobody had really ever heard it before. For me, having never gotten the chance to see Nirvana or Kurt Cobain, this was as close as I would get to seeing the legendary grunge act, and it was amazing!

Can't say that I really have any complaints about it, although I was wondering about the timing aspect, since it seemed that certain artists (Eric Clapton, Eddie Vedder, Dave Grohl, Chris Martin, and especially the Rolling Stones) had very little opportunity to do their thing, while some other acts - particularly the Who and Kanye West (not to take anything away from either act), for more than most people assumed that they would. Also, Kanye West's attitude was questionable, and he seemed the only one that was not really happy to be there, if you will. Everyone seemed to be willing and wanting to help out in Sandy relief efforts, but Kanye West's focus seemed elsewhere. Just my impressions, but that was the distinct impression that he left me, personally.

All in all, this was an awesome concert! Unlike Kanye West, I felt privileged to have been there, to have been in attendance (and unlike him, I like almost everyone else there, had to pay a lot of money to get here, and not be a performer who will surely make great profits from the promotion of being associated with it. Roger Waters had an incredible set, performing favorite from the Pink Floyd days, and recruiting Eddie Vedder's help along the way. Billy Joel restored order after Kanye West, and produced a strong crowd reaction. Alicia Keys was amazing, getting the crowd to cooperate more than any other artists, when asking them to light up their cell phones, or raise their hands. Paul McCartney brought her out at the end of the show with her huge hit, "The Streets of New York".

It was the most unbelievable lineup for any concert that I have attended, and I've been to a few such concerts, and know of some others, as well. While I think the moniker of "Greatest Concert of All Time" is a bit exaggerated (it's been applied to a few other concerts recently, including the two "Rock Hall of Fame" concerts in New York a few years ago that I would dearly loved to have attended), I am not convinced that this qualified. Again, Woodstock stands alone, I believe, and probably always will - at least in our lifetime. As great as this concert was, and as amazing as the lineup might have been, it did not have the creative genius and social significance of Woodstock, and thus will not have anywhere near the impact, even if this was for a good cause, and was a very enjoyable concert - perhaps the biggest, and defining, concert of more recent times!


Just arrived at MSG, prior to the show. This came out a bit blurry (my first time really using this device). Please keep in mind and remember that I misplaced  the real camera for this show, and so had to use the Kindle that my gf got me for Christmas. The quality of the pictures is not exceptional, and there was nothing (to my knowledge) like focusing or zooming in. Plus, I could not really determine the quality, or lack thereof, of the pics, until I got home and saw the larger versions of the same on a larger screen. Here, if you look closely, you can see the evening's show advertised by the front entrance of the "world's most famous arena."

Another picture outside of the arena before the show. It shows the "Countdown to !2.12.12!" (sorry that my Giants hat is evidently in the way).

Finally inside. Watching the crowd file in, slowly but surely. There is an excited buzz in the place, knowing just how huge this concert is supposed to be. This is close to the actual beginning of the show, but you would be amazed how quickly this place got packed, as the repeated announcements that the show would start precisely at 7:30pm seemed to have an effect. Nobody wanted to miss this!

Just a few minutes after the last picture. Again, the announcements had an impact, as the place started really filling up in a hurry. Very glad I was already in my seat by then!

Lights out! Countdown done, the wait is over. The show begins. This is the moment just before Bruce & the E Street Band begin their set. A video is playing, although those of us on the side, with obstructed view, cannot see it. Hopefully, I can see it when I watch the video that I recorded, but haven't had the opportunity yet as of my writing this. 

Bruce & Co. doing their thing, with the houselights up! The music has finally begun, and the crowd responds with much enthusiasm!

Another, similar view to the previous pic. The stage was circular, and rotated around. So, while one act was on, the stage crew was setting up the other half of the stage for the next act, to hurry things along. Not sure if that comes out in these pictures or not. The back of the stage seating is blocked off, and you wouldn't have been able to see anything anyway. However, you could see some of the performers walking around before and after their sets, which was pretty cool! 

In this pic, Bruce is shown on screen, and what is happening is a bit clearer.

This picture came out a bit blurry. But Alicia Keys is on stage, performing, and asked the crowd to turn on their cell phones, to keep them lit up. Almost everybody seemed to do this, and it looked really amazing! This picture hardly does it justice, but it allows you to get an idea of it,. nonetheless.

This picture is not really clear, but this is right at the end of the concert. The house lights have come on, and the place is quickly emptying. But Paul McCartney is still on stage, along with the firefighters, the heroes, that he has invited on stage. Wish this had come out a bit better. Sorry!

Another view, as the stage, and Madison Square Garden as a whole, continues to empty after the show.

Last view of MSG & the 12.12.12 concert, before it becomes a memory, or history. The place has really emptied out, as has the stage (for the most part). I'm about to leave as well, but wanted one last pic, probably for sentimental reasons.

A picture of the front of the official t-shirts that were being sold. Not sure if I mentioned this, but there were surprisingly few options for the souvenirs. No programs, and they had these two styles of t-shirts only. They also had a sweatshirt available, as well as a poster (pictured here further down). The dark blue I got for myself, and the white one is for my gf. The dark blue sold for $40, while the whites sold for $25. I would have gotten her a blue, but they ran out of her size, so I got her the white one, even though the blue looks better, doesn't it?

Here's a picture of the back of the t-shirts.

Here's the poster (not fully flat, since I had to roll it up in order to fit in my backpack):

Here is a picture of the front of the bootleg t-shirt I got after the show, right outside of MSG.

Here, finally, is the back of the bootleg t-shirt that I got outside of Madison Square Garden afterwards, for $10. 

Finally, here are some links to other reviews that I enjoyed, and thought you might, too:

"Review: Rock legends take over Sandy concert" by Randall Roberts

"On 12-12-12, Songs in Reply to a Storm" by Jon Pareles

"121212: The Concert for Sandy Relief Concert Review " by Eric Pedersen

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