Monday, September 12, 2005

Shelter from the Storm

After writing up the British War Child benefit CD yesterday, I headed to the kitchen to do a bit of cleaning and decided to listen to the Shelter from the Storm all-star benefit telethon/concert for Hurricane Katrina survivors. I didn't have a whole lot of faith in this, especially after the telethon/concert done for last winter's tsunami victims and the rather flaccid Live 8 spectacle from earlier this summer. But it was obvious that this had much more meaning and force for the artists involved, and because of that the performances were top-notch and really quite amazing.

I'm curious about reaction from the right side of the political fence, as this telethon featured a whole host of commie pinkos, from the Dixie Chicks (public enemy number one circa the beginning of the Iraq war) to Neil Young to this year's anti-Bush poster child, Kanye West. Nothing was overtly political, but it definitely played within the subtext of both artist and song choices, the most visceral being Neil Young's When God Made Me with lyrics like:

Was he thinking about my country,
or the colour of my skin?
Was he thinking about my religion,
and the way I worshipped him?
Did he create just me in his image,
or every living thing?

When God made me.
When God made me.

Was he planning only for believers,
or for those who just had faith?
Did he envision all wars
that were fought in his name?
Did he say there was only one way
to be close to him?

When God made me.
When God made me.

And while there weren't any Kanye-esque outbursts from the various and sundy star presenters, Chris Rock did get a little bit of political realism into the mix after first stating that "George Bush hates midgets":

We've all heard the question, "why didn't those people just leave when they had the chance?" But now we all realize not everyone can jump in their SUVs and go check into a nice hotel. Those people depend on public transportation. And those people can't afford a nice hotel because some of them work there.

In contrast to the War Child benefit album, the Shelter from the Storm benefit was decidedly older--with Kanye West surrounded by 50-somthings Young, Newman, Dr. John Rod Stewart and Paul Simon as well as such adult-oriented MOR (middle of the road) artists as Sheryl Crow and U2. No Green Day, nothing vaguely cutting edge (the closest to that being Foo Fighters). But still, it was kinda nice to see the elder statespeople of pop music give their best with no preening (and, heck, no notation on the screen of who was singing--talk about leaving your egos at the door).

Some thoughts on the performances:

  • A great opener with Randy Newman singing his song Louisiana 1927, with the refrain, "They're trying to wash us away...."
  • I've heard U2 go through the motions so much with their anthemic "One," but they gave it new life when they paired up with Mary J. Blige and it gave me goosebumps by the end.
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival's bayou stompin' bluesy rock was there, thanks to (the very shaggy) Foo Fighters' rendition of "Born on the Bayou" and Garth Brooks singing "Who'll Stop the Rain." It's good to see Brooks getting out of the house--looks like he's been eating a few Cheetos lately.
  • Paul Simon played "Take Me to the Mardi Gras" from my fave album of his, There Goes Rhymin' Simon. He's not hitting the high notes so well these days, but it was a somber, eulogaic performance--and was coupled with a big Nawlins brass band to lead the song's procession out.
  • I'm not that familiar with Kanye West or much of rap today (I'm still stuck in the old-school rap years of the late 80s and early 90s--I'll admit it, I'm just an old fuddy duddy, yo), but West's performance of his "Jesus Walks," complete with orchestration and gospelly Greek chorus that could have been part of an avant garde ensemble, was forceful yet graceful and completely grabbed you.
You can watch the whole telecast via (and, obviously, using the RealOne player). To get a view of the lineup and find out when your fave artists are playing, take a look at the live-blogged coverage from MSNBC.

[Also, many thanks to European Tribune blogger whataboutbob for elevating my previous post about the War Child benefit CD--which I cross-posted to the EuroTrib--to the front page of that blog on Saturday. If you haven't checked out this blog, it's got a lot of great diarists/bloggers, including Jerome a Paris (who focuses on economics and energy) and Soj (who produces a PDB-like posting just about every week day, providing the big news items from around Europe that don't get any play really here in the States).]


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