"12-12-12" Sandy benefit: Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi rock out for cause

Updated: 1:05 a.m. ET

Music filled New York's Madison Square Garden Wednesday night for the "12-12-12" gig all in the name of helping superstorm Sandy victims.

Bruce Springsteen kicked off the star-studded concert, a fitting start for the benefit, which will aid hard-hit storm areas such as the rocker's native New Jersey. The Boss launched into "Land of Hope and Dreams" as audience members rose to their feet, before singing "Wrecking Ball," a track he wrote about Jersey and Giants Stadium at The Meadowlands. He changed a lyric to "My home is on the Jersey shore."

And it's no surprise Springsteen performed "My City of Ruins," a song that has taken on various meanings through the years, especially having debuted around the 9/11 attacks. But Wednesday night, it meant something different to many people watching.

"This was a song I wrote for my adopted hometown -- Asbury Park, which was struggling through hard times," he said, later adding, "Tonight this is a prayer for all of our struggling people in New York and New Jersey."

After slipping in a few lines of "Jersey Girl," Springsteen brought out his friend Jon Bon Jovi for a New Jersey-rocker musical mash-up of "Born to Run."

"The size of the destruction was shocking," said Springsteen in a taped interview with concert organizers prior to the show. "It took days and days to even understand the level of destruction that occurred along the Jersey shore."

After Springsteen and Bon Jovi left the stage, Billy Crystal took the reins, injecting some humor into the night, mixed with touching remarks about the devastation that Sandy brought along with it.

"You can feel the electricity in the building, which means that Long Island power isn't involved," said Crystal, a Long Beach, Long Island, native, before rattling off a series of other jokes that took jabs at New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Chris Christie.

Roger Waters took the stage next, playing Pink Floyd classics, including "Us and Them," "Another Brick in the Wall" and "Money."

Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder joined Waters for a collaboration of "Comfortably Numb," a highlight for Waters.

Waters described the Vedder collaboration as "magical" when speaking with reporters in the press room backstage.

"Eddie was absolutely amazing. It was like a dream come true...It was magical. I think I stopped singing to kiss him [Vedder] at one point, which is weird," Waters said laughing.

The evening managed to have some other lighter moments. Adam Sandler performed a very different version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," swapping lyrics out for the occasion, singing: "Halleluja/Sandy screw ya/We'll get through ya."

Actress Kristen Stewart introduced Bon Jovi before the band played "It's My Life" and "Wanted Dead or Alive." Springsteen came out to return the favor from earlier, performing "Who Says You Can't Go Home." While backstage, E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt talked about how Bon Jovi and Springsteen have been friends for years, having both got their start in Jersey. Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora told reporters that the collaboration happened "organically."

"There have been hurricanes, there have been storms," said Bon Jovi before the show. "But I've never seen anything remotely close to what Hurricane Sandy was."

After comments from Jon Stewart, the evening continued with Eric Clapton doing what he does best. He put on a rocking, blues-heavy performance that included "Crossroads."

Music-lover Jimmy Fallon was in his element on Wednesday and reveled in the opportunity to introduce The Rolling Stones: "Here they are, I always wanted to say this...Ladies and gentleman, The Rolling Stones."

The members of The Stones have been playing some shows in support of their new album, and on Wednesday, they did not disappoint, playing "You Got Me Rockin'" and "Jumping Jack Flash."

Wearing a red dress, Alicia Keys sat alone at the piano for a version "Brand New Me."

"I was born and raised in New York City. I still live right now down the street in New York City. This is our city. This is everybody's city," Keys said before breaking into an emotional rendition of "No One."

The Who stormed onstage for an energetic and long set that began with "Who Are You" and included fan-favorite "Pinball Wizard." During "Baba O'Riley," the lyric "It's only teenage wasteland" was changed to "Sandy wasteland."

The "modest" Kanye West, as introduced by Chris Rock, brought the evening's first dose of hip-hop with "Touch the Sky," "Gold Digger," "Good Life," "Stronger" and other hits.

Jake Gyllenhaal talked about destruction in Long Beach, Long Island before bringing Long Island's own Billy Joel onstage. Joel, who hasn't put out a new studio pop album since 1993, managed to alter the lyrics to "Miami 2017" to pay tribute to victims of superstorm Sandy. The Piano Man also sang "Movin' Out," "New York State of Mind" and "River of Dreams."

Following an introduction by "Gossip Girl" actress Blake Lively, Chris Martin of Coldplay hit the MSG stage with just an acoustic guitar to sing "When I Ruled the World." He then invited Michael Stipe of R.E.M. up to sing a stripped-down and raw version of "Losing My Religion." Martin joked that he brought Stipe out of retirement and he's going to "go right back in."

With a first song like "Helter Skelter," music fans knew they were in for a good closing set from Paul McCartney. And the reports were true: McCartney joined Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear of Nirvana to perform. The former Beatle continued his set until the wee hours of the morning. He played "Blackbird," "Live and Let Die" and more classics. "Let's hear it for the heroes of Hurricane Sandy," McCartney said as he finished, calling up Sandy first responders.

Keys returned one last time to wrap the five-hour show with "Empire State of Mind."

Also in attendance? Steve Buscemi, Martha Stewart, Scarlett Johansson, James Gandolfini, Jason Sudeikis, Jeremey Piven, Olivia Wilde, Susan Sarandon, Jessica Chastain, Jamie Foxx, Chelsea Clinton, Sean Combs, Katie Holmes, Karlie Kloss, Seth Meyers, Bobby Moynihan, Chris Rock, Jon Stewart and Quentin Tarantino, among others.

Sarandon was one of the stars answering calls at the evening's telethon.

"It's so moving every time you see a grassroots movement," Sarandon said backstage in the press room. "It's just great that people found a way to come out."

One of the show's producers, John Sykes, said the fundraiser features "the greatest lineup of legends ever assembled on a stage."

The sold-out "12-12-12" concert aired on 37 TV stations in the United States and more than 200 others worldwide. Thirty websites streamed the show live. All together -- more than two billion people around the world had access to the show, which benefits the Robin Hood Foundation.

Robin Hood organizers estimated that tens of thousands of people donated to the cause on Wednesday night. The money raised from the concert will be distributed to those in need within days and weeks. Organizers say the concert was made possible by performers donating their time and by corporate sponsors.

The October storm left millions of people in several states without power or heat. It's to blame for at least 125 deaths, as well as hundreds of thousands of damaged homes.

Go here to donate.

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