Rockers raise spirits, funds across nation

Bowie, Clapton, Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync among performers

Rockers raised the roof — along with the spirits of a nation and millions of dollars in relief funds — in benefit concerts over the weekend in New York, Washington D.C. and Nashville, Tenn.

Less than 24 hours after a marathon Gotham gig, 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.

In Gotham, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Destiny’s Child, Mick Jagger, Elton John, the Who, Paul McCartney and others gathered Saturday night at Madison Square Garden for the “Concert for New York City.”

Ticket sales for the event (ducats ranged from $200 to $5,000) raised $14 million, with millions more pledged from viewers watching live on cabler VH1, promoters said.

Before an inhouse aud that included 6,000 firefighters and their families — and also a good number of actors (Halle Berry, Denis Leary, Gwyneth Paltrow, Meg Ryan and David Spade among them) and politicos — Billy Joel tapped into the city’s emotion with “New York State of Mind.” Other titles may have been selected to tug at different feelings: The Who performed “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and Bon Jovi did “Wanted Dead or Alive.”

One of the night’s biggest ovations was reserved for firefighter Mike Moran, introduced by thesp Michael J. Fox. Moran, who lost his brother in the Sept. 11 attacks, was hailed with a minutelong chant of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” Others had a tougher time appealing to the crowd, including Richard Gere, who drew boos and hoots when he urged a compassionate response to the attacks.

VH1, Cablevision, Miramax Films, AOL and their partners (including Clear Channel Entertainment) underwrote the costs of the 5½ hour event. As the gala wound to a close at nearly 12:30 a.m., the audience — prone to standing ovations throughout the evening — had thinned somewhat and few seem to have the energy for yet another ovation or sing-along.

Miramax’s after-party at Ian Schrader’s swank Hudson Hotel on West 58th Street attracted the paparazzi in droves, and plenty of stars sang and frolicked past 4 a.m. Among those mingling in the tough-to-crack VIP room were Hilary Swank, Sandra Bullock, Jim Carrey, Sheryl Crow, Harrison Ford and McCartney.

Miramax topper Harvey Weinstein, who returned to his concert coordinator roots in helping to pull the event together, beamed with contentment. Asked how he managed to quickly amass such talent and, with Miramax exec Andrew Stengel and Double A Entertainment, coordinate production of the short films by Spike Lee, Ed Burns, Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Kevin Smith and others, a fatigued Weinstein confessed, “I have no idea.”

Columbia Records plans to release a double-disc CD from the concert, with most of the proceeds going to charity.

The Washington lineup included Aerosmith, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, Ricky Martin and Rod Stewart. “United We Stand: What More Can I Give?” marked the first major relief concert to be held in the nation’s capital. For what it’s worth, the event made pop history as well. It was the first time the Backstreet Boys — who postponed a show in San Diego to appear — and ‘N Sync shared the same bill. Tickets ranged from $25 to $75; event raised $2 million, promoters said.

ABC will broadcast a two-hour version of “United We Stand” Nov. 1 at 8 p.m.

Also on Sunday, Nashville’s Gaylord Entertainment Center served up the “Country Freedom Concert,” with Brooks & Dunn, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Martina McBride, George Strait, Trisha Yearwood, Hank Williams Jr. and others.

Shortly after the start of the event, Clint Black was to perform his work-in-progress “America,” a song he started writing shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He has described it as “uplifting, while still being respectful of the tragedy.”

The three-hour event was shown live on cable’s CMT and VH1 Country. Tickets at the 13,000-seat venue ranged from $25 to $1,000.

Proceeds from the concerts were earmarked for special funds set up by the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the Pentagon Relief Fund.

Several of the acts performing during the weekend also took part in “America: A Tribute to Heroes” on Sept. 21. Telethon, simulcast on dozens of television and radio networks, raised an estimated $150 million.

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