“Here we are, all together at home,” Sir Elton John declared at the beginning of the star-studded iHeart Living Room Concert For America. Normally such a sentence would refer to the viewing audience of a television special, but this time, it included the onscreen talent as well.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact countries across the globe and the United States practices mass quarantining to stop the spread, a long list of A-list artists came together for the purpose of providing remote entertainment — stripped-down performances, often filmed straight from their living rooms — and raising money for two worthy charities, Feeding America and First Responders Children’s Foundation, during the hour-long Fox special on Sunday night (Mar. 29).
Several of the performers shared words of wisdom and appreciation before kicking off their performances. “If you love someone, let them know. If you’re thankful for someone, tell them,” Dave Grohl implored before launching into an acoustic rendition of the Foo Fighters classic “My Hero.” Earlier, Alicia Keys dedicated her emotional performance of “Underdog,” played on a purple piano, to “all the first responders and medical professionals that are risking their life to keep us safe.”
Sam Smith spoke about the healing power of music during this difficult period before singing their top 40 hit, “How Do You Sleep,” and Demi Lovato introduced her performance of “Skyscraper” by paraphrasing its message of hope: “Nothing, absolutely nothing, can tear us down.”
There were also a few moments of musical levity: Backstreet Boys sang “I Want It That Way” from five different locations across the country — from Las Vegas to Orlando — with Kevin Richardson’s sons trying to join in on the harmonies and Nick Carter crooning poolside. Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong was joined for his performance of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by a few of his pet pups and ended up cracking into laughter midway through. And in one of the highlights of the special, John video-chatted with Lizzo, who rocked some very Elton-approved frames and seemed delighted when he broke into a little bit of “Juice.”
Some of the highlights of Concert For America came from duets staged in living rooms. Billie Eilish sang her Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 smash “Bad Guy” while sitting next to her brother Finneas on the family couch, the siblings harmonizing on the second verse as he accompanied her on guitar. That performance was followed by Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes, the latter strumming on guitar and filling in for DaBaby on the former’s rising single “My Oh My.”
While there were video packages honoring the brave work of health professionals, policemen, food bank representatives and others fighting the pandemic, a slew of celebrities, from Ryan Seacrest to Melissa McCarthy to Ellen DeGeneres to Lady Gaga, appeared onscreen to extol first responders in their own words, as well as preach social distancing and hand-washing. One of the most moving performances came from one of those health professionals: Dr. Elvis Francois, who’s become something of an Internet sensation for his pristine voice, covered John Lennon’s “Imagine,” seemingly from right outside the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
Before John wrapped up the special with an impromptu song on his son’s keyboard, Mariah Carey delivered the final full performance with a song of hope: her eternal hit “Always Be My Baby,” which included remote backup-singing and keyboard-playing. “You know in your heart, baby / That our love will never end,” Carey sang, harkening back to one of John’s messages from earlier in the evening.
“Let me tell you what’s going to keep us together: all the goodness that’s still happening in the world,” John said. “We hope this bit of entertainment can feed and fuel your soul.”
In partnership with iHeart and Fox, Bravado has released official merchandise for the concert. The hoodie and tee were designed by NOAH and are available here. Net profits will benefit Feeding America and the First Responders Children Foundation.