Music superstars Roger Waters, Billy Joel, Sting, James Taylor, John Mellencamp, Sheryl Crow, and Don Henley came together at the FleetCenter in Boston last night (Oct. 7) for Music To My Ears, the fi
Music superstars Roger Waters, Billy Joel, Sting, James Taylor, John Mellencamp, Sheryl Crow, and Don Henley came together at the FleetCenter in Boston last night (Oct. 7) for Music To My Ears, the first of two benefit concerts for the family of late Billboard editor in chief Timothy White. White passed away June 27 of a sudden heart attack in Billboard's New York office. He was 50.
While there were poignant performances throughout, the four-hour concert mainly focused on celebrating White's life and talent with an upbeat flair. "Just have a good time, because if Tim were watching he would want us to," Sting told the crowd before his hit-laden set, which included a shuffling take on the Police hit "Roxanne" that emphasized its reggae roots. Crow, citing it as "one of his [Tim's] favorites that I wrote," turned her balmy "Soak up the Sun" into a funky rhythmic electronica sing-along.
Boston native Taylor opened his set with a bluesy, animated take on "Hound Dog" and turned in soulful versions of "(I've Got To) Stop Thinkin' 'Bout That" and "Mexico." Mellencamp's fierce "Paper in Fire" and "Pink Houses" (featuring Patty Smyth on vocals) rocked with loose abandon. Henley, with backup help from Sting and a choir, covered the Bob Marley-popularized "Get Up, Stand Up" with hip-shaking tropical flavor.
Rife with saxophones, a jaunty "My Life" and the late-night jazz smoothness of "New York State of Mind" were highlights of Joel's set. All of the performers took the stage for a rousing finale of the gospel traditional "This Train" and Sly & The Family Stone's "Everyday People."
Most artists also chose to feature songs focused on solemn reflection. Waters opened the show with Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb," with Henley assisting on vocals. Later, Waters cited the Dylan-esque new song "Flickering Flame" as reminding him especially of White. Mellencamp slowed down "Small Town" to its bare bones, while Taylor and Sting dueted on an acoustic "You Can Close Your Eyes." Sting's own "Fields of Gold" was moving, and Henley turned "Boys of Summer" into a subdued snapshot of longing, utilizing murmuring chimes and slide guitar to conjure the twilight chill of early autumn.
The spirit of White's humor and zest for life was evident throughout. In a pre-taped video, actor Bill Murray mentioned the New Jersey native's "exciting hair," all the while tying a bowtie and wearing white bucks, White's trademark accessories. Henley laughingly recalled White's "spastic white boy dancing" at the former's wedding, while Joel noted White "would have appreciated the irony" as he launched into a stomping "Only the Good Die Young."
Joel best conveyed White's love of and passion for music during "Piano Man," played with only piano, harmonica, and guitar. He interspersed references to White in the final stanza to complement enthusiastic crowd sing-alongs, raising the collective spirit with the audience's volume and sincerity.
Most of the evening performers will be on hand tonight at New York's Madison Square Garden for a second benefit concert. Tickets are still available from Ticketmaster.