On December 12, 2012, mega-producer Harvey Weinstein, James Dolan, executive chairman of the Madison Square Garden Company, and John Sykes, the co-founder of MTV and current president of Clear Channel Communications, joined forces to organize a benefit concert for the victims of Super Storm Sandy. Every favor appeared to have been cashed in. On top of the all-star musical line-up -- everyone from Kanye West to Pink Floyd to Coldplay's Chris Martin -- attendees included Chris Rock, Jesse Jackson, Quentin Tarantino, Blake Lively, Jon Stewart, Jake Gyllenhaal, Whoopi Goldberg and Tony Danza. A frenzy of celebrity faces, most of them manning phones for the concert's call-in donations.
The new concert film 12-12-12 documents the endeavor from start to finish. Come for live performances from an unforgettable musical event, stay for Weinstein scrambling to assemble the concert and losing his mind when his donation website craps out halfway through the show. That's showbiz, baby.
Though there's a surprising amount of concentration focused on behind-the-scenes kerfuffles, 12-12-12 does dazzle with its bevy of legendary musicians. Here are the best of the bunch:
Adam Sandler - “Hallelujah”
12-12-12's major shock is an appearance by Sandler that almost makes up for the Grown Ups movies. The former Saturday Night Live star takes the stage with Paul Shaffer, another SNL alum, to knock out a rendition of Leonard Cohen's classic tune that swaps in “Sandy, Screw Ya!” for the titular lyric. Dumb on paper, riotous in execution.
The Who - “Baba O'Riley”
With his chest bare, a 68-year-old Roger Daltrey belts his band's invigorating song, now an essential hymn of the teenage years, to the Madison Square Garden audience. The number that will have you standing up rocking along, even if you're at a movie theater.
The Rolling Stones - “Jumpin' Jack Flash”
Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and the rest of the gang didn't try too hard to differentiate their rendition of this bluesy 1968 hit from their 18,000 other performances of the song, but you know what? The Rolling Stones are beyond change. They're that good.
Billy Joel - "Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)"
12-12-12 should have been a double-bill concert between Joel and Bruce Springsteen. Their hearts are in New York and New Jersey, areas laid to waste by Sandy. That comes through in both performances. In the film, Joel recounts writing “Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway” as a type of science fiction/apocalypse song. When Joel begins to sing, his lyrics sound as if they've been written as a reaction to the devastation of the storm. They're on point, and they break the heart.
Bruce Springsteen - “Wrecking Ball”
The Boss opens the show with its best number. Springsteen will forever rock, an anthem-belter who delivers the same purpose of life as he did during The Concert in New York shortly after the events of 9/11. 12-12-12 doesn't have the same weight as that performance, mainly because the celebrities involve didn't feel its impact (which may be the reason why even Alicia Keys' “Empire State of Mind” feels a bit flaccid). But Springsteen gets it, and filters the sorrow directly through “Wrecking Ball” -- which pre-dates the Miley Cyrus version, for those who got a little scared.
Special Recognition: Paul McCartney - “[Theme from] The Monkees”
McCartney teams up with the remaining members of Nirvana to play some wicked tunes from their collective discographies, but they don't match the gratification of watching the former Beatle sing an a capella version of The Monkees' theme. A backstage moment that only comes to life courtesy of 12-12-12.