News Column

Boston Strong Benefit Features Hometowners Aerosmith, New Kids on the Block

May 31, 2013

Rock, pop, metal, country-punk, straight-up stand-up, radio standards and ... Margaritaville? Genres and generations may separate them, but the all-star lineup of Boston Strong: An Evening of Support and Celebration united Thursday night for the sake (and entertainment) of a healing Hub.

The event: Hometown heroes New Kids On the Block, Aerosmith and James Taylor were joined by Jason Aldean, Jimmy Buffett, Carole King and others at TD Garden for a sold-out concert in support of the One Fund. The charitable effort for the Boston Marathon bombings has raised $37.6 million to aid survivors and victims' families.

More than a feeling: Quite possibly the most aptly chosen opener in benefit history, Boston launched into a deafening take on The Star-Spangled Banner before plowing through the more revered hits of their catalog, including closer Foreplay/Long Time and, of course, the gravity-defying More Than A Feeling.

Too soon? There's something to be said for the therapeutic powers of a good laugh, and Cambridge native Lenny Clarke cracked jokes that barely shied away from "too soon" territory, impersonating Watertown boat owner David Henneberry ("He's in my boat about a half a block away from where ya stopped lookin!'").

Roses for the Garden: The J. Geils Band's Peter Wolf pranced onstage and his backup singers followed suit, as did a hip-shaking epidemic that spread from the front row to the bleachers. By the first chorus of Love Stinks, a bouquet of red long-stemmed roses appeared, and Wolf flung them aimlessly into the first rows, after pulling two for his singers.

The country club: Clad in a cowboy hat and met with the screams of country-loving ladies, Jason Aldean acknowledged being a huge Red Sox fan, rendering him a local for the evening. Country rap might be an acquired taste, but his ferocious take on Dirt Road Anthem garnered hands in the air, reaching out in applause and adoration.

True Kids On the Block: The New Kids, attired in bedazzled Bruins jerseys, took hold of the Garden with the same tenacity they would've 25 years ago. The "all that I needed, Boston!" change-up during the breakdown of (You Got It) The Right Stuff was a sweet touch, too.

Best middle-school dance ever: Leave it to the NKOTB dreamboats to bring out the first big surprise of the night, an unexpected Bell Biv DeVoe cameo. The second: Boyz II Men, who joined in on a touching tribute (One Sweet Day) to those fatally wounded in the blasts.

Mostly sweet harmonies: With Carole King on the piano and James Taylor perched with his guitar, the serenade started with Sweet Baby James. So Far Away rightfully merited a standing ovation, as did the voluptuous harmonies of Shower the People. Their pairing on How Sweet It Is was vanilla at best, but the crowd seemed to love it.

Hardly wasting away: Though Parrotheads associate Jimmy Buffett with Hawaiian shirts and oasis-ready ditties, New Englanders embraced Buffett as one of their own. Beach balls were bouncing, choruses were called back as though they were written by the crowd itself and Buffett's broad smile was matched by the Garden's sunny disposition.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013

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