Give till it hurts

Rock stars unite for 9-11 attacks, but does anyone care?

By Phil Wise

With all the madness surrounding the September 11 attacks, people feel as though they should do something—anything to help. The incredible outpouring has dwarfed even that of the We Are the World spectacle of the early 80s, both in contributions and pomposity. But is it fair to criticize people for trying to help?

Two scathing articles about celebrity benefits to raise money for attack victims question the importance and even motivation of these types of benefits despite their raising of millions of dollars. It makes one wonder if it’s worth the effort to help when all you’ll get is grief.

Most of the criticism of Paul McCartney’s “Concert for NYC” and Michael Jackson’s “What More Can I Give” shows centers on a few things: shameless self-promotion by artists, lack luster performances and a never-ending barrage of preaching.

Jim DeRogatis described the McCartney show as a corporate bloated marathon punctuated with “annoying telethon glad-handing, unbearable bathos and disturbing outbursts of unrestrained blood-lust and blatant jingoism” (jingoism: our hot new buzzword replacing “uber-anything” as THE thing to say at parties—ed.)

DeRogatis continued to bash the Concert for NYC as a just plain boring with “imminently forgettable pop stars doing their awards show shtick.” Even performances by seasoned veterans who’ve built careers on “delivering” were “mostly just incredibly lame.”

And then there’s Jacko’s party, which got such a whipping from Salon’s Eric Lipton I won’t even comment further. Read for yourself.

Now the Beastie Boys join the fray. A press release from Beastie, Adam Yauch, dated October 16, announced the New Yorkers Against Violence (hence forth referred to as NYAV) benefit. The show is scheduled to take place at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan on October 28. But with the flak both Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson have taken in recent days, are the Beastie Boys setting themselves up for a sucker punch?

I think it’s safe to say the NYAV will be relatively free of corporate pandering and unrestrained bloodlust, but the telethon glad-handing by way of tolerance preaching could reach new heights. While I agree that intolerance only plays into the hands of those who committed the attacks, most of us and almost certainly EVERYONE who might attend this show, gets it. It’d be like preaching to the choir while the church is burning.

The NYAV line up includes the Beasties playing a “short hip-hop set with Mixmaster Mike,” the Strokes, B-52s, Cibo Matto , Saul Williams, Rivals Schools and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. Save the Strokes’ almost guaranteed self-promotion and the B52s one-millionth mind numbing attack of “Love Shack,” NYAV isn’t likely to fall into the trap of mediocrity that soaked the Concert for NYC.

Ultimately, all of the performers in each of these benefits deserve some credit. They did pull together to play benefits, surely disrupting touring and recording schedules. In a time when self-congratulating awards shows seem to be on every week, can they even be blamed for less than inspiring appearances and callous promotion? Yes, they can, but they’re trying and here’s to hoping that those associated with the New Yorkers Against Violence benefit don’t come home with a black eye.

6 thoughts on “Give till it hurts”

  1. Breaking News:10/18/2001New Yorkers Against Violence second night added by popular demand! Beastie Boys, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Mos Def, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, The Roots, DJ Afrika Bambaata and special guests TBA confirmed for second show October 29th at Hammerstein Ballroom. Tickets on sale 5:00pm Thursday Oct 18th at Ticketmaster,, and Hammerstein Box office. Full press release here. 10/17/2001

  2. I like this quote from Salon’s Michael Jackson show review: “The crowd is dumbfounded and silent. Aware she has lost us, Mariah asks the crowd to ‘make some noise.’ We do. It is not, however, a good noise. Now, it may be mean to boo a woman suffering from depression. At a benefit show. But then again, it’s a benefit show, and we are there to support terror victims, not Mariah’s new CD. The ‘Glitter’ logos lighting the Jumbotron seem cheap and crass, like advertising at a wake.”

  3. Can you imagine? Sounds like her set was just an advertisement for that dopey movie. What are the odds she cracks up again?

  4. There’s an ad making the rounds now dealing with those insufferable miniature flags on everyone’s car: it’s a Ronco-style ‘Now how much would you pay’ ad for tiny car flag holders and such. It’s appalling.Between this and the upscale benefits/concerts/promos, and the frantic urgings of our government to start spending, now we know why those people died in the terrorist attacks – to bring you these fantastic savings!

  5. It is unfortunate that the hype surrounding these benefit shows seems to surpass the good that some(note that I use the word SOME) artists are attempting to promote.

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