Saturday, December 5, 2009

Net Aid - October 9, 1999

Every Saturday The Rock And Roll Guru gives a comprehensive review of a live concert.

Net Aid was the brainchild of musician Wyclef Jean who wanted to organize an incredible concert that was simulcast across the globe in order to help world hunger via the internet. It was a highly ambitious project that unfortunately fell short of expectations. With concerts being held at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, Wembley Stadium in London, and Palais des Nations in Geneva, expectations for an exciting interactive experience were high.

Unfortunately for the US, the ticket sales were poor with the stadium being half full for most of the concert. When I learned which bands were performing (Sheryl Crow, Sting, The Black Crowes, and of course Wyclef) I was interested. My wife at the time (Nancy, my first wife) also wanted to go, so we went online to get our tickets. I figured we would be sitting way upstairs, but much to my surprise we scored seats on the floor. Whoa! The floor! I had never sat that low at Giants Stadium before. That alone was going to make this concert a worthwhile one.

Walking into a concert at Giants Stadium when you are on the floor is a breathtaking experience. First, you have to go in through a separate gate, away from the rest of the plebian people who only scored “regular” seats. Then you are escorted through a special entrance and you walk out onto the field. At first look, it’s mesmerizing. I was thinking about all of the sporting events played on the field, all the concerts held on that grass; it was a surreal moment.

We were 25 rows away from the stage, which was a wild experience. I can’t remember what order the performers came to the stage, but I can give you the highlights of each one that I remember. Before the big acts even came out, Wyclef, Bono and a cast of other took the stage to sing the Wyclef/Bono compilation, New Day. This would kick the day off. (Notice in the video that there is no one sitting in the upper deck seats.)

Counting Crows
This was before I became a bigger fan of the Counting Crows, so I really only knew one or two of their songs. They played Mr. Jones, their big hit, and I don’t recall what else. Each performer was limited to four songs, so their selections were tight. I suppose each band was on a time limit. Overall, the Counting Crows were decent, but nothing spectacular.

Sheryl Crow
I was excited to see Sheryl Crow, as was Nancy. We were both huge fans and Crow was supporting a new album at that time, The Globe Sessions. She performed at least one song from that album, My Favorite Mistake, I believe. Sheryl Crow was excellent for her short time on stage. She has a great voice and while she doesn’t rock out like a lot of hard rock frontmen, she draws you in with her limited mobility and entertaining voice. When her last song was played, I was disappointed. I wanted to hear more.

The Black Crowes
This was without the doubt the worst performance of the night. However, it was not the band’s fault. Halfway through their opening song, the sound cut out on lead singer Chris Robinson’s microphone. It was out for the rest of that song and all of the next one. We sat through two instrumentals that were not supposed to be instrumentals. We could see Chris singing into his mic, and he obviously had no idea what happened. Personally I would have fired those sound techs after that show. 8 minutes without a working microphone is just unacceptable.

I was very enthusiastic about seeing Sting. I had never seen The Police before and I grew up a big fan of both The Police and Sting’s solo music. I was hoping to hear his awesome a capella version of Roxanne, or some other Police classic. I was also wishing that he would perform If You Love Somebody Set Them Free. Unfortunately for us, Sting was in the strange period of his career. He had strayed from rock and roll and was into very experimental music (that included a lute) and more opera and classical type of performances. He performed two songs this way, which just about put me to sleep. I was so disappointed with his decision to do this. I wanted classic and I got classical. Not quite the same. He did perform his latest song, Brand New Day, so that was a fun way to close out his set.

Wyclef Jean
Other than his hits with The Fugees, I knew very little about Wyclef, but I was open to hear what he could do as a solo artist. He was the last act of the night, the big headliner, as Net Aid was his project. Wyclef did not disappoint. He came out with a guitar and a backing band and played his hip/hop-rock hybrid music that sounded exceptional. The one track I distinctly remembering him playing is Gone Til November which is an incredible song that sounded even better in concert.

Wyclef played approximately six songs before calling it a night. By the time his set was winding down, most of Giants Stadium had filed out, which was sad, but also showed that perhaps he should not have been the headline act. When he played his last song of the evening, there couldn’t have been more than 8,000 people left in the stadium. And while it wasn’t a sell out by any means, there were a lot more people there when the day began.

I know that there were other performers (perhaps shown on a video screen from the other countries), but I can’t recall exactly who, or what they played. The concert was over six hours long, and it’s sad to learn that barely any money was made to help their charity. In the end, what was supposed to be a huge concert in the vein of Live Aid, turned out to be a bust. I was glad to have attended. I got to see a lot of bands that I would not have seen otherwise, and experienced a concert from the floor of Giants Stadium. That in itself was worth the price of admission. However, we left feeling that it could have been so much more and pondering exactly what went wrong.

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