Katrina Telethon features celebs, good music

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In the wake of destruction left by Hurricane Katrina, fundraisers and benefits have developed in an effort to raise money and help rebuild the devastated Gulf Coast. One especially notable telethon was Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast, which aired on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, the WB, UPN, several cable channels, the internet and radio on Sept. 9 from 7-8 pm. Central standard time. It was also available to a world wide audience, as it was seen in nearly 100 other countries. The telethon benefited the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army and likely raised millions for relief in of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. The special featured a comprehensive line-up of A-list celebrities, as well as several of today’s top music acts, many of which performed gospel and jazz-inspired songs as a tribute to the diverse and culturally rich city of New Orleans. Randy Newman opened the show with a touching rendition of “Louisiana 1927,” while images of a ravaged New Orleans flashed on the screen. Celebrity monologues, which peppered the telethon, gave a voice to all those who are still suffering an inconceivable loss due to Katrina’s devastation. While the celebrities read, often visibly shaken by the gravity of the subject, images of the cities left in ruin, as well as interviews with the overcome victims, were shown onscreen. Ellen DeGeneres, who calls New Orleans home, gave an emotional appeal to viewers, pleading for donations, warning, “Don’t take anything for granted.” Other celebrities who spoke included Jennifer Anniston, Cameron Diaz, Chris Rock, Bruce Willis, Sela Ward, Don Cheadle, Jack Black, Ray Romano, Julia Roberts, and Jack Nicholson. In addition to speaking, many celebrities continued to serve by answering phone calls from donators. One of the musical highlights of the night was U2’s performance of “One” featuring Mary J. Blige. When Blige joined them, her signature emotionally-driven style meshed perfectly with Bono’s soaring voice, creating one of the most sonically pleasing moments of the night. Another highlight was Alicia Keys, who, after beginning her song with sparse instrumentation, was joined by gospel singers who helped bring to the performance a stirring religious fervor worthy of a revival. Kanye West, who raised eyebrows by making politically charged comments during NBC’s exclusive telethon, A Concert for Hurricane Relief, gave an uncharacteristically subdued performance, sitting on a stool while surrounded by a gospel choir and a string ensemble. While he avoided a political statement, he did change the lyrics of “Jesus Walks” to reflect the tragic loss caused by Hurricane Katrina. Other musical acts included Neil Young, the Foo Fighters, Mariah Carey, Paul Simon, the Dixie Chicks, Sheryl Crow, Rod Stewart, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood and Dr. John, who closed the show with the bittersweet “Walkin’ to New Orleans.” Other telethons benefiting the ravaged Gulf Coast last weekend included the three-hour S.O.S. (Saving Ourselves), shown on BET Friday night, and the four-hour React Now which appeared on all MTV networks, along with CMT and VH1, Saturday night.