Thursday night, New York City’s Beacon Theatre hosted The Bob Woodruff Foundation’s sixth annual “Stand Up For Heroes” event. A part of the yearly New York Comedy Festival, the event features comedians and musicians performing to raise funds for the organization, which works to provide resources and support to injured service members, veterans and their families.
While the lineup mainly features comics doing standup, this year’s show had some stirring musical moments, and none were more emotional than Roger Waters‘ performance. He was backed up by a band of veterans who he’d met at the Walter Reed Hospital (serving active and retired members of the armed forces). The group (which also included Waters’ guitarist G.E. Smith) opened with Pink Floyd‘s “Wish You Were Here,” a song which took new, and heavy, meaning, sung by veterans who were scarred by war, but surely were thinking of some of their brothers-in-arms who never came home.
Next, they covered Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” another song that had added weight at the event (much of the audience was made up of active and retired military). Waters said that he was originally going to do two Floyd songs, but then decided to do “Wide River To Cross,” written by Buddy and Julie Miller, and recorded by the late Levon Helm; Waters first covered the song last month at the Helm tribute concert. On that song, Waters handed over lead vocals to one of the members of his ad hoc backing band, a veteran who was in a wheelchair, but whose voice floored the crowd.
Bruce Springsteen plays Stand Up For Heroes every year, whether or not he’s on tour. Last year, he played backed by The Max Weinberg Orchestra, but this year opted for the solo acoustic approach (The Max Weinberg Orchestra opened the show on their own). He opened with a stripped down version of his anthemic “We Take Care Of Our Own” from his latest album Wrecking Ball, which at first didn’t seem familiar to much of the audience, but the chorus got a loud response.
(photo credit: Mike Coppola, Getty Images)
While Roger Waters told the audience “you don’t want to hear me try to tell a joke” (which got some laughs), every year Springsteen tries his hand at standup. His first joke, about a golfer who suffered an unfortunate injury a week before his wedding (to a virgin at that) went over quite well. Whether or not he wrote it, the man can deliver a punch line. He followed that with the Born In The U.S.A. anthem “Workin’ On The Highway,” after which he noted that he’s “in the doghouse this week,” and so he had to invite wife/bandmate Patti Scialfa onstage. They sang “Tougher Than The Rest” from Tunnel Of Love. A song about the difficulties of relationships, it also took on added gravitas, given the soldiers and their spouses in the audience. Another joke (this one about a woman who got a bit too much plastic surgery) went over well, and Bruce finished his set with “Land Of Hope And Dreams,” a song he’s played for over a decade, but which just came out on Wrecking Ball.
Other than Springsteen, Waters and Weinberg, John Mayer also performed. Due to recent vocal surgery, he can’t sing or even talk (preventing him from doing a standup set; he’d actually made appearances at comedy clubs in the past). A skilled guitarist, his playing is as expressive as most singers’ voices are, and his cover of The Beatles’ “A Day In The Life” (reminiscent of Jeff Beck’s instrumental version of the same song) was another highlight of the night. Some of the comedians on the bill included Jon Stewart, Robin Williams and Ricky Gervais. To contribute to The Bob Woodruff fund, you can text “BWF” to 50555, or go to the organization’s website.
— Brian Ives, CBS Local