Not surprising, but nauseating nevertheless:
New Orleans descended on New York for two concurrent concerts, dubbed From the Big Apple to the Big Easy, Tuesday night to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Big names such as Dave Matthews, Simon and Garfunkel, and Elton John filled the bills of the shows held at Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden, but New Orleans acts from the Meters to the Neville Brothers were the focus of the evening’s entertainment.
Piano player and studio whiz Allen Toussaint led the house band for the first segment of the MSG concert, alongside Late Show With David Letterman bandleader Paul Shaffer. Together they hosted a rotating panel of guests that included Lenny Kravitz, Elvis Costello, Paul Simon, Jimmy Buffett and New Orleans soul queen Irma Thomas, who performed her classic “Time Is on My Side,” famously covered by the Rolling Stones in 1964. Aaron Neville joined Toussaint for a chilling take on Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” sung against a backdrop of horrific images from flood ravaged New Orleans.
Political chatter was kept to a minimum at both events, with performers mostly sticking to the program: championing aid for New Orleans. But a few artists angrily denounced government officials for their slow response to Katrina’s devastation. “I Wish New Orleans was dry and Washington was underwater,” said Tom Waits. Bette Midler had even stronger words: “I got a letter from the Republican Party the other day. I wrote back, ‘Go fuck yourself.'” She then added, “George Bush is a fan of mine — he came to see me in the Seventies. His coke dealer brought him.”
There was nothing but love for one former Oval Office resident, however: Bill Clinton’s surprise appearances at both concerts were greeted with long standing ovations. He spoke of the urgent need to get money to the hurricane victims, and reminisced that “the first time I saw a building over two stories tall was in New Orleans, when I was three years old.” He then introduced John Fogerty, who Clinton said “captured the soul of New Orleans,” despite being born in Northern California.
Isn’t that special?