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Elton John and some of his most famous friends are stuck at home, just like the rest of America during the coronavirus pandemic – which allowed the “FOX Presents the iHeart Living Room Concert for America” to provide some entertainment and raise money for first responders on Sunday night, while offering a unique glimpse into the lives of celebrities.
John even saved a surprise for the end of the show.
“Here we are, all together at home. You’ve got your family and loved ones and I’m keeping mine close, too. We’re taking care of each other, looking out for each other, doing what we can during this crisis,” John said to kick off the program. “There’s a lot of grief out there, uncertainty and fear. But let me tell you what’s going to keep us together. All the goodness that’s happening in the world.”
“All those doctors, nurses and scientists on the frontlines. They’re living proof that most superheroes don’t wear capes,” John said.
“Families finding ways to sing happy birthday to you, loved ones, teachers writing letters to their students. It’s inspiring. It shows us that once we get through these tough times, better days lay ahead,” he added. “Since we’re all hunkered down together, until those days great us again, we thought that we’d put on a little show for you.”
Alicia Keys, who sat at a purple piano in her home, without makeup and with a hole visible on the shoulder of her casual T-shirt, kicked off the performances with a message encouraging Americans to “remember how resilient we are,” dedicating a soulful rendition of “Rise Up” to first responders and medical professionals keeping the nation safe.
FOX ditched commercials for the concert, instead using breaks to encourage viewers to help Feeding America and First Responders Children’s Foundation, two of the many charitable organizations helping victims and first responders during the pandemic.
The unprecedented event featured the biggest names in music performing from their homes, as they practiced social distancing and used phones to record their acts.
John joked that he couldn’t perform because he was quarantined without his piano before tossing it to The Backstreet Boys.
Producers expected The Backstreet Boys’ performance to be tricky, since they didn’t live together and were practicing social distancing protocols – but they pulled it off with a remote “I Want It That Way.”
“You have five Backstreet Boys in five different houses and they all have to sing their harmonies, figuring out how to take their phones and connect them all, it’s like you’re the conductor of an orchestra trying to get them all to play in different places,” iHeart Media chief programming officer Tom Poleman told Fox News before the show.
Dave Grohl dedicated his performance of “My Hero” to first responders, playing a red guitar from inside his home studio, as Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas performed next from a comfy-looking red couch in their home in Los Angeles, a huge cabinet of records nearby.
“Let’s stay strong together,” Eilish said before diving into her smash hit “Bad Guy” with her brother on the guitar.
Ciara and Russell Wilson played with their kids in a tricked-out playroom; Ryan Seacrest spoke from his spotless kitchen; and Camilla Cabello and Shawn Mendes performed from their Miami home as the star’s surroundings proved just as interesting as the unplugged performances.
Melissa McCarthy urged viewers to donate whatever possible, Billie Joe Armstong performed “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and Lady Gaga delivered an inspiring message in a simple gray sweatshirt – a far cry from her typical elaborate getups.
“My heart goes out to people who have lost loved ones, and also to people that are losing their jobs,” Gaga said. “I just wanted to check in, to make sure that you’re finding the time to be kind to yourself and doing whatever you can to maintain your mental health. Social distancing isn’t easy but try and chat with your friends remotely, meditate when you can and otherwise, find joy however you can.”
Lizzo dropped by to chat remotely with John, Sam Smith sang “How Do You Sleep?” from his home, Demi Lovato performed “Skyscraper,” H.E.R. performed from her New York City living room and Ellen DeGeneres joked that she’s worn the same sweatpants for three days in a row.
“I’m so grateful for all of the doctors and nurses all around the world, all of the first responders, all of the people keeping our supermarkets stocked, you are our heroes right now,” DeGeneres said.
Tim McGraw sat atop the diving board at his pool as his dog ran around in the background and members of his band helped perform remotely – each member at their own home.
“We all look forward to the day when concerts, events and sports finally restart and things get back to normal. But while we wait, we can all support each other and keep the faith,” John said, setting up a “once-in-a-lifetime, intimate performance” by Mariah Carey from her home studio.
Carey performed “Always be My Baby” as members of her band chimed in remotely – from their own homes.
John wrapped up the unprecedented event with a surprise performance.
“I lied when I said I didn’t have a piano in the house, but this keyboard is my son’s piano… I don’t normally play a keyboard like this, but seeing it’s the only thing I’ve got, I thought it would be nice just to dedicate a little bit of this song to all the incredible heroes that we mentioned before who are doing the best they can to make the world a better place during this awful crisis,” John said before belting out a verse of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”
Sunday’s special show was offered free on all of Fox’s broadcast, cable and streaming properties, as well as on iHeart Radio’s stations.