The cost of rebuilding New Orleans is estimated at $200 billion, which makes any concert anywhere a drop in the bucket. But in the spirit of "every little bit helps" the newly formed PLEASE (Pittsburgh Lends Emergency And Saving Efforts) organized the event for the American Red Cross.
"New Orleans, Mississippi, it's a long way from here," said Franco Harris, one of the Pittsburgh sports all-stars who addressed the crowd last night. "But thanks for reaching out. It doesn't matter how much you do. All the little things add up to quite a bit."
The PLEASE event, emceed by Larry Richert of KDKA radio, is the biggest of many benefit concerts that have been taking place here over the past several weeks. Local zydeco, blues, jazz, bluegrass bands and more have pitched in for the cause. The PLEASE event wasn't the go-to concert for that bayou sound -- no one wants to hear the Clarks go Cajun -- but it was big and generous and it rocked with a whole lot of hometown spirit.
More importantly, it packed about 8,000 enthusiastic fans in the arena, raising about $100,000 -- 80 percent for Katrina, 20 percent for disaster relief here at home.
For the $10 to $20 admission, fans got the warm feeling of contributing to the cause while witnessing some classic Pittsburgh sounds, rousing speeches by the likes of former Steelers wide receiver Louis Lipps and a few rarefied musical moments. For instance, it's not every day that Houserocker Joe Grushecky and Rusted Root frontman Michael Glabicki, Pittsburgh stalwarts from different genres and generations, meet on stage.
In fact, Glabicki said later, "It was the first time that ever happened. He wrote down the words for 'All Along the Watchtower' and said, 'Come on up.' That's a big sound that band has. I couldn't even hear my guitar."
There were a number special pairings. An early highlight was Scott Blasey of the Clarks taking the stage with old friend Bill Deasy to add more grandeur to the Gathering Field song "Lost in America."
Blasey, a new father and a new resident of Dallas, was up North last night thinking about the South. "With Rita coming, it's hitting home again. These people are in trouble tonight, tomorrow and the next day, so it brings it all back."
Blasey's fellow Clark, Rob James, later took the stage at the end of Rusted Root's funky set for a guitar jam with Glabicki on "Ecstasy." Root left the stage with singer Jenn Wertz yelling "Donnie Iris rocks!" and Glabicki imploring "Fight corruption in the government."
Other highlights: B.E. Taylor putting a Bo Diddley beat to the National Anthem; Iris unleashing that ageless falsetto on "Ah Leah!" and "Love is Like a Rock"; newcomers Crave representing for hip-hop; Povertyneck Hillbillies, adding a heaping helping of country; Good Brother Earl playing exquisite folk-pop; and Margot B., a CAPA student and a spark for the event, sounding so confident on her blend of pop and R&B.
The Clarks closed with the kind of crowd-pleasing set that's made them the biggest drawing band in town.
They were followed by a group sing on Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On" and Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth." (ed: and The Beatles Goldens Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End medley)
The evening's emotional range varied from moving video montages of Katrina footage set to Deasy's "I'll Rescue You" and The Clarks' "Hey You."