It was no small task pulling together “Boston Strong: An Evening of Support and Celebration,” Thursday’s sold-out, star-studded benefit for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. But somehow, even with all those rock ’n’ roll egos wandering around backstage at TD Garden, it all worked.
The concert, hastily pulled together by veteran promoter Don Law with an assist from the not-so-New Kids on the Block, was a response to the horrific events of April 15. Though accustomed to earning a small fortune to perform, NKOTB, Aerosmith, Boston, James Taylor and Carole King, the J. Geils Band, Jimmy Buffett, Jason Aldean, and comedians Dane Cook and Steven Wright all worked for free Thursday. (It’s worth noting that TD Garden, Ticketmaster, and a host of local hotels also participated gratis.)
“To say everyone is checking their ego at the door is a cliche, but it’s true,” said New Kid Donnie Wahlberg. “To walk down the hallway and bump into Carole King and have her say ‘Thank you. Your city is so great. . . . There’s no place for rock star attitudes tonight.”
“It takes a lot of commitment from a lot of people. An undertaking like this is pretty epic,” he said. “But it’s the least we can so to honor our city.”
Asked before the show about a possible New Kids/Dropkick Murphy mash-up, Wahlberg smiled.
“We’ve cooked up a little melting pot of wonderfulness,” he said, declining to elaborate. “The pot’s still brewing.”
There had been rumors that Mark Wahlberg might make the scene for a reunion with the Funky Bunch, those one-hit wonders whose song “Good Vibrations” was No. 1 way back in 1991. Alas, it didn’t happen.
Kiss 108’s Matt Siegel kicked off the show and treated it more as a pep rally than a rock show.
“For a guy who tells jokes for a living, there were no jokes,” he told us backstage afterward. “I said I’ve been on the air for 35 years and this is the proudest I’ve been. And I meant it. I did my very small part and it felt really great.”
We found J. Geils keyboardist Seth Justman enjoying the first part of the show with friends and bandmates in a private box. He said Boston’s response to the bombings has been overwhelming.
“What makes a civilized community civilized is how you treat other people,” he said. “This to me is the best of that.’’ Asked if a band legendary for its raucous live shows could even play a 20-minute set, Justman smiled. “This band is ferocious,” he said. “We go out there and . . . we go.”
Extreme singer Gary Cherone said his band was honored to be included in the concert.
“Just sitting there with [bombing victim] Jeff Bauman watching James Taylor and Carole King soundcheck ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ brought me to tears. It’s going to be a very emotional evening.”
Comedian Cook said he was asked to participate because organizers “needed some laughs” amid the poignant performances.
If Aerosmith looked a little worse for wear, give them a break: The Bad Boys from Boston just got back from playing in Singapore. Likewise, the Dropkick Murphys only made it at the last minute thanks to car dealer Ernie Boch Jr., who donated his private jet to fly the band back from a tour stop in Colorado. (The Dropkicks were due to play in Albuquerque Thursday, but the show was rescheduled for July 1.)
Dropkicks singer Ken Casey said the band arrived at the Garden at 1 p.m., in time for a quick rehearsal of “Shipping Up to Boston.”
“I will say that due to time constraints, it was loose at best,” said Casey, eating a plate of beef stew backstage. “But whatever, it’s great to be here and to play for some of the victims.”
The first several rows in front of the stage Thursday night were reserved for victims and first responders. Law said the tickets had been purchased by philanthropist and businessman David Mugar.
Law also revealed that Kid Rock had wanted to attend and perhaps perform but couldn’t. He instead donated several thousand dollars to The One Fund, the promoter said
Net proceeds from Thursday’s show — expected to exceed $1.5 million — will benefit The One Fund, which has raised more than $37 million for victims of the bombings.