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On Saturday, April 18, music A-listers from around the world participated in Global Citizen and the World Health Organization’s eight-hour live-stream event, “One World: Together at Home,” to support the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and celebrate the brave people working on the frontlines. Appearing remotely from their individual homes, some artists had lavish setups — like Jennifer Lopez, whose backyard looked like the twinkling backdrop of Disneyland’s Main Street Electrical Parade, or her fellow former American Idol judge Keith Urban, who was digitally accompanied by triplet clones of himself. Other performers went with a more lo-fi, stripped-down approach.
But the Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts managed to steal the show by going super-lo-fi and super-stripped-down — that is, by not actually playing at all. Looking like the winner of some international Air-Drumming Championship (and possibly playing a Freedrum virtual drum kit), the venerable Stones rhythm ace surprisingly and effortlessly won the night.
The Stones were a last-minute addition to Saturday’s already star-studded lineup, and their rootsy, in-the-pocket performance of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” — with Mick Jagger (sounding in fantastic form), Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, and Watts appearing in four Brady Bunch-style split-screen squares — was one of the most anticipated and well-received moments of the broadcast. But it didn’t take long for fans to notice that Watts wasn’t actually drumming live.
Instead, Watts just coolly sat behind his phantom drum kit, wearing a smirk and teal headphones, as he tapped on a black box and pretended — rather convincingly, actually — that the armchair to his right was a stack of invisible cymbals.
Even without actual physical drums, Watts proved he’s one of the best rock ‘n’ roll time-keepers of all time, as his attention to detail was downright fascinating to watch. He even elegantly twirled his drumsticks a few times, right on cue. Fans may have been confused, but most of them loved Watts’s commitment to the performance, and they took to Twitter to praise his stellar air-drumming skills.
“One World” offered some other comical moments — like when Charlie Puth went viral for performing in front of his unmade bed, or when Jimmy Fallon (who co-hosted the broadcast’s prime-time segment with Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert) and the Roots adorably performed Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance” with the topical altered lyrics “we can dance, we can dance, everybody's washing their hands." But most of the event was fittingly somber in tone.
The Stones’ fellow legends set that tone. Stevie Wonder paid tribute to his recently departed friend Bill Withers by covering Withers’s iconic and appropriate “Lean on Me,” while Sir Paul McCartney, whose mother was a nurse during World War II, dedicated “Lady Madonna” to healthcare workers. Sir Elton John kept the proceedings a little more upbeat with “I’m Still Standing,” although he went viral himself as befuddled tweeters wondered why he was performing on a backyard basketball court. And the wonderful Annie Lennox made her performance a cross-generational tour de force, dueting with her talented daughter Lola Lennox on the ethereal Eurythmics classic “There Must Be an Angel.”
Rockers appealing to the Generation X set also held their own. Eddie Vedder, stunningly performing “River Cross” off Pearl Jam’s new album Gigaton, was a revelation, chanting, “Share the light, won't hold us down” as he sat at a church organ in a darkened rehearsal room. The Killers, performing as a duo, channeled the Pet Shop Boys on icy, synthy versions of “Mr. Brightside” and “Caution.” And Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong delivered a solemn acoustic bedroom rendition of “Wake Me Up When September Ends” — although the nostalgic ballad “Time of Your Life” or frustrated shut-in anthem “Longview” might have been better choices than a song that (probably unintentionally) implied that this crisis will last until the fall.
American Idol was well-represented on “One World.” The above-mentioned J.Lo surprisingly pulled off the ambitious song choice of Barbra Streisand’s “People,” while that Keith Urban-in-triplicate cover of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” was so effervescent and twangy, it really ought to be rush-released, because it would surely be a major country-crossover hit. As for ex-Idol contestants, Adam Lambert returned to one of the classics that made him the star of Season 8, the tear-jerking Gary Jules version of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World,” and he sounded even more magnificent than he did in 2009. Meanwhile, Season 3’s Jennifer Hudson instantly erased months’ worth of bad Cats press with her redemptive, Oscar-worthy performance of “Memory,” followed by that familiar singing-show staple, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
Younger pop stars impressed, many of them choosing to do cover songs as well. Lady Gaga, who curated the event, opened the prime-time portion of the show with a sublime rendition of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile”; Lizzo showcased her serious side with a passionate take on Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come”; John Legend and Sam Smith teamed for a sweet virtual duet of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me”; and Billie Eilish, accompanied by her brother/producer Finneas O’Connell, did a tasteful, unamplified cover of Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny” that should finally silence any doubters who still think she’s a studio creation that cannot sing. Additionally, house music duo Sofi Tukker opted to perform two of their own tunes, “Purple Hat” and “Drinkee,” bringing festival-fun vibes (during what would have been Coachella weekend two) with their tropical set, garish club-wear, and blinking disco lights.
One of the biggest stars of any musical genre, Beyoncé, sadly didn’t perform, but she used her screentime effectively by delivering a speech about how coronavirus is affecting people of color. “To those in the food industry, delivery workers, mail carriers, and sanitation employees who are working so that we can be safe in our homes, we thank you for your selfless service. And black Americans disproportionately belong to these essential parts of the workforce that do not have the luxury of working from home,” she stated. “African-American communities at large have been severely affected in this crisis; those with preexisting conditions are at an even higher risk. This virus is killing black people at an alarmingly high rate here in America. …Please protect yourselves. We are one family, and we need you. We need your voices, your abilities, and your strength all over this world. I know it's very hard, but please be patient. Stay encouraged, keep the faith, stay positive, and continue to pray for our heroes.”
Other performers throughout the “One World” music marathon included Michael Bublé, Burna Boy, Common, Sheryl Crow, Andra Day, Luis Fonsi, Ellie Goulding, Niall Horan, Hozier, Kesha, Jessie J, Juanes, Lady Antebellum, Maluma, Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello, Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves, Rita Ora, Liam Payne, Ben Platt, Jessie Reyez, Super M, and Taylor Swift — the latter crooning the optimistically titled Lover track “Soon You’ll Get Better.” And the evening ended spectacularly, “We Are the World”-style, with Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli, Lady Gaga, John Legend, and Lang Lang joining virtual forces for “The Prayer.”
Powered by commitments from supporters and corporate partners in benefit of the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, “One World: Together at Home” benefited local and regional charities that provide food, shelter, and healthcare to those that need help most. For more information about Global Citizen and its campaign to support the WHO’s Solidarity Response Fund, visit globalcitizen.org and follow @GlblCtzn Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram using #GlobalCitizen. To learn more about WHO’s response to the pandemic and the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, go to who.int/COVID-19 and follow @WHO on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok. For information about how to take action, visit globalcitizen.org/togetherathome. For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at news.yahoo.com/coronavirus.
For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC and WHO’s resource guides.