On Sunday night, once again, a group of celebrities got together to try to lift people’s spirits with Fox’s “iHeart Living Room Concert for America.” Only this time, it seemed to work — positive responses poured in on social media, many along the lines of “I didn’t know how much I needed to see something like this.” Airing in place of the now-postponed iHeartRadio Music Awards, the hour-long special was hosted by Elton John and featured performances by A-list musicians from their respective homes.
“We know that your concerns are a mile high, but we hope this bit of entertainment can feed and fuel your soul,” John said during the introduction. “And maybe bring you some strength and a touch of joy to prepare for the days to come.”
It also served as a fundraiser, as stars urged viewers to donate to Feeding America and First Responders Children’s Foundation. Before and after performances, producers showed clips of medical professionals risking their lives to treat patients, along with truck drivers delivering supplies to grocery stores and small children waving at grandparents through windows. Plus, the wrenching plea from Michigan intensive care unit nurse Melissa Steiner, who compared her hospital to a war zone: “I’m already breaking ... please take this seriously,” she said through tears in the video, which has been viewed more than a million times on Twitter. “This is so bad.”
The celebrities were careful to strike the right tone, and they repeatedly thanked first responders and everyone on the front lines fighting the pandemic. They encouraged social distancing, which is where their performances came in — they wanted to provide some light entertainment and a brief diversion from the nightmare while people are at home.
One highlight was Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, who was distracted from the start as a tiny adorable dog wandered in the room and jumped on the couch. “Hope you don’t mind if my dogs are here,” Armstrong said. During his acoustic version of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” he chewed gum and attempted to get the attention of his pets, who ignored him.
Most musicians went with their most popular songs — the Backstreet Boys, singing from five different homes, pieced together “I Want It That Way.” Tim McGraw, who had ear buds in as he listened to his band perform from various places, sang “Something Like That.” Mariah Carey, being Mariah Carey, appeared to have a fan blowing her hair back as she was accompanied by off-site backup singers and a piano player for “Always Be My Baby.”
Others included Billie Eilish (“Bad Guy”); Alicia Keys (“Underdog”); Dave Grohl (“My Hero”); H.E.R. (“Keep Holding On”); Demi Lovato (“Skyscraper”); Sam Smith (“How Do You Sleep?”); and Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes (“My Oh My”). Elton John sang “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” and when Lizzo stopped by for a quick video chat, he belted out a few bars of her hit “Juice.”
While there were a few eyebrow-raising reminders that stars are not like us (such as McGraw singing on a diving board next to a gigantic swimming pool), for the most part, the special went over much better than Gadot and company’s “Imagine.” Though the John Lennon classic did have a part in this concert — Elvis Francois, an orthopedic surgeon from Rochester, Minn., accompanied on piano by physician William Robinson, sang the tune, just as they did in a popular video that made the rounds this week.