NEW YORK – Even with all the Big Easy talent at Madison Square Garden singing to rebuild their homes and lives in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina, it was two Queens boys, grown old, who best captured the spirit of the night.
Last night, emotions ran high and a spirit of giving flooded the Garden when New York treasures Paul Simon (search) and Art Garfunkel (search) reprised their incredibly apropos classic "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
That was just one of many fine musical moments in a show rivaled in talent and the spirit of goodwill only by the Concert for New York City (search), which played at the Garden four years ago, while the rubble still burned at the World Trade Center.
Other moments that will be etched in the hearts and minds of everyone lucky enough to have seen last night's nearly five-hour musical marathon at the Garden, or on pay-per-view TV, had to include the Elton John (search) set, which that mirrored a New Orleans jazz funeral.
He started with a dirge as pictures of the devastated city played on video screens, and worked his way to the "second line," featuring a joyous rendition of "Levon" that was illustrated by photos and videos of Mardi Gras.
John, who was one of the show's organizers, took his role seriously -- telling the hometown crowd and those watching nationwide on TV: "I want to assure the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast we will be here to help you."
Bette Midler (search), who sang wonderfully, attempted to politicize her slot by accusing the government of being inept, and made a tasteless joke about President Bush.
At a show like this, aimed at helping and healing, her words seemed bitter, and throughout her version of "I Think It's Gonna Rain Today," she was simultaneously cheered and booed.
Thankfully, she sang only one song and didn't succeed in polarizing the fans.
Jimmy Buffett, who got a major chunk of stage time that included a duet with Dave Matthews on Neil Young's "Heart of Gold," was succinct in his address to the fans.
With grace, the leader of the Parrot Heads said, "Thank you all for coming. Thanks for caring."
Among the other notable performances was the trio of rocker Lenny Kravitz, accordion master Buckwheat Zydeco and musicologist Ry Cooder performing the very apt blues classic "When The Levee Breaks."
This was one of those rare concerts where intent and talent dovetailed.
All proceeds from the show, the pay-per-view revenues, and a $1 million donation from Madison Square Garden, will donated to the Katrina relief efforts.