Paul McCartney, Billy Joel and Elton John led music stars honoring the victims and rescue workers of the World Trade Center attack in a concert that celebrated the energy and pride of New York.
Joel tapped into the city’s emotion singing “New York State of Mind,” stirring a crowd at Madison Square Garden that included rows of uniformed police, firefighters and their families dancing, singing and screaming at the more than five-hour gala.
Movie stars, including Harrison Ford, Jim Carrey and Meg Ryan, also joined politicians such as former President Clinton and New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to launch what was the first of a series of concerts broadcast live on television and radio across the country this weekend.
At the Saturday night concert to raise funds for victims of the Sept. 11 aerial strikes that killed nearly 5,400 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, the crowd roared in one of its biggest ovations when actor Michael J. Fox presented firefighter Mike Moran.
One of 6,000 firefighters and their families to receive free tickets, Moran, whose brother died in the attack, was hailed with a minute-long chant of “USA! USA!”
The “Concert for the City of New York” started off with David Bowie, who set the mood with a stirring rendition of his hit, “Heroes.”
Bon Jovi sang “Wanted Dead or Alive,” perhaps a sly reference to the phrase President Bush used about the search for Osama bin Laden, suspected of being behind the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Who sang “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and Joel moved the crowd with his 1976 release “Miami 2017,” which includes the lyrics, “I’ve seen the lights go out on Broadway, I saw the mighty skyline fall,” and “they held a concert out in Brooklyn, to watch the island bridges blow.”
Joel, who also teamed up for a duet of John’s “Your Song,” said he had written “Miami 2017” 25 years ago and never expected to see what he thought was a science fiction song come to pass.
The night of songs and solidarity – unseen since the 1985 Live Aid concert for famine relief in Africa – also included Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Destiny’s Child, the Backstreet Boys, Melissa Etheridge, and Janet Jackson, who performed via satellite from Pittsburgh.
An A-list jam session ended the event with McCartney leading the stars and the crowd for the old Beatles hit “Let it Be.”
The event was expected to equal or exceed the $125 million to $150 million reportedly raised during the Sept. 21 telethon “America: A Tribute to Heroes.”
Sunday, a capacity crowd of 46,000 people at Washington’s RFK stadium will see Michael Jackson, Rod Stewart, ‘N Sync, Mariah Carey, Ricky Martin, Aerosmith and the Backstreet Boys in an eight-hour show.
Also Sunday, a concert in Nashville, the heart of America’s country music industry, will feature Tim McGraw, Vince Gill, Lee Ann Womack, Clint Black and Trisha Yearwood.
Proceeds from the concerts will go to special funds set up by the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army and to the Pentagon Relief Fund.
Some critics have dismissed the gigs as publicity drives for the performers at a time of surging patriotism in the wake of the attacks.
Organizers say the stars just want to help and that the concerts would end up raising millions through ticket sales and pledges made by telephone during live television and radio broadcasts.