NBC wrangled some of entertainment’s best-known New Jersey and New York natives — as well as other superstars who lent their support — for an hour-long live concert Friday to benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Hosted by Today show co-anchor Matt Lauer, the commercial-free telethon featured performances from Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Christina Aguilera, Mary J. Blige, Sting and Aerosmith.
The benefit, dubbed Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together, opened with Aguilera, who hails from Staten Island — one of New York’s hardest-hit communities. She set a somber but hopeful tone, assuring viewers that “we will do whatever we can to help. We will not leave anyone behind.” Lauer later addressed the irony inherent in the event: many of the victims were still without power Friday night and thus could not tune in.
The star-studded telethon also featured several prominent actors and television personalities, many with ties to the devastated regions. NBC darlings Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon made appearances, mostly to encourage viewers to donate money to the Red Cross for relief efforts. Fallon did, however, team with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler to sing “Under the Boardwalk,” one of the evening’s weaker moments. Other notable guests included actors Kevin Bacon, Jon Stewart, Whoopi Goldberg and Danny DeVito.
Peppered with prerecorded footage of the devastated sites, the telethon focused largely on the now mangled Jersey Shore, with NBC Nightly News host and proud Jersey boy Brian Williams surveying the destructed landmarks of his childhood. Additional footage showed Jon Bon Jovi returning to his New Jersey hometown to console victims, and NBC’s Ann Curry talking with horrified, now homeless victims in New York.
One of the night’s outliers was Sting, who hails not from the Eastern seaboard but from Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Still, his heartfelt, acoustic performance of “Message in a Bottle” felt apt as he sang, “I’ll send an SOS to the world.”
Other highlights included New Yorker Mary J. Blige’s performance of “The Living Proof,” Long Island native Billy Joel’s “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)” and Jon Bon Jovi’s medley of “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” and “Livin’ on a Prayer.” But, of course, no tribute to New Jersey would be complete without the Boss. The hour closed with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performing “Land of Hopes and Dreams.” As he played the song’s final notes, the New Jersey icon said, “God bless New York. God bless the Jersey Shore.”