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Pop Stars Lead Tribute Concert in Washington

Less than 24 hours after a marathon gig in New York, music stars including Michael Jackson, the Backstreet Boys, and Mariah Carey kicked off a concert in Washington to help lift the spirits of a nation’s capital rattled by the Sept. 11 attacks and anthrax.

The Backstreet Boys, the chart-topping boy band, opened the eight-hour fund-raiser before a 46,000 capacity crowd at RFK stadium with their rendition of the national anthem followed by a string of their hit songs.

One of the numbers was dedicated to a member of their tour crew who was aboard one of the hijacked airplanes that slammed into the towers of the World Trade Center, killing more than 4,000 people. The total for the twin towers, the Pentagon and aboard four hijacked planes was about 5,400.

“It’s a privilege to be here today to salute all of the heroes,” Backstreet Boy singer A.J. McLean told the crowd at the “United We Stand” charity concert.

Organizers said the concert raised $2 million in ticket sales alone.

Patriotism reigned as fans and performers sported American lapel pins, belt buckles and T-shirts, in a bid to perk up the capital traumatized by the aerial attacks and a spate of anthrax cases, the potential germ warfare agent.

Huey Lewis belted out “The Heart of Rock & Roll” and dedicated the hit “The Power of Love” to New York. “We send our sympathies and our prayers to the victims and their families,” Lewis told fans.

The scheduled acts for Sunday’s concert ranged from Rod Stewart, Aerosmith, James Brown and Al Green to newcomers ‘N Sync, Destiny’s Child and Ricky Martin.

The Washington concert swiftly followed an all-star concert on Saturday in New York for firefighters, police officers and rescue workers that featured Paul McCartney, The Who, Mick Jagger, Elton John, Billy Joel and David Bowie and saw appearances by former President Bill Clinton, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and a throng of movie stars.

The weekend pop concerts and a country music charity benefit on Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee are expected to equal or exceed the up to $150 million reportedly raised during the Sept. 21 celebrity telethon “America: A Tribute to Heroes,” organized by Hollywood movie stars.

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