VARIOUS ARTISTS – 12 12 12: The Concert for Sandy Relief

Album: 12 12 12: The Concert for Sandy Relief

Artist: Various Artists

Label: Columbia

Release Date: January 23, 2013



 It’s without question that many liberal minded folks were skeptical of the Robin Hood Foundation once it was revealed that the philanthropic organization was sired and operated by a bunch of Wall Street dudes.

 Whether or not “every single penny” of the money raised from the $57 million in ticket sales and donations in lieu of their nationally simulcast all-star concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden on December 12, 2012p to benefit the devastating loss of life and property across the Tri-State area in the wake of Superstorm Sandy remains to be seen (the paltry piecemealing of these funds to such hard-hit regions as Staten Island, Breezy Point and the Rockaways in Queens, and the more working class sections of South Jersey revealed on the Robin Hood site leaves much to be desired at press time).

But regardless of where you stand in the conviction of these philanthropic stockbrokers to hold their promise to restore the Shore, it cannot be denied they sure know how to throw one hell of a concert. And the 12 12 12 show certainly earns its place alongside The Concert for Bangladesh, John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s One to One benefit for the special needs victims of Willowbrook and the post-9/11 Concert for New York City as one of the most spectacular events to have been held at Madison Square Garden.

This double-disc set from Columbia Records aims to capture all the highlights from the concert as deemed by its producers, the holy corporate trinity of Cablevision tycoon Jim Dolan, John Sykes (not to be confused with the guitar wizard behind Blue Murder, the 1987 lineup of Whitesnake and the final proper incarnation of Thin Lizzy–the only thing this businessman shreds is incriminating documents) and film mogul Harvey Weinstein. Everyone shy of Kanye West’s sloppy-ass performance is accounted for in highlight form: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, who opened the show with a rousing set represented here by his latest anthems of inspiration, “Land of Hope and Dreams” and “Wrecking Ball”. Roger Waters might have found his most perfect foil since David Gilmour in Eddie Vedder, whose duet of the Wall crescendo “Comfortably Numb” is arguably the best live rendition of the song since The Delicate Sound of Thunder. Leonard Cohen must’ve surely been grateful he lifted that ban of his most famous song, “Hallelujah”, upon hearing how much sorely needed levity Adam Sandler’s version of the ballad brought to the crowd. The Rolling Stones’ set might have only been a scant two songs, but one can forgive the old bastards when it consists of two of their best songs: “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “You Got Me Rocking” from 1994’s otherwise milquetoast Voodoo Lounge, both of which are included here.

Disc Two, meanwhile, is punctuated by three songs apiece from the night’s most impressive acts: The Who and Billy Joel. Though some folks might have found Roger Daltrey’s exposure of his bypass zipper a bit TMI, their spirited runs through a trifecta of AOR gems in “Who Are You”, “Baba O’Riley” and a mesmerizing take on  “Love Reign O’er Me” are just three reasons why their recent Quadrophenia tour has been considered one of the best in the English group’s half-century career.  Joel’s rousing half-hour performance, meanwhile, is highlighted by lively renditions of “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)”, “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” and “You May Be Right”, emulating the perfect personification of the words he spoke before he and his band tore into “Only the Good Die Young” (sadly not featured on this set but is out there in bootleg form on the Internet) about how the Tri-State Area is “too mean to lay down”.  Coldplay frontman Chris Martin’s stripped-to-the-bone three-song set is on hand here as well, anchored by former R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe’s triumphant post-breakup return to the stage for an effective run through his old group’s 1991 existential love anthem “Losing My Religion”.

Shame on the producers, however, for whittling down Paul McCartney’s to just one entry. Yes, its understandable why they chose to hold off adding the debut of his downright world shattering collaboration with the surviving members of Nirvana, “Cut Me Some Slack” (the studio rendition of which that appears on the soundtrack to Dave Grohl’s documentary about the legendary Van Nuys, CA studio Sound City is well worth the wait, believe you me). And yes, the version of the Beatles heavy classic “Helter Skelter” he and his longtime band threw out to the MSG crowd that night was incredible. But it would’ve been great to have seen the inclusion of at least another tune from his masterful eight-song headlining set on this second disc: “Let Me Roll It”. “Blackbird”. “I’ve Got A Feeling”. That sublime reading of “My Valentine”, the sole original from his 2012 orchestral covers album Kisses On The Bottom with jazz chanteuse Diana Krall at the piano. Any of these should have been featured on this album, especially if it was in exchange for Alicia Keys and her obnoxious wail, regardless of Macca backing her up on “Empire State of Mind (Part Two)” or not.

It is promised that 100 percent of the net proceeds from your purchase of 12 12 12: The Concert for Sandy Relief  will go directly to the Robin Hood Relief Fund and presumably thereto the aid of the victims still reeling from the aftershocks of one of the worst storms our country has ever seen. But the fact that the fine print on this set indicates “a minimum of $6.50 for sales in the United States”–where the majority of the purchases will likely be procured–should surely keep the skeptics wondering about the nobility behind the intentions of the alleged non-profit behind this otherwise amazing concert experience. If you are looking for a physical souvenir of 12 12 12 with the acceptance that not “every single penny” of your purchase will be going into the hands of one of the thousands of families in desperate need of our help, this collection is undoubtedly worth the cost marked on the price tag of your local Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart, FYE or what have you. But if that doesn’t fly with your moral compass, perhaps you might want to seek out a web rip of the live simulcast online and just send your 12 bucks directly to the Red Cross.

DOWNLOAD: “The Land of Hope and Dreams” (Springsteen), “Comfortably Numb” (Waters/Vedder), “You Got Me Rocking” (Stones), “Love Reign O’er Me” (Who), “Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)” (Billy Joel), “Losing My Religion” (Chris Martin/Michael Stipe)   -RON HART