John Lennon once warned us that we can so easily be “benefited to death” if we’re not discerning.
However, just 18 days after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic, the first major star-studded benefit to help those hurt by the health crisis landed tonight with the lo-fi but big hearted Fox Presents The iHeart Living Room Concert for America – and I bet even the sharp-tongued Beatle would agree the successful result was all about life and love.
More from Deadline
Cutting to the chase, seeing and hearing some of the biggest stars in music step with most of their celebrity armor stripped off literally and figuratively, the just over one-hour Elton John hosted special situated where the iHeartRadio Music Awards were supposed to be tonight went off without a hitch – which was an accomplishment unto itself. Last minute entry Lady Gaga didn’t sing but hit a high note by pushing viewers on Fox, YouTube, and simulcast on iHeartMedia stations across the country “find joy however you can” & help their “local communities.”
Yes, a sunglass wearing Gaga gushed over “the host with the biggest heart” in a way we’ve come to expect from late night shows. But, here’s the deal, in this time of extremes it felt extremely genuine – and truth be told, had the added benefit (no pun intended) of being true.
Isolating himself and his family in what he claimed was his only home without a piano, host Sir Elton himself did not truly tickle the keys, but he played a rather excellent ringmaster. Adopting an uncharacteristic less is more approach, if tonight was any indication, once he’s finally able to finish that latest farewell tour, the bespectacled legend behind Rocketman might want to try taking on the likes of Ellen DeGeneres and Graham Norton in the talk show world. He has the chops – you know what I’m talking about Lizzo!
Fueled by donations of $500,000 from sponsor Procter & Gamble and the Murdoch-owned Fox, the digital festival of sorts sought to raise funds for Feeding America and First Responders Children’s Foundation in the hope to get help where it is urgently needed in these troubling times.
As cameos of sorts by sweatpants wearing DeGeneres, a WHO advocating Ryan Seacrest, The Masked Singer’s Ken Jeong, a “we’re all in this together” Melissa McCarthy & Ben Falcone, authenticity was the top tune for all. After weeks of disinformation and confusion out of the White House a true chorus was welcomed in a nation that has seen confirmed cases of COVID-19 surge to nearly 138,000 with almost 2,500 death so far. As the USA takes first place among the nations of the world, even worst expected to slam into New York and LA, and soon to be tragically followed by New Orleans and Chicago with more to come.
With varying degrees of technology and testimonials from “everyday heroes” healthcare works delivery drivers, overwhelmed healthcare workers and grocery story employees, the John Sykes, Tom Poleman and Joel Gallen produced Living Room Convert went into a lot of well-appointed living rooms.
Kicking off with Alicia Keys, the show crossed genres and generations with more from the five members in five different homes Backstreet Boys, Foo Fighter leader Dave Grohl, Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell ,Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, Sam Smith, a NYC sofa set H.E.R., a wind challenged poolside Tim McGraw, Demi Lovato, Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendez. By the time a split screening and high high note hitting Mariah Carey showed up as the de facto headliner with “Always Be My Baby,” if your money wasn’t heading towards to the digital donation box you really need to renew your membership in the human race.
“Right now we all need to help out anyway we can,” Elton told viewers, with strong comparisons to the wrath of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s “If you sing that last chorus every time you wash your hands, I think you might be in good shape,” Grohl nudged the audience at the conclusion of his performance of My Hero from the 1997 album The Colour and the Shape.
Pulled together in haste and battling production requirements that usually take weeks to overcome, the Living Room Concert certainly had a rushed feel. Unlike so many live shows and awards ceremonies, the mainly prerecorded special also had a palpable risk of going off the rails, as we have seen has occurred many times on cable news, Instagram DJ sets and live shows in recent days.
Yet, in a testament to the technology and the engagement of those on both sides of the camera tonight, the Living Room Concert actually took off in the best unplugged tradition.
“I think right now, while we’re practicing psychical social distancing, it is important to remember that music brings people together,” a Palm Springs-based Lizzo told Elton tonight. Then later the man born Reginald Kenneth Dwight admitted he”lied” and one of his sons’ keyboards actually was in the house. With that, he banged out some of his 1974 classic “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me.”
Amen to that, amen. Stay indoors and safe America, see you at the next living room shindig.
Best of Deadline