Springsteen set a roaring tone, opening the concert with "Land of Hope and Dreams" and "Wrecking Ball." He addressed the rebuilding process in introducing his song "My City of Ruins," noting it was written about the decline of Asbury Park, before that city's renaissance over the last decade.
He mixed a verse of Tom Waits' "Jersey Girl" into the song before calling New Jersey neighbor Jon Bon Jovi to join him in a rousing "Born to Run." Springsteen later returned the favor by joining Bon Jovi on "Who Says You Can't Go Home."
The music lineup was heavily weighted toward classic rock, with ticket prices ranging from $150 to $2,500. Even with those prices, people with tickets had been offering them for more on broker sites such as StubHub, an attempt at profiteering that producers fumed was "despicable."
"This has got to be the largest collection of old English musicians ever assembled in Madison Square Garden," Mick Jagger said. "If it rains in London, you've got to come and help us."
The Who weaved Sandy into their set, showing pictures of storm devastation on video screens during "Pinball Wizard." Pete Townshend made a quick revision to the lyrics of "Baba O'Riley," changing teenage wasteland to Sandy wasteland.
New York native Alicia Keys asked the audience to hold their cellphones high for her song "No One," triggering a sea of light. "We love you," Keys said, "and we'll make it through this."
The sold-out "12-12-12" concert was being shown on 37 television stations in the United States and more than 200 others worldwide. It was to be streamed on 30 websites, including YouTube and Yahoo, and played on radio stations. Theaters, including 27 in the New York region and dozens more elsewhere, were showing it live.
Proceeds from the show will be distributed through the Robin Hood Foundation. More than $30 million was raised through ticket sales alone.
E Street Band guitarist Steve Van Zandt said backstage that musicians are often quick to help when they can.
"Yes, it's more personal because literally the Jersey Shore is where we grew up," he said. "But we'd be here anyway."
"Yes, it's more personal because literally the Jersey shore is where we grew up," he said. "But we'd be here anyway."
The concert came a day after the death of sitar master Ravi Shankar, a performer at the 1971 "Concert for Bangladesh" considered the grandfather of music benefits. That concert also was in Madison Square Garden.