The Concert for New York City
took place at New York's Madison Square Gardens six weeks after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. As presented here, with about five hours of musical performances and celebrity cameos, it was a frequently awkward affair: the traditional fatuous jollity of American show business ceremonies is not, perhaps, the ideal medium for articulating the feelings engendered by the kind of tragedy America had just suffered.
It is often evident--and actually quite endearingly so--that the film and television stars who appear here feel somewhat foolish accepting applause while standing alongside the members of New York's Police and Fire departments who take the stage to offer brief tributes to fallen comrades (it would be nice, but naïve, to believe that September 11 caused our celebrity-obsessed culture to redraft its parameters of heroism).
The performances captured here are mostly pretty good, though David Bowie's opening, with an eerie and affecting take on Paul Simon's "America", followed by a rumbustious "Heroes", sets a standard not subsequently matched. The short films by New York directors are also worth seeing, especially Kevin Smith's daringly funny New Jersey perspective (the concert's only other overt attempts at humour misfire woefully--especially the toe-curling George W Bush impersonator).
However, the concert is principally of interest as a document of a moment in history, rather than as a musical artefact. All of what America felt, for better and for worse, in the immediate wake of September 11, is on view here: sorrow, defiance, pride and, as Richard Gere famously discovered when he suggested that perhaps there were more constructive responses than carpet-bombing Third World basket-cases, anger.
On the DVD: The Concert for New York Cityhas a viewing option which screens out everything except the musical performances. Sound is available in Dolby 5.1 Surround and PCM Stereo. --Andrew Mueller
A concert held to raise money and indeed morale in the light of the bombing of the World Trade Center, September 11th, 2001.Madison Square Garden plays host to a galaxy of stars from stage, screen and recording studio including: Elton John, Billy Crystal, Woody Allen, James Taylor, Bon Jovi, Kevin Spacey, Julia Roberts, Adam Sandler, Paul McCartney, and Billy Joel, among many others.