Various Artists

The Concert for New York City

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The Concert for New York City is the lesser of the two major September 11 tribute albums. The comparisons are significant and devastating. The telethon (released as America: A Tribute to Heroes) was reverential and inspired, and includes U2's brilliant performance of "Walk On" (with PJ Harvey on backup vocals!). But The Concert for New York City is bellicose and chaotic, and includes Macca's "Freedom," which is an early contender for one of the worst pop songs of the 21st century. The anger embodied by a firefighter telling Osama Bin Laden to "kiss my royal Irish ass" may have been deserved and unavoidable. But the need to revisit the anger-fest that was the concert is missing. The lineup of classic rock heavyweights is impressive, but resulted in a much less moving night than organizers must have expected. As a symbol, The Concert for New York City is all hype. Though the inclusion of James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" is admirable, the music only aims for a vaguely "Americana" feel. The Goo Goo Dolls' performance of "American Girl" and Bon Jovi's "It's My Life" have little value beyond being crowd-pleasers. Ultimately, that is what the concert was: entertainment to thank and please thousands of people personally touched by the events of September 11, 2001. Whereas America: A Tribute to Heroes represents a moment of coming together for millions of people right after the attacks, The Concert for New York City reflects an event that came off as a lot more partisan and bloodthirsty (booing an ex-president and first lady/senator who fought for N.Y.C. disaster assistance was hardly classy). On the other hand, Bruce Springsteen's telethon debut of the touching, elegiac "My City of Ruin" made it an instant American classic. If Sir Paul's aforementioned embarrassment was not enough to taint this collection, The Concert for New York City includes two other songs misappropriated by the night: Five for Fighting's "Superman (It's Not Easy)" and John Mellencamp's "Little Pink Houses." Both have nothing to do with American heroism. Instead, the former is a trite, self-indulgent whine-fest voiced by an alienated cartoon hero, while the latter describes wilted aspirations, pointing out that many never achieve the American Dream. Buy America: A Tribute to Heroes before The Concert for New York City because of context, emotion, and song selection.

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