To say there was massive interest in the concert thrown to benefit The One Fund Boston, which raises funds for the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombings, would be an understatement. When the show went on sale just under a month ago, tickets were gone in less than five minutes. Demand for the show was so high, that concert promoters set up a live video stream that went out to broadcast outlets, hoping that those countless thousands who didn’t make it into the four walls of the TD Garden in Boston on Thursday night would watch the charity performance on their computers.
If social media is any testament, hundreds of thousands tried, but the show’s web stream collapsed under the demand of a worldwide audience trying to take part in the Boston Strong concert. The live video remained unwatchable for a good portion of the online audience for upwards of two hours.
“Nearly half a million people logged on to view the beginning of the show which lead to bandwidth related issues,” a statement from concert promoter Live Nation read in part. “We are happy to report these issues have been resolved.” It’s worth noting, this was issued to media outlets nearly three hours after the concert was set to begin.
While the rest of the world dealt with blips and buffering, those 15,000+ who were lucky enough to grab a seat in the TD Garden on Thursday watched the city’s namesake band Boston kick off the night to a packed and cheering arena. Boston started the music with a nice rendition of The Star Spangled Banner, followed by “Rock and Roll Band,” “Smokin'” and what else but “More Than a Feeling.” They closed out with a pleasantly surprising choice for such a short set time, “Foreplay/Long Time.”
Boston classic rockers J. Geils Band were one of the night’s top performances. Boasting a full band with a complete brass section and backup singers, Peter Wolf and company roared through a set of classic favorites like “Love Stinks” and harmonica-infused instrumental favorite “Whammer Jammer.” Frontman Peter Wolf darted back and forth across the stage like he’d found the fountain of youth. When the familiar organ riff of “Freeze Frame” kicked in, the crowd whipped into a frenzy.
The crowd went crazy for much of the evening, but perhaps the biggest cheers came for country superstar Jason Aldean. Based on crowd reaction alone, most fans went to see him. Though not originally from Boston, Aldean proclaimed, “I’m a huge Red Sox fan if that makes any difference to y’all.” And it did.
Donnie Wahlberg then came out to address the Boston crowd, before the Dropkick Murphys and New Kids on the Block took the stage back-to-back. “I think we’ve shown the world in the last few months what many in Boston have already known, that we are not just one of the greatest cities on Earth, we are one of the greatest families on the planet,” Wahlberg proclaimed.
The Dropkick Murphys played songs off their recently-released EP, proceeds from which go to charities supporting victims of the bombings. But a Dropkicks show wouldn’t be complete without some “Shipping Up to Boston.” The band played mostly acoustically, but midway through “Shipping,” they were joined by bass and drums, played by NKOTB’s backing band. A few moments later, Dropkicks singer Ken Casey (singing but not playing bass) yelled, “Do you want to see something you’ve never seen?” at which point the New Kids joined the punk rock icons on stage, for what will surely be a one-time only performance. After that, the Murphys filed off stage and NKOTB began their set.
NKOTB were impressively spot-on with their performance, singing virtually flawlessly while dancing in sync. They even had a couple of surprises up their sleeve: Bell Biv Devoe came out to perform their ’90s smash hit “Poison,” followed by fellow ’90s hitmakers Boyz II Men, who performed a special rendition of their massive hit single “One Sweet Day” along with NKOTB. (Mariah Carey, sadly, was nowhere to be found.) Their set, however, had one of the most emotionally-charged moments of the night, when singer Joey McIntyre talked about running in the Boston Marathon this year — and crossing the finish line minutes before the bombing.
Another emotional moment came when New England sports hero Doug Flutie took the stage along with ESPN legend Chris Berman, Patriots hall-of-famer Tedy Bruschi and current Patriots receiver Julian Edelman. Flutie launched into an impassioned speech about the toughness of Boston, which culminated in his David Ortiz-esque declaration “You don’t f***ing mess with us!”
James Taylor and Carole King took things down a notch after Flutie’s rousing speech with their poignant ballads, including Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James” and “Shower the People.” The two also covered Marvin Gaye’s legendary hit “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You).”
Jimmy Buffett continued the acoustic singalong with renditions of “Changes in Latitudes,” and of course, “Margaritaville,” before comic Dane Cook came on for a quick routine.
Cook eventually introduced Aerosmith, who performed a brief but career-spanning set that included classic favorites “Dream On” (“They think they can keep us down…They can ‘Dream On’,” Steven Tyler said before the song), “Walk This Way” and “Train Kept A-Rollin’,” as well as Get a Grip standout “Livin’ on the Edge.”
“Wait, wait. We can’t end it on that note!” Tyler screamed after the end of “Walk This Way.” The show ultimately concluded with every single performer of the night joining each other on stage to sing for the crowd. They started with Beatles classic “Come Together,” which did just what its title suggests, then closed the festivities with a rousing rendition of Boston anthem “Dirty Water,” which may have resulted in the loudest proclamation of “Boston, you’re my home!” ever.
“How about a song about Boston? Boston, you look beautiful tonight!” Tyler said before “Dirty Water.” Talk about a fitting ending to a great night for a resilient city that any resident should be proud to call home.
— Tim Staskiewicz and Matt Doloff, WZLX Boston
(all photos via Paul Marotta/Getty)