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September 22, 2005

From the Big Apple to the Big Easy

Written by
cindy mcleod

On Tuesday the world changed for the better. It happened, as it often does, through the power of music undertaking to overcome hardship. It took fellow victims of disaster to fully bring a voice to the plight suffered by New Orleaneans, with two concurrent benefit concerts, dubbed From the Big Apple to the Big Easy, and held in New York City’s Radio City Concert Hall and Madison Square Gardens.

With 9/11 still present in the world’s memory, the sympathetic heart of New York was perhaps the most poignant of locales to host such a relief effort, and along with a world-class roster of artists, presented the strongest voice drawing attention to the suffering of New Orleans hurricane victims. The concerts were both live, but were simulcast on Pay Television and Satellite Radio, with all proceeds going to the cause.

The talent was a cross section of the finest musicians ever produced by the US, Canada and the UK, with New Orleans’ most revered the focus of the evening’s entertainment. Headliners such as Dave Matthews, Simon and Garfunkel, Lenny Kravitz, Jimmy Buffett, Bette Midler, Tom Waits, John Fogerty, Elton John, Trey, Dave Bartholomew, Cindy Lauper, Paul Schaffer, Anastasio, the John Mayer Trio, Galactica, Elvis Costello and Diana Krall, joined New Orleans superstars Allan Toussaint, Irma Thomas, The Funky Meters, Neville Brothers, The Dixie Cups, and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band for the two concerts.

Both shows were highlighted by surprise appearances by Bill Clinton, who received standing ovations at both locations. Mr. Clinton spoke of the need to send money to the beleaguered city, and of his love for New Orleans. Politicizing was kept to a minimum, with attention being drawn to the programme’s agenda.

The most profound moment may have come at the end of the Madison Square Gardens concert, when the Funky Meters and the Neville Brothers joined in typical New Orleans style to end their show with When the Saints Go Marching In, and were accompanied by a ‘second line’ of children.

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