It was a night of big money, big laughs, and Big & Rich at Symphony Hall. Monday’s Mission Gratitude benefit, which featured performances by country artists Big & Rich, the Band Perry, Cassadee Pope, the Henningsens, and Angie Johnson, as well as comedians Sarah Silverman and Darrell Hammond, supported the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program, which provides aid and counseling to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and their families, dealing with PTSD and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury).
The musicians played rocking acoustic versions of their hits, including Big & Rich’s playful “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy’’ and the Band Perry’s “Better Dig Two.’’ Family band the Henningsens inspired a spontaneous moment of patriotism when the crowd, including many soldiers in uniform, rose to the strains of their tightly harmonized take on “America the Beautiful.’’ “The Voice’’ victor Pope charmed with tunes from her forthcoming release, and former “Voice’’ contestant and Air Force veteran Johnson kicked off the night with “The Star-Spangled Banner’’ as well as a couple of her own songs including the sassy “Swagger.’’ Actress Rita Wilson, wife of Tom Hanks, showed off her musical side with a few tunes including her take on “Please Come to Boston.’’
In between songs, Silverman and Hammond provided laughs. New Hampshire native Silverman did not alter her risqué act — she even wondered aloud about the appropriateness of the booking — covering everything from porn to religion, while former “Saturday Night Live’’ cutup Hammond drew guffaws with jokes about colonoscopies and his Bill Clinton impression.
Best-selling historian Doris Kearns Goodwin gave a moving speech about her son’s deployment in front of a crowd that included Pops conductor Keith Lockhart and Vicki Kennedy. Bruins legend Ray Bourque, famed former Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, and Jack Connors raised more than $300,000 from the crowd in less than five minutes simply by soliciting donations from the stage. And first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden sent a taped message.
The night’s biggest ovation, however, went to Medal of Honor recipient SSGT Ty Carter — one of three Medal honorees in attendance — who spoke eloquently of his service and subsequent struggles with PTSD.