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Sunday, April 1, 2012

The set of all-time

While there have been many incredible performances by Rock n' roll bands who've played Madison Square Garden, I believe everyone can agree that there's NEVER been a better performance than "The Who" at The Concert for New York City.

About a month after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, (October 20, 2011 to be exact), organizers hyped a special NYC concert to feature Paul McCartney and The Who.  That was supposed to be it. As word made its way around the music industry, everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE, wanted to do their part and play for the people of New York.  The concert organizers decided to provide free tickets to first responders of NY/NJ and their families while charging other fans to raise money for the very beginning of the funding to help the families devastated by the unfathomable attacks.

The cops, fire-fighters, EMS guys and other turned out in the 1000s.

Not to be lost or ever forgotten - Adam Sandler did his greatest "Opera Man" ever. Richard Gere made one of the biggest mistakes of his career and Harrison Ford was totally trashed.  But, that's not why I write.

The reason, of course, is that many a rock star had enjoyed their best night as performers and maybe their best night ever as a band at the famed Garden, but The Who shined brightest on that great night which helped bring NYC back to its feet.  In the past, performers like Bono of U2, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen and others confessed on stage that their best performances had come at MSG.

So, while Woodstock has its place in history, as does The Last Waltz, The Concert for George, Knebworth '90, Pink Floyd doing The Wall in Berlin, the Filmore East and the ABB, Shea Stadium and The Beatles, Bruce at The Stone Pony or the NC on New Year's Eve '79/'80, countless Rolling Stones Shows, Live Aid in '85, No Nukes, Clapton at the Royal Albert Hall along with so many more shows that can be tagged as "one" of the best shows of all-time, The Who at The Concert for New York City - blew 'em all away.

It was the last time I saw John Entwhistle in person and a little-known fact - that his gig, previously scheduled for months at BB Kings on 42nd Street, had the event organizers put "The Who" on stage pretty early in the night.  It proved to take the night to heights many had never thought would come as NYC recovered from devastation, exhaustion and a deep funky depression.

In 2002, one NYC cop wrote:

I am a NYC Police Officer who found comfort and catharsis at this concert. I am grateful to those performers and to the Americans celebrating this music. Seeing the faces of my fellow Americans who gave themselves over to Rock and Roll for a mercurial moment made me proud yet overwhelmingly sad. I know that a lot of my fellow civil servants often have trouble reaching certain levels of emotion and, through good old fashioned Rock and Roll, we were able to let go. Listening again to those first few crashing chords from THE WHO still gives me chills. I know how every one of us was feeling at that moment.
This is not just great classic music -- this music defines us. We grew up on it. Billy Joel, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, James Taylor --this music fueled our youths and made us who we are. After September 11, 01 we found new meaning to these lyrics just as we had discovered more about ourselves. We should be proud to celebrate this music, in a country that lets us play it freely and with the volume all the way up. It reminds us how powerful music can be and how healing. I replay this concert over and over. I recall the images of every wife and girlfriend, wearing their hero's hat and clutching them with all of their might, grateful for that precious moment together. I have new-found love for life, for life's simple pleasures.
Perhaps the concert's newest artist summed it as well as the veteran acts that night. In a song I have loved since I first heard it last summer, though I never fully knew what it meant until that night: "Five For Fighting", SUPERMAN -- "I wish that I could cry. Fall upon my knees. Find a way to lie. About a home I'll never see. It may sound absurd but don't be naive. Even heroes have the right to bleed. I may be disturbed but don't you concede? Even heroes have the right to dream. It's not easy to be me...."

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