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Benefit concert goes from great to ‘wow’

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Sept. 2 | 8 p.m., ET

5:00: These celebrity concerts aren't always the greatest things to watch, but with so many New Orleans music figures involved, I bet they make a CD of the performances and sell it to help raise money.

5:02: Opening with Harry Connick Jr. and Wynton Marsalis playing the horn is a great idea. As far as I'm concerned, this should be the entire concert.

5:05: Hilary Swank's the first celebrity presenter. She tells us the hurricane devastated an area the size of Kansas, 90 percent of the structures on the Gulf Coast have been obliterated and still 1 million people are homeless after the storm.

I don't care how often I read it or hear, those figures still devastate me.

5:09: Solid piece on what the hurricane did to New Orleans. We'll see more of that.

5:10: Tim McGraw follows as the second musical act. He's a guy I don't doubt would donate as much time and money to the area as needed. Sounds pretty good, too.

5:11: Just got an e-mail saying that the guitar is auctioning off will be signed by Tim McGraw in a few minutes. I wonder if people can really get into an auction in a setting like this. Can someone get worked up over an item or are you mostly just donating money without much thought to what you're bidding on? Still, I'll be interested to see how much the guitar goes for.

5:13: Now Richard Gere, telling us how the city simply doesn't have any water. Talk about something a city on the water — set below sea level — takes for granted. Who ever really thinks they'll run out of water? I know indoor plumbing ranks pretty high up on the list of things I take for granted.

5:14: Nice move with Tim going for an upbeat song. I always worry that these charity concerts will be so downcast and sad that people won't watch. Is it wrong that there should be some kind of entertainment factor involved? People need to feel uplifted at some point.

5:15: I don't think I have any Tim McGraw in the CD collection, either. Seen him in concert, but no CDs. Not sure how that works out. "Something Like That" certainly is one you have an easy time grooving to.

5:17: And so the guitar auction starts. It feels like a plug for the Web site, but so it goes.

5:18: Eriq La Salle and Lindsay Lohan. How the pairings for these things get determined is beyond me.

5:19: From Faith Hill to another TV piece. Faith narrates this one.

5:20: I'll confess, this piece — all about how people were caught off guard by Katrina — hits home to me. After those hurricanes pounded Florida last year with minimal damage and with the other hurricanes that hit this year, I was to the point where it seemed like if a person just grits their teeth, takes a few precautions and stays indoors, it'll be OK.

Couldn't be much more wrong. Mother Nature, man. She does whatever she wants.

5:23: The worst part about blogging this thing is I can't hear the concert that well with all the keyboard noise and newsroom din. I'm hoping for the CD.

5:24: Glenn Close and John Goodman. Both in suit jackets and Goodman in a tie. Gere was wearing jeans and a Red Cross hat. What does a person wear to a fundraiser? Whatever you're comfortable in? Does the clothing people wear affect the donations? Who knows these things?

5:25: Love Aaron Neville.

A man that big with a voice that sweet defies all logic. Of course, Aaron must hear that kind of thing all time.

5:26: He's singing a song called "Louisiana 1927." (Originally told it was Louisiana Tribute.) Not sure it could be more apt to the event. All about the waters "trying to wash us away." Lovely song.

5:28: New York Gov. George Pataki? Normally, that kind of appearance would smack of political nonsense, since Pataki is a big-time Republican. But since he's presenting a check for $2.5 million, I'd say this is on the level. A "thank you" from New York, in remembrance of 9/11.

5:30: This piece is done by MSNBC's Joe Scarborough. I could do without him presenting himself in the piece so much, but I guess you have to brand it somehow. Saw a similar piece by CNN's Anderson Cooper today where he tried to talk to people who lost their homes and couldn't quite compose himself. The need to insert oneself into a piece seems like an odd criticism from someone blogging a charity concert, but it just strikes me as odd.

Would a typical reporter insert himself into a story about hurricane victims?

5:34: Harry Connick Jr., New Orleans native, is now on with Matt Lauer and is hoarse. He's been on the air tons in the last few days, talking about his city, trying to raise awareness of all the help the city needs and trying to find out what he can do for it. Good to know a native son cares so much about his city.

5:36: That leads right into a piece narrated by Harry about New Orleans' levees and its history with hurricanes. Sounds like they were used to them. From now on, I'd guess people will be terrified by any hurricane that would even come near the city.

Got this e-mail from Sam at 30 Rock, where they put together Dateline, talking about the response to the concert.

Small crowd has formed on 49th street outside 30 Rock. I could hear screaming from my 5th floor window as some fans have smartly decided to wait for the stars exiting the building. I cant make out who’s getting the louder screams, but flashes are going off and it’s caused a little bit of traffic.

5:38: Harry and Wynton together. Stopping to listen to this.

5:41: Mike Myers and Kanye West are on now, talking about the homeless situation. Kanye brings up an important point, talking about how the media portrays white people as seeking food and blacks as looters. He goes into an impassioned speech about the difficulties blacks are having during the Katrina fallout and in the country in general. Mike Myers is with him at the start.

About 10 seconds in, it's clear he's not reading from the prompter. He stumbles a bit on his points, but most of them get across. The basic message to the government? Stop dragging your feet and help the people down there. Myers gives him a couple "oh my God" looks, and then another when Kanye says "They've given them permission to go down and shoot us."

Myers, clearly stressed, goes into another point about the hurricane and how New Orleans is forever changed. Then Kanye drops the biggest bomb.

"George Bush doesn't care about black people," West said. Myers turns to him and clearly has no idea what to say. Then they go to a flabbergasted Chris Tucker.

Kanye was one frustrated man on TV. (And really, I can't do it justice here. Watch the video.)

Not sure what kind of flack Kanye's gonna catch for that last bit, but I'm sure he doesn't care. And good for him to bring up a point on the media's portrayal of blacks that can't be said enough. Not sure if I agree, but it's always good to have someone out there, challenging the media to be as fair as possible.

5:47: Missed most of Aaron Neville's last song, "Amazing Grace," trying to figure out exactly what Kanye said. Still can't believe it.

5:48: This Jimmy Smits-narrated piece on evacuees is killing me. This stupid, stupid disaster.

5:49: Claire Danes sounds like she might have some trouble finishing her reading on homeless kids. I don't blame her.

5:50: From Brian Williams to Faith Hill. Glad she can come in with another song. There aren't many better singers today.

5:54: Still can't believe Kanye West ripped Bush. That was great. (Also reminded me of the “Saturday Night Live” skit where Mike Myers plays an infomercial guy who has to deal with a racist Heather Locklear. Totally different message from what Kanye said, but the look on Myers' face was the same.)

5:55: Leo DiCaprio. He seems like the kind of guy who never hesitates to donate time and money to charitable causes. Not sure why it seems like that, but it just does.

5:56: Matt Lauer comes on with one final plea for help and a final segue into everyone on stage — Wynton, Aaron and his brothers, Harry and others — closing with "When the Saints Go Marchin’ In." Very good.

5:59: Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go donate some money to the Red Cross.

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